British actor and musician Riz Ahmed has become the first Muslim to be nominated for the Academy Award’s Best Actor category for his role in the movie Sound of Metal.
Ahmed, of Pakistani origins, plays a rock drummer who loses his hearing. “When you hear your own name, it’s a weird feeling, I just quietly gave thanks and felt some gratitude,” the 38-year-old said after his nomination. “Everybody on this film was doing it because they wanted to push themselves and go further than they have before. This was all of us trying to see how far could we go.”
Ahmed won an Emmy when he picked up the prize for lead actor in a limited series or movie for The Night Of in 2017. In the same year, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar for Supporting Actor in Moonlight. He won the same prize in 2019 for Green Book. For performers, this is the most diverse group of nominees ever and a far cry from the all-white acting nods that spawned the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag five years ago.
Nine of the 20 acting nominees are people of colour, including a posthumous Best Actor nomination for Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. As well as nods for Steven Yeun for Minari, Viola Davis for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Andra Day for The United States vs Billie Holiday. And Supporting Actor nominations for Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield for Judas and the Black Messiah, Leslie Odom Jr for One Night in Miami and Yuh-Jung Youn for Minari.