Riz Ahmed speaks out on the “systemic” racism of award ceremonies

The actor triumphed at the Emmys...

Riz Ahmed has said that the film and TV industry still has a long way to go in promoting ethnic diversity, despite last night’s Emmys being hailed for choosing a wide range of winners.

The star-studded ceremony saw Ahmed make history by becoming the first Muslim man to pick up an Emmy after he bagged the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie gong for his performance in The Night Of.

Another historic milestone was achieved by Donald Glover, who became the first African American to win an Emmy for directing a comedy show after triumphing with Atlanta.


Lena Waithe also made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win for comedy writing for her work on Master of None.

But despite the apparent diversity, Ahmed remains unconvinced that the wins are a proper signifier of change.

“I don’t know if any one person’s win of an award or one person snagging one role or one person doing very well changes something that’s a systemic issue of inclusion”, he told Variety after winning the Best Actor award.

In this industry, in your industry, as it is in many industries. I think that’s something that happens slowly over time. If there are enough isolated examples of success then maybe the dots start joining up and it’s not as slow a process as it sometimes is”.

“In terms of the US and the UK I mean I guess I’m really proud to be a Londoner, I’m really proud to be from the UK. I’m also really aware that for a lot of actors of colour you have a lot more opportunities in the U.S. but I think ultimately now what we’re seeing is TV, in particular, it’s a global medium.


“People are streaming shows or watching them all around the world so hopefully we’re going to see a globalisation of story telling and a globalisation of the talent pool we draw from.”

Riz’s success came on a big night for British TV – with Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror also picking up two awards for the San Junipero episode. You can see the whole list of winners here.