The Brit, the first Muslim to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in the 2019 film, is grateful his own career is booming, but wants to see changes in the way those who follow his faith are depicted in entertainment.
The actor, who is currently promoting his new film "Mogul Mowgli", tells British GQ he hopes to help "change the game a bit" and he's taking the challenge seriously.
Earlier this year (2021), Riz founded the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion and helped commission a study that revealed Muslims had only 1.6 per cent of speaking roles in 200 popular English-language films, despite making up 25 per cent of the world's population, and that Muslim characters are portrayed as victims or perpetrators of violence 75 per cent of the time.
"All this stuff was just a big wake-up call," he adds, explaining the situation is extremely serious, because the bad guy characters can even prompt hate crimes.
"It's not surprising, but it is shocking. It's a blind spot that's all over our culture. And it costs lives. Countries get invaded, hate crimes go up, laws get passed. So off the back of that we're thinking, 'What do we need to shift?' And, actually, it's about empowering people to tell their own story."
As for "Mogul Mowgli", Riz explains, "It's basically a pandemic movie: a workaholic gets hit with a health crisis; his life is thrown into a lockdown. He has to sit with himself, reassess what really matters."