Riz Ahmed had a massive 2016. After starring as Nasir Khan on HBO's The Night Of (for which he earned Golden Globe and SAG nominations), he appeared in Jason Bourne and The OA, and found time to put out a debut LP with Heems as Swet Shop Boys.
This weekend, Rogue One — the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise — hit theaters, featuring Ahmed as Bodhi Rook. “None of this felt real,” Ahmed wrote in a beautifully honest Instagram post Monday (December 19). Why? He's been a Star Wars fan for life.
“I just saw these pictures I drew at age 7 of Darth Vader & Luke, after watching Empire Strikes Back. I was reimagining these characters ‘when they got old,’” he wrote. “Somehow in the years between then and when I myself ‘got old,’ the constant message that someone like me couldn't ever belong, or shape the world around them, had taken hold.”
Ahmed's recent Star Wars freestyle rap on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was a turning point. When Fallon congratulated him on his insane 2016, Ahmed realized how far he's come. “Only a year ago, for various reasons, I wasn't sure I could carry on doing this,” Ahmed revealed. “I stopped doing and making things to prove myself to others, and started doing things for my younger self.”
Clearly that strategy worked, judging from his recent nominations and the praise for the Swet Shop Boys album, Cashmere, which came out in October.
“Walking off Jimmy's chat show that night, I felt about as cool as I did in this photo age 7. But the best part of it wasn't feeling cool, it was feeling like a kid,” Ahmed continued, leaving fans with words of wisdom that Yoda would surely approve of: “Keep your inner child alive. Keep dreaming.”