For nearly seven decades, a South Asian man had never won an Emmy in an acting category. That changed Sunday night with Riz Ahmed, a British-Pakistani actor, winning an Emmy award for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie for his role in HBO’s “The Night Of.”
Before him, only one other South Asian star had taken home an acting award from the ceremony — Archie Panjabi, who won an Emmy for her role in “The Good Wife” in 2010.
Ahmed’s win was seen as a long-overdue victory for South Asians and his fellow Muslims. His success was significant not only because of his historic win but because of the character he portrayed. Naz, a nuanced, relatable college student from Queens — who also happens to be Pakistani. While “The Night Of” tackles issues of race and Islamophobia, Naz’s ethnicity and religion are secondary to the story’s main plot.
The Emmy winner played ‘Naz’ in the series, who is a nuanced, relatable college student from Queens — who also happens to be Pakistani. While “The Night Of” tackles issues of race and Islamophobia, Naz’s ethnicity and religion are secondary to the story’s main plot.
“It’s always strange reaping the rewards of a story that’s based on real-world suffering,” Ahmed, who is also an activist and rapper, said in his acceptance speech. “But if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our society, Islamophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that’s something.”
Ahmed told reporters after the Emmys that “what we’re starting to see is more awareness around how beneficial it can be to tell a diverse range of stories and to tell them in a way that’s authentic.”
“And I think awareness is the first step to real change,” Ahmed added.
We here pic.twitter.com/PoyWit9nvu
— Riz Ahmed (@rizmc) September 19, 2017