Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor Riz Ahmed says he’s most often “typecast as a terrorist” not in his movie roles, but when passing through airport security checks to get to international film sets in a post 9/11 world.
“Although my U.S. airport experience is smoother, I still get stopped before boarding a plane at Heathrow every time I fly to the U.S.,” the British actor revealed in a personal essay published on Thursday in The Guardian newspaper.
Ahmed said the audition room and the airport interrogation room have the same pitfalls for him. “They are places where the threat of rejection is real. They are also places where you are reduced to your marketability or threat-level, where the length of your facial hair can be a deal-breaker, where you are seen, and hence see yourself, in reductive labels - never as ‘just a bloke called Dave,’” he wrote.
The British actor is best known for his roles in The Night Of, Nightcrawler, Four Lions and Jason Bourne, alongside roles in film festival entries Una and City of Tiny Lights. Ahmed said that movie stardom has only offered him familiarity with airport security staff.
“As I’ve traveled more, I’ve also done more film work, increasing the chances of being recognized by the young Asian staff at Heathrow,” he wrote.
“I have had my films quoted back at me by someone rifling through my underpants, and been asked for selfies by someone swabbing me for explosives,” he noted wryly.