It’s always fun when we got to interview actors and directors for a film. It’s truly even more exciting when we can say we interviewed up and coming actors like Riz Ahmed. Riz Ahmed has been nominated for a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for his acting in “The Night Of” on HBO. He is also a key character in the new installment to the Star Wars saga Rogue One. Riz’s character is Bodhi Rook the Rebel pilot that has defected from the Empire because he had an awakening of his own and realized he wanted to do something for good. He explains this further during our interview with him when he starts out by just telling us who his character is.
My character is called Bodhi Rook, and he works in the Empire. He’s a cargo pilot from this planet called Jedha, which is occupied by the Empire. He’s just trying to earn a living with the main employer in the only show in town is working for the Empire. The name Bodhi means awakening, and he goes through a kind of awakening and realizes that that’s not the way. He’s got to try and stand up for what he believes in to make a difference. So he takes a big risk, and defects from the Empire to seek to help the rebels.
We took it even further and asked him to describe his character in just three words and he said…
Full of Regret
He was a member of the Empire and we’ve seen in past movies what that means and what they are required to do. So defecting was a great choice plus it motivates his character to do bold things for good. So he explained his three words for us as to what that means exactly.
I think it’s true for a lot of the people in this film. A lot of the people in this film have got quite a dark history. Or have the past that they’re not proud of. And they’re trying to make things right. And that’s what drives them to take big risks and to link up with other people, who they’ve got nothing in common with, to try and fight a cause that’s bigger than any one of them. It’s about redemption and people trying to make things right for themselves and people around them.
Rogue One A Star Wars Story is about fighting for what is right and what he would love for you to take away from his character is that “even normal people can make contributions.”
Even normal people can make big contributions. You might think that someone else is gonna stand up for what you believe. But at some point, it’s on you to stand up for what you believe in, and make a contribution for what you think is right.
So how does one get into the frame of mind of being a cargo pilot for the Empire that defects to be a rebel. Riz Ahmed is a very good actor and he likes to do research to fully understand his character. I think it’s that research that makes him such a strong actor. This is how he put his research into perspective for us as it pertains to Star Wars.
…..when I’m playing a character; I like to try and interview people who are close to that character. When I was doing The Night Of, I went to visit Riker’s Island prison. I interviewed lots of people that have been to prison. But you can’t interview anyone who’s an Imperial cargo pilot, none of them wanted to speak to me. You don’t really know where the reference points are, where starting points are. In the end, I realized that the reference point is the world that is around you. When you turn up on set, and they’ve built these mountains and space ships. Alien creatures are walking past you; the preparation doesn’t have to be in your head, it’s right there in front of you. You just have to soak it up. So that was quite a big exercise in letting go when I can be a bit of a preparation freak…….
So yeah, not really a way to do research, so did he put himself into this character. Riz was asked do you and Bohdi Rook share any character traits.
I’d like to think that he’s quite a relatable character for a lot of people. He’s just an everyman – an average Joe. He finds himself in a crazy situation. He’s not like Cassian, who is a rebel spy. He’s not like Baze, who is a hardened assassin, or Jyn, who is a criminal rebel. He’s just a truck driver, basically, and he finds himself in the middle of this crazy intergalactic heist movie. He freaks out a little bit! I think I’d freak out in that kind of situation. I think most of us would.
In the film there is a point where Riz’s character comes up with the call sign of the team that is going to try and steal the plans for the Death Star. That’s when he says “Rogue…Rogue One”. We asked him to tell us how this what seems like a pivotal moment came up.
It was the last day of shooting during reshoots. So this is the very, very, very last day of shooting. John Swords, one of the producers asked ‘Can you do a take when you say this?’ So it was a very last minute thing they threw in. It wasn’t like I read the script and was, like ‘yes! I get to name the team!’ It just happened. It’s really interesting, a lot of the film took shape like that – it evolved. My character started out as a totally different character with a different name and a different job; even with a different relationship to the other characters. I think that’s cool. When you do these big movies, there’s a lot of people think that it’s quite stiff and everything has to be planned out beforehand. Actually, it is kind of the opposite, at least with these guys. They’re willing to move around as much as they have to to make things work and make them as good as they can be.
I really enjoyed interviewing Riz Ahmed. He was very eloquent and has a great sense of humor.