Steven Yeun is not the only contender making history in the Oscar race for Best Actor this year (he’s the first Asian-American nominee in the ceremony’s 93-year history). Fellow Best Actor nominee Riz Ahmed is now the first Muslim performer to be nominated for Best Actor. Ahmed accomplished the feat with his acclaimed performance in Amazon’s “Sound of Metal,” which is up for a grand total of six Academy Awards in 2021: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor for Paul Raci, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Sound.
“If there’s a way in which people can find themselves in this moment, and can feel inspired and connected on a deeper level, I’m all for it,” Ahmed told Deadline about his history-making Oscar nomination. “Whether they see me as the first British Pakistani, or the first guy from Wembley, you know, there’s so many ways to view it. But as long as it feels like an opportunity for more people than ever before to really connect and feel included in this moment, that’s a blessing.”
The Oscars made history this year by nominating nine non-white performers across the four acting categories, to which Ahmed continued, “It’s why we do it, to stretch our hearts and stretch our minds, and in the process stretch culture. We should stretch culture so that it’s big enough and wide enough and expansive enough so that there’s space for all of us to find ourselves in it, to feel that we belong and that we’re included, and that we matter. These changes aren’t just something that’s good politically or socially. It’s something which allows stories and storytelling to get back to its original intention, which is to embrace all of us.”
In a general statement released to the press, Ahmed also had this to say about his Best Actor nomination: “I’m honored to be nominated by my fellow actors alongside such inspiring performances, and am grateful to the Academy for their support and encouragement. I’m equally thrilled for our visionary writer-director Darius Marder and the brilliant Paul Raci, as well as our editor Mikkel, sound designer Nicolas, and co-writer Abe Marder. These nominations represents the time, generosity and talents of so many — all of our incredible cast, crew, producers, and in particular I’d like to thank my mentors in the drumming, addiction recovery, and D/deaf communities.”
“‘Sound of Metal’ is about how a health crisis can cut you off from your life and loved ones, and force you to grow in unexpected ways,” the actor concluded. “In a challenging year for so many, I hope this story can inspire us to forge new and deeper connections with ourselves and others.”
Winners for the 93rd Academy Awards will be announced Sunday, April 25. The ceremony will air on ABC at 8pm ET.