August 31 2016
Top British actor has scored big Stateside and now home audiences will get a chances to see him and other asian talent in cliffhanger justice series about a young Muslim man accused of the murder of a young white woman in New York …
By Suman Bhuchar
THERE’S more to Riz Ahmed than meets the eye – to most he is a supremely gifted actor who is about to enter the acting stratosphere – such has been the reaction of those in America to the TV series, “The Night of“.
But Ahmed is not just a great British acting story – he’s also a rapper/musician and something of a social activist who carries his heart and his politics on his sleeve – making him an artist, not just an actor who plays parts well.
“The Night of” a new eight part series starts on Sky Atlantic from tomorrow (September 1) and features Ahmed as Nasir ‘Naz’ a Pakistani American student from Queens, New York.
The young man man borrows his father’s cab (without his permission) and picks up a passenger, ‘Andrea’, who wants him to take her to the ‘beach’ and ends up in a one-night stand of sex and drugs. Naz wakes up the next morning to find her dead!
Herewith begins his nightmare, because he can’t remember anything of the night before, and then he is stopped for a traffic violation, and more things go wrong and he is charged with her murder.
It also features other Asian talent, including Amara Karan (as the lawyer Chandra Kapoor) and Poorna Jagannathan (from “Nirbhaya”) as Nasir’s mother, Safar Khan (who produced and conceived “Nirbhaya“), while Iranian American actor, Peyman Moaadi (“Camp X-Ray“) plays Naz father, Salim Khan.
Geeta ‘City Girl’ Chopra, artistic director of Salaam Theatre (the US’ first South Asian theatre group), appears in two episodes; Rita Sacheva (“Lemonade Mouth“) pops up in one episode while Nabil Elouahabi (‘Tariq’ from “Eastenders“) plays Yusuf and there are other Asian actors you might recognise.
Italian American actor and director, John Turturro – who has appeared in over 60 films including, “Barton Fink” and “The Big Lebowski”, plays the ambulance chasing lawyer, Jack Stone who pops into police precincts looking for clients and ends up representing Naz.
The series, based on an episode from the BBC series, “Criminal Justice” (2008/9) has been produced by BBC Drama, BBC Worldwide, Film Rites & Home Box Office (HBO).
The story goes that “Sopranos” icon James Gandolfini was due to star in the Turturro role – after Gandolfini’s untimely death, he was to be replaced by Robert De Niro who also had to pull out due to his own scheduling commitments. (Gandolfini who appeared in the pilot was also involved as a producer and is given a posthumous credit as executive producer).
The mini-series has already just completed in America where it has had rave reviews and audiences have been hooked on the police procedurals, as they give a detailed insight into the American legal system, as well as it all being a gripping good yarn.
Amara Karan, who is known to UK audiences here as a theatre and film actor, recently gave an interview to the Evening Standard, where she said how she immersed herself into the role of Chandra Kapoor, the novice legal eagle and how working on the show gave her the opportunity to reunite with her old Oxford college mate, Riz Ahmed (see link below). They both did Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)at Oxford, although Ahmed is a bit older. And Karan left the City to carve out an acting career.
Although ACV has been pounding the pavements trying to see if we can catch Ahmed – (it hasn’t happened yet) but he is a busy fellow.
Apart from the mini-series, “The Night of” – he is in the latest Jason Bourne film, and is due to be seen in “Rogue One” – a new “Star Wars” tale.
He is also working on his album, “Cashmere” (due out October 14) with rapper Heems and follows on from the success of “Englistan” and is under his Riz MC moniker.
He is active on Twitter and has told his 47,000 plus followers how the whole shoot took eight months, and he enjoyed being in Queens, New York where the filming took place and liked the food and that the pilot was originally filmed in 2012.
Close to the series end (we won’t give it away), Ahmed did what appeared to be a finale #AskRiz and perhaps his most telling response to the myriad questions goes right to the heart of the matter.
“I hope it allows people to relate to Muslim characters and real sis there the same as everyone else,” he said on Twitter.
‘The Night of‘ begins Sky Atlantic 9pm (UK only) Thursday (September 1)
Riz Ahmed music http://pitchfork.com/news/67241-heems-and-riz-mc-riz-ahmed-are-swet-shop-boys-announce-new-album-with-single-t5-listen/
Amara Karan interview http://www.standard.co.uk/stayingin/tvfilm/amara-khan-the-night-of-interview-i-ve-not-signed-for-a-season-2-but-there-s-a-huge-appetite-for-a3330516.html