British actor Riz Ahmed, who has starred in films such as Venom and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is speaking up about COVID-19. GQ interviewed Ahmed from quarantine via WhatsApp. The actor, who is also a rapper and activist, shared his thoughts on the pandemic situation and the British government's response to the coronavirus. The interview began on April 1st. On April 23rd, Ahmed followed up with a message sent to GQ revealing that the pandemic had hit home. "Didn’t mention it in our interview but wanted to," Ahmed said. "Since we spoke I have lost two family members to Covid. I just want to believe their deaths and all the others aren’t for nothing. We gotta step up to reimagine a better future."
Speaking of the Coronavirus pandemic, Ahmed told GQ, “This moment is forcing people to take their masks off. You see more of someone in a moment like this – what they are about, who they are… Crises accelerate trends that are taking place in society. We’re going to migrate to online living in a way that we could have done before but just didn’t. The seeds of that were already sown. We’re accelerating towards a world of closed borders, a fear of the outsider, governments with sweeping powers. And equally, we’re accelerating towards the fact that the economy doesn’t come first. Lives come first. The planet comes first. Our general wellbeing comes first.”
He also spoke about the global response to the crisis by governments around the world. "I’m seeing reports of India, where the government are calling it 'corona-jihad' and they’re trying to blame it on the spread of Muslims and they are segregating hospitals between Muslims and non-Muslims," Ahmed says. "Trump is using it as an excuse to try to ban immigration and the Hungarian government is centralizing power off the back of this. I’m looking at the fact it’s hitting African-Americans twice as hard; I’m looking at the fact that 50 percent of NHS frontline workers – is it 50 percent? – are ethnic minorities. And there is that viral video called 'Clap For Me Now' that was saying, 'Wait a minute!'
"It’s almost like there is an alternate ending to The Long Goodbye!" Ahmed continues, referencing his new album. "I’ve walked off, but Britney’s called me back again. Britannia’s saying: 'I need you! Come back!' She’s saying: 'We need you frontline staff. We need you Uber drivers. We need you shelf stackers.' Who are the people who, for every moment of crisis in this country, have kept this country together? It’s the people at the bottom of the barrel; the people being hit hardest by this pandemic. We say we love the NHS more than the Royal Family, more than the army, but do we love the people who keep the NHS alive? Because every time we tell people to fuck off back to where they came from, that’s not what we’re saying. So I really hope that this revelation, this awakening, opens our minds to that reality, to the stupidity of our prejudice. But I’m also very aware of people using it to their own ends. It does feel like a global reset for our economy, for our spirituality, for our politics. It can be overwhelming to go about laying the foundations for a fairer, balanced, sustainable world for the planet. That’s the macro."