A Rogue One Star Posted His Childhood Star Wars Drawings With Some Serious Advice
Riz Ahmed had a massive 2016. After starring as Nasir Khan on HBO’s The Night Of (for which he earned Golden Globe and SAG nominations), he appeared in Jason Bourne and The OA, and found time to put out a debut LP with Heems as Swet Shop Boys.
This weekend, Rogue One—the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise—hit theatres, featuring Ahmed as Bodhi Rook. “None of this felt real,” Ahmed wrote in a beautifully honest Instagram post Monday (December 19). Why? He’s been a Star Wars fan for life.
As I was walking off Jimmy Fallon’s after doing a little freestyle rap, he leaned in and said “dude, you’re in the #1 album & #1 film in the country!” I fell silent, nodded and grinned awkwardly…a few days later I was told The Good Immigrant was voted the UK’s book of the year, got these award nominations for The Night Of, and Swet Shop Boys made a load of ‘best of the year’ lists. None of this felt real. Now I’m back home I saw these pictures I drew at age 7 of Darth & Luke, after watching Empire Strikes Back. I was reimagining these characters ‘when they got old’, reshaping their world, and nothing about that seemed weird. But somehow in the years between then and when i myself ‘got old’, the constant message that someone like me couldn’t ever belong, or shape the world around them, had taken hold. I had no road map or template to follow in trying to prove those messages wrong. I started believing them. Only a year ago, for various reasons, I wasn’t sure I could carry on doing this. I had a realisation through some really tough moments that we have no control in life. And it got me down. But then, seeing no other way forwards, I had to embrace this helplessness, and through it, rediscover a sense of childishness, and of play. I finally stopped making things to prove myself to others, and started doing things for my younger self. And that’s when things started connecting with people, when I was working with no expectation of how my work would be received. When it was play…Most importantly it connected with amazing collaborators. For all my work this year from Englistan, The Night Of, Swet Shop Boys, The Good Immigrant, Hamilton Mixtape, Star Wars, Bourne, to the OA – I have been privileged to stand on the shoulders of giants. I’m grateful to those who have allowed me to be a part of their vision and those who were kind enough to watch, listen, read, and notice. I hope I can continue to justify your support. I’m incredibly grateful for this moment in time. Walking off Jimmy’s chat show that night, I felt as cool as I did in this photo, age 7. But the best part of it wasn’t feeling cool, it was feeling like a kid. Keep your inner child alive. Keep dreaming.
“I just saw these pictures I drew at age 7 of Darth Vader & Luke, after watching Empire Strikes Back. I was re-imagining these characters ‘when they got old,’” he wrote. “Somehow in the years between then and when I myself ‘got old,’ the constant message that someone like me couldn’t ever belong, or shape the world around them, had taken hold.”
Ahmed’s recent Star Wars freestyle rap on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was a turning point. When Fallon congratulated him on his insane 2016, Ahmed realized how far he’s come. “Only a year ago, for various reasons, I wasn’t sure I could carry on doing this,” Ahmed revealed. “I stopped doing and making things to prove myself to others, and started doing things for my younger self.”
Clearly that strategy worked, judging from his recent nominations and the praise for the Swet Shop Boys album, Cashmere, which came out in October.
“Walking off Jimmy’s chat show that night, I felt about as cool as I did in this photo age 7. But the best part of it wasn’t feeling cool, it was feeling like a kid,” Ahmed continued, leaving fans with words of wisdom that Yoda would surely approve of: “Keep your inner child alive. Keep dreaming.”