According to Riz Ahmed, he and Steven Yeun have been on “similar journeys” in Hollywood.
The pair joined together for Variety‘s annual “Actors On Actors” issue and discussed some of their roles, including the one they both auditioned for.
While Yeun is known for Glenn Rhee from the beloved television series “The Walking Dead”, the actor, 37, wasn’t actually upset to be killed off during the season 7 premiere in 2016.
“Being on a show for seven years, I was the guy who knew how to play plucky, nice, and wanting to do the right thing. And I think that over the course of the journey, I tried to expand — and Glenn grew, to an extent, alongside me. But then there was a point in which I realized that he almost became a ceiling because I became an idea over a human character,” he explained. “When the time came for my character to die, there wasn’t really much of a fight on my end. I couldn’t be stuck serving just a genial-natured guy for the rest of my career. On the inside, I didn’t feel that way. On the inside, I can be angry, I can be vengeful. I can be all the other things, and I wanted to explore those things for myself.”
Part of branching out from Glenn was a role in “Nightcrawler”, next to Jake Gyllenhaal. But that part ultimately went to Ahmed.
“I saw you in ‘Nightcrawler’, and I remember auditioning for that role,” Yeun explained. “When I saw you do it, I was like, ‘You did it so much better than I even could have thought to do it.’ I was so jealous, man. But I was like, ‘Dude, he’s so legit.’”
Following 2014’s “Nightcrawler”, Ahmed, 38, did a number of killer projects, including “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, “Venom”, and “The Night Of”. But his latest film “Sound Of Metal” is really putting him on the map.
“Sound Of Metal” follows a heavy-metal drummer whose life is turned upside down when he begins to lose his hearing. For the role, Ahmed learned American Sign Language.
“Expressing myself in American Sign Language really opened me up in a different way. I had the most amazing ASL instructor, Jeremy Stone. He immersed me into his peer group and the deaf community: his wedding, slam poetry nights,” he explained. “And it was just to get to a point of fluency, because Darius wanted both the drumming and the ASL to be for real. Something he taught me was that deaf people think of hearing people as emotionally repressed — the reason is because we hide behind words. When I became more fluent in ASL, I found myself getting physically emotional talking about things that I could just mention if I was speaking. I really feel like learning ASL allowed me to listen and communicate with my whole body, which is such a gift.”
Both Ahmed and Yeun are earning Oscar buzz for their roles in “Sound Of Metal” and “Minari”, respectively.
Read more from the pair here.