Or at least it seems that way when the British actor reflects on 2016, a year he tells ET “has been a mess in so many ways,” pointing to the deaths of pop culture icons from David Bowie to Carrie Fisher and the civil unrest in Aleppo, Syria, that has left tens of thousands dead and has caused even more to flee the country.
And while he didn’t mention it, Ahmed could have easily been referring to a tumultuous U. presidential election, which weighed heavily on the minds of many Americans as the year came to an end.
All of this in the same year that saw Ahmed’s profile skyrocket thanks to a starring role on the hit HBO miniseries , in 2016.“I was spending time over the holidays, hanging out with a friend.
I just felt really weird about the incongruity of that comfort and security that we’re able to enjoy,” Ahmed says of watching the news about the crisis in Syria.
“I had a really good year professionally and it’s like, you have to give back.
That’s something I’ve always personally believed in my life.
I thought, .”MORE: Thandie Newton Opens Up About Turning 'Pain to Power' With One Billion Rising The 34-year-old performer, who was born into a Muslim British Pakistani family, saw himself in the families that were -- or rather, are -- struggling in Syria (“they are really just like ours”) and felt compelled to do something, to use his star power to help those in need. 27, just five days before the new year, Ahmed and Propercorn founder Ryan Kohn launched “10 for 10,” a fundraising campaign benefiting the Karam Foundation that, as of mid-January, has raised 97 percent of its fundraising goal of $100,000.2016 was 💩. I need ur help with this campaign, let's save lives in Syria, right now https://t.co/pbvy1QDKAp#10for10 RT 🙏 pic.twitter.com/j G9m2HUWkq— Riz Ahmed (@rizmc) December 27, 2016“A lot of people think that the misery of 2016 might be galvanizing for people, and I'd like to agree,” Ahmed says.
“I’d like to hope that people will take this weight -- this shockwave experience -- of 2016 and make them think, ” “We've got to do something to make 2017 count, and it's really in our hands.” It’s a hopeful rallying cry Ahmed offers in his smooth, calm voice.
For the actor, who was nominated for a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role as a Pakistani American college student accused of murdering a young woman on , that something is using his rising platform to create awareness for something other than his own benefit.
“We live in a world where people are expected to stand for something, and if you don't stand for something, you won't fall for anything.”While Ahmed wouldn’t necessarily consider any of his work -- onscreen or musical -- political, there is an inescapable layer of politics threaded throughout his work, starting with his first onscreen roles in , it's weird. “There was a certain amount of tension you take on, a certain amount of the way you hold yourself in the world that it takes some time to shed.” because they relate to the universal themes in it of hope and rallying together to face big challenges, people from different backgrounds uniting to take up a common cause,” Ahmed says, adding that it’s a mark of good storytelling -- something he says both creators Richard Price and Steven Zaillian achieved.
“If these stories are good enough that people want to use them as a prism in which they can digest and understand their own experience, that's amazing.
That's also the highest compliment in mind.”In fact, his role as Bodhi Rook, a former Imperial pilot who defects to the Rebels in , which features his essay “Typecast as a Terrorist,” about the struggle to find roles beyond a cab driver, terrorist or bodega owner.