This post is part of my all-expense paid trip to San Francisco, CA provided by Disney. However, typos, misspelled words and opinions are 100% mine.
Riz Ahmed is one of those actors who can fill a part perfectly. In fact, he was recently nominated for a SAG award for best performance by an actor in a limited series of television for his work on HBO’s “The Night Of”. As part of the #RogueOneEvent at Lucas Film Headquarters, I and my fellow bloggers had the opportunity to participate in an interview with him and get his thoughts on being Bodhi Rook and what it means to be a part of the Star Wars universe.
Riz Ahmed Talks Star Wars with Us
First things first. If you haven’t seen Riz in “The Night Of”, you need to do that. He is absolutely superb. After our interview and see some of the footage of the film, I knew I had to see his work, and it doesn’t disappoint. His talent really shines, and he brings that to Rogue One in spades. Now that, that’s out of the way, let’s get to the interview questions!
Riz Ahmed on His Character, Bodhi Rook
Of course, the first question we had was some backstory on Riz’s character, Bodhi Rook.
“My character is called Bodhi Rook, and he actually works with the Empire,” he said. “He’s a cargo pilot, and he’s from this planet called Jedha which is occupied by the Empire. He’s just trying to earn a living [with] the main employer in town. The only show in town, really, 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 he defects from the Empire to try and help the rebels.”
“I’d like to think that [Bodhi] is quite a relatable character for a lot of people,” he went on. “He’s just an everyman – an average Joe. He finds himself in a crazy situation. He’s not like Cassian, who’s a rebel spy. He’s not like Base who is a hardened assassin, or Jyn who’s this criminal rebel. He’s a truck driver, and he finds himself in the middle of this crazy intergalactic heist movie. He freaks out a little bit! So I think I’d freak out in that kind of situation. I think most of us would. So hopefully that’s kind of relatable.”
Riz Ahmed on the Sense of Community of the Cast
I’m not sure if Riz came early or if our interview with Diego Luna ran long, but whatever the case, we had the chance to see both actors together in the same room. It was apparent that their relationship was more than just a working one, so of course, we had to ask Riz – like we asked every other cast memeber – about the community aspect of the cast.
“We’re this troop, and so we spent a lot of time together closed off in sweaty space ships. We got to keep each other alive and awake, and we cracked a lot of jokes. We definitely had to make each other laugh and keep each other’s energy up. We bonded – definitely.”
How he Got the Part of Bodhi Rook
I found Riz’s answer to this question to be really funny, and it made me love him even more. This guy really wanted this part.
“It’s a lot of groveling,” he said. “A lot of begging. The way I got this role is because Gareth comes from a British independent film-making just like I do. I remember the British Independent Film Awards one year. This film won – best film or something. Monster. And I was ‘who’s that guy? I want to meet that guy one day. ‘
I literally emailed him one version of the scene,” he said. “And then a few hours later, I had another idea, and I sent him another version. And then I did that again. The next morning, I didn’t have a reply, so I thought I should maybe send him some more!
“And [after] four days, I sent him twelve takes. Then he finally [emailed] me back and said, ‘Hey, Riz. Just wanted to say please don’t email me anymore. I’ve got your auditions. Thank you.’ I was ‘Oh man! I screwed up!’
“Then he called me a month later when I assumed I’ve screwed it up to say, ‘yeah, come and do this.’ But I was just glad it wasn’t his lawyers calling me to take out a restraining order. I guess I can be kind of obsessive with my work. And luckily this time it didn’t cost me a job. ”
Being in Rogue One and Preparing Mentally for the Role
“You know, it’s interesting,” he said. “The difficult thing wasn’t so much of, ‘Oh my God, I’m in Star Wars,’ because that was a joyous thing. That was something that was exciting and makes you work really hard. If you love a job, that’s not a bad thing. The thing that was difficult is when I’m playing a character. I like to try and interview people who are close to that character.
“So when I was doing “The Night Of”, I went to visit Riker’s Island prison, or I interviewed lots of people that [had] been to prison and spent time in high schools in the Bronx and interviewed people for hours. But you can’t interview anyone who’s an Imperial cargo pilot. None of them wanted to speak to me, so I didn’t know what to do.
“You don’t really know what the reference points are – where [the] starting points are. And, 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, and there are alien creatures walking past you. The preparation doesn’t have to be in your head. It’s right there in front of you. And 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.”
Preparing Physically for the Role
Unlike a lot of the other actors in the film, Bodhi is a pilot. So the answer to this question from Riz was both short and funny.
“I was so muscley,” he said, “I had to lose weight so that Diego didn’t look to bad. That was the main issue for me.” This, of course, wasn’t true, and his delivery was so great.
“No,” he went on, “my character isn’t a soldier. So he’s not super physically fit. He needs to look like when he’s running through a war zone with a 50-kilo backpack on him [that] he’s out of breath and it’s difficult. My preparation was to get really out of shape and just kick back.”
Bodhi Naming the Team “Rogue One”
In the trailer, Bodhi names the team “Rogue One”. We had to know how he felt about being the character that gave the group the iconic name. The cool thing was that it wasn’t actually a part of the script.
“It was the last day of shooting,” he said. “In the reshoots. So this is the very, very, very last day of shooting. John Swords, one of the producers, [said], ‘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 I was like, ‘Yes! I get to name the team!’
“It just happened,” he said. “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 and with a different relationship to the other characters. I think that’s kind of cool When youu do these big movies, there’s a lot of people who think that it’s quite stiff, and everything has to be planned out beforehand. Actually, it’s 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.”
The Underlying Message of the Movie
Our final question to Riz was about what Rogue One’s story meant to him. Riz’s take on the film is that its one about redemption. About correcting the wrongs that characters have both seen and committed.
“A lot of people in this film have got quite a dark history,” he said. “Or have got a 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 you’ve got nothing in common with and fight a cause that’s bigger than any one of them. It’s about redemption. People trying to make things right for themselves and for people around them.”
“You might think that someone else is going to stand up for what you believe in. But actually, at some point, it’s on you to stand up for what you believe in and try to make a contribution for what you think is right.”
A Great Talent and a Great Addition to the Star Wars Universe
Riz Ahmed is an undeniable talent, and even in his interview, it showed. Getting his thoughts on his character, Bodhi Rook, and the film, in general, was a real treat. He may not have the most action-packed part, but he brings a sense of importance and determination to the role that I really love.
See Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in theaters everywhere in RealD 3D and IMAX 3D TOMORROW, December 16th. It’s going to be an X-Wing ride of awesome!
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