If you haven’t watched the finale of The Night Of yet, but really want to watch Riz Ahmed — who also goes by Riz MC when rapping, and stars in the series as Nasir Khan — freestyle on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (which, indeed, he did last night), there’s some good news: Colbert admits he hasn’t watched the finale either. Nowhere in that talk — or in Ahmed’s very brief freestyle that ensued — does the finale get spoiled. (I’m likewise grateful.) In fact, Colbert explains that he wanted to show a clip, but made his team display one from before the finale to even save himself from spoilers.
“How are we going to discuss the show?” Ahmed asks.
“In code,” Colbert replies — exactly as it should be for all of us who can’t keep up and fear that any loose headline or overheard water cooler conversation (do they still have those?) could be teeming with spoilers, readying for attack on our pure — if slow — experience of the bleakest, most emotionally trying series in recent memory.
Colbert asks the requisite question about skyrocketing to fame, to which Ahmed replies that none of it feels like it “just happened overnight” — as he’s been building a career through “indie projects” for some time. “You’ve always been there to you,” Colbert replies, mind-blowingly.
The host asks how he first got the role, and Ahmed describes how he got a message from his agent while on a plane, saying that he’d be auditioning for this thing as soon as he landed:
The name HBO meant something to me, but I kind of associated it more with late night boxing, so I was like, ‘yeah this is interesting, they’re branching out.’ I remember auditioning and thinking, ‘Whoever wrote this has a great future ahead of them. And it ended up being the guys who wrote Schindler’s List and The Wire.
(The Wire writer Richard Price penned the series, while Schindler’s List screenwriter Steven Zaillian directs.)
From there, Colbert starts asks about the British actor’s experience filming in the United States, and especially, in playing the role, whether he’s noted a “difference between the American Muslim experience and the British Muslim experience.” Ahmed says:
It’s different being ‘Asian’ in the U.S., because people would come up to me and try to speak to me in Spanish, first of all. And then I’d go, ‘No I’m Asian,’ and they’d look at me like I was crazy. When I was growing up I felt like I had to qualify and say I’m British-Pakistani. But now I kind of feel like in this day and age, this is what British looks like. It looks like me, it looks like Idris Elba. And hopefully through Nasir Khan, people will see that that’s what American can look like as well.
Colbert then mentions — as it seems every interviewer must — Trump for a minute, and particularly his Islamophobia. Ahmed jokes, “Trump says all these foreigners are coming over here and taking jobs, and I have to agree — there’s a lot of British actors on TV right now. We’ve got to build a wall around the audition room or something.”
Colbert gets to what’s likely been on the minds of a whole separate fandom from that of The Night Of: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Though Ahmed — one of the film’s stars — has to keep mum about plot, he does say that he can reveal a bit about the shoot:
It’s different than other Star Wars movies — it’s a boots on the ground feeling. Our director would operate the camera, and we would do these really intense scenes without cutting… the whole film has a really intense energy, and partially because of that process, and partially because we never got to break to go to the toilet in that process.
Colbert deems this form of method acting “rage bladder.”
To conclude the segment, Colbert asks Ahmed to morph into Riz MC and has him freestyle a couple of lines. Watch it all: