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Typecast as a terrorist | Riz Ahmed | The Long Read

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Riz Ahmed: I tried not to ingest all the signs telling me I was a suspect. I tried not to buy into the story world of this “protocol” or its stage-one stereotype of who I was. But when you have always moulded your identity to your environment and had your necklace picked out by others, it’s not easy. I couldn’t see myself as “just a bloke”. I failed at every single audition I went up for.

Rehearsing a scene beds a role into you. But sometimes if you over-rehearse it without unearthing any new meaning in it, you can suddenly forget your lines. You realise that you are on a stage, not in the real world. The scene’s emotional power and your immersion in it disappears.

And so it dawned on me that these searches were a fictional role-play taking place in a bubble, rather than an assessment of my worth. This was the way to see it. And it turns out this is also the way to see auditions. The protocol lost its chokehold on me, and I started getting roles again. One big job secured me a proper US visa, and soon I was getting waved through without the protocol. I began inching towards the Promised Land.

Now, both at auditions and airports, I find myself on the right side of the same velvet rope by which I was once clothes-lined. But this isn’t a success story. I see most of my fellow Malkoviches still arched back, spines bent to snapping as they try to limbo under that rope. These days it’s likely that no one resembles me in the waiting room for an acting audition, and the same is true of everyone being waved through with me at US immigration. In both spaces, my exception proves the rule. More here.

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