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Nimona’s Riz Ahmed On Accepting The Role Before He Even Saw A Script

‘Nimona’s Riz Ahmed On Accepting The Role Before He Even Saw A Script

Riz Ahmed
Courtesy of Netflix

And the message he most hopes will resonate with the audiences.

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Riz Ahmed didn’t even need to look at a script before accepting the role of Sir Ballister Boldheart in Nimona. One conversation with directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane was all it took for him to fall in love with both the characters and the moving message behind the animated film.

“They really just kind of pitched to me their vision for the story and for this character, in a way that I just found really moving,” Ahmed recalls to PRIDE. “They just spoke about Ballister on such a human level about someone who was misunderstood, to begin with — and that only gets worse as things go on.”

Nimona

Courtesy of Netflix

His character is one that many viewers, particularly queer people, can relate to. When audiences meet him, he’s on the verge of becoming the first commoner ever to be knighted by the queen — aka his boyfriend Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin’s (Eugene Lee Yang) mother. He’s loyal, honorable, and struggling with a need for acceptance — from the world and himself. That latter struggle is one that Ahmed was especially moved by.

“He’s trying to kind of battle for this acceptance. But actually, he’s not going to get it until he learns to accept himself, and actually extend that same kind of acceptance towards others who he might misunderstand. And so just the way they framed it, or just felt like man, this is just a really important story,” he says.

Nimona

Courtesy of Netflix

The film follows Ballister trying to clear his name after he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit, complicating that is the titular Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz) who declares herself his sidekick and uses her magical gift of shapeshifting to help him — but only adds to the chaos.

It’s set in a magical, futuristic medieval world, and that really captured the actor’s imagination. “It’s really cool. It’s such a beautiful world,” he gushes. “And the source material is kind of a modern classic.” It was all too good for Ahmed to resist. “That’s when I signed up, I signed up without seeing a script, or a plot B or anything like that. It was about ‘here’s our vision, here’s a story we want to tell, and I said, ‘I’m in.’

Watch PRIDE’s full interview with Riz Ahmed below.

And that story, at its core, is about acceptance, explains Ahmed. “I think the whole journey of this character, and the journey of this film is about opening your heart up to understand other people, particularly if you wish yourself to be understood,” he says.

Nimona

Courtesy of Netflix

While Ahmed is excited for people to take those messages in, he’s equally hopeful that audiences will just be swept away by the joy inherent in the film and the hilarious and lovable characters that populate its world. “The dynamic between Ballister and Nimona is just full of mayhem and action, and comedy, and these amazing one-liners,” says Ahmed. “I remember being in the booth recording this... and it just became a competition to see who could make the other person laugh more,” he recalls. “There’s just a sense of joy and fun and mayhem to this movie. And yes, there’s a message and there’s an emotional journey underneath all of that. But I think more than anything, I hope people connect to this as a really fun ride.”

Nimona is now streaming on Netflix.

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.