Riz Ahmed’s 2017 conversation with Elisabeth Moss remains a standout as Variety looks back on 14 seasons of “Actors on Actors.” Ahmed, who now stars in the Amazon Studios film “Encounter,” shared what he learned while working on the 2016 HBO limited series “The Night Of.”
Written by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian and based on Peter Moffat’s limited series “Criminal Justice,” the show starred Ahmed as Nasir “Naz” Khan, a college student who fights to prove his innocence with the help of defense attorney John Stone (John Turturro) when he’s accused of murdering a woman in New York City. Naz’s personality significantly changes when he’s sent to Rikers Island. When Moss asked whether Ahmed thought Naz always had that darker side in him or if it was created by the system, he explained what he felt it means to be an actor and how he applied that philosophy to his work.
“I feel like the transformation my character goes through is an illustration of the foundational idea behind acting,” he said. “Which is that in different circumstances, we can be anyone. So I believe that we have it in us to be any given version of a human being. It’s the situation that breeds character. So I think it’s only right that when the situation evolves or changes so dramatically, when the stakes change so dramatically, when you go from being a college kid to someone on Rikers Island, it’s only right that the character adapts to survive. Even though it’s a dramatic transformation, I feel it’s quite truthful.”