Welcome to Remote Controlled, Variety’s podcast series featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
This week’s conversation features Variety executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum in conversation with actor Riz Ahmed, star of the HBO miniseries “The Night Of.” The two discussed the show’s tremendous success, which has been praised by both critics and viewers since its debut in July.
“It’s quite surreal, if I’m going to be honest,” said the English actor. “It was such, kind of, a rollercoaster just getting the project made. [There were] so many ups-and-downs and obstacles … To have even gotten to the finish line, let alone to have been received so well — it feels crazy.”
Ahmed portrays Naz Khan, a Pakistani-American student living in New York City who is accused of murdering a girl he had just met after an evening of wild fun. Naz has no recollection of the events that took place the night of the crime, though the evidence against him proves otherwise.
Ahmed says that although portraying his complex role was a challenge in itself — both physically and emotionally — the unusually lengthy production schedule added to the immense pressure of completing the character.
|Riz Ahmed photographed exclusively for Variety’s Remote Controlled podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety
“It was certainly one of the most challenging things I’ve done, for a variety of reasons,” notes Ahmed. “… So to do a shoot over the course of eight months is really a different kind of animal, and it requires a different kind of stamina and a different kind of concentration, and a different kind of trust, actually.”
Asked if he would sign on for another project that follows a similar blueprint, the 34-year-old actor took a long pause before agreeing.
“The only reason I was kind of thinking about it was because, a series like this…I don’t know if I’ll come across a series like this [again],” said Ahmed. “The transformation that the character gets to undergo, the incredible team around it, you know, the import of the subject matter is really quite unique.”
Ahmed’s also set to appear in a mysterious new series from Netflix called “The OA.” “I can reveal absolutely nothing,” he says. “It’s even more secretive than ‘Star Wars.’ I think the people behind the show are incredible. They’re phenomenal.”
As for ‘Rogue One,”Ahmed says, “I didn’t even know they were making this movie,” he admits. It was a call from his agent who told him about the new project from “Monsters” director Gareth Edwards. “Who doesn’t want to be in a Star Wars film? What a privilege and an honor to be a part of that shared cinematic heritage. What a gift!”
Listen to this week’s podcast below:
New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday.