Riz Ahmed wasn’t director Michael Pearce’s first choice for “Encounter.”
The 39-year-old actor plays Malik Khan, a Marine Corps veteran who embarks on a mission to save his young sons from a mysterious threat of alien parasites, in the new Amazon film, but Pearce admitted that he originally envisioned someone else in the role. .
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, he said: “He wasn’t our initial first choice. It wasn’t until I spoke to Riz about the project that I looked at the script again and I thought, why can’t we diversify the choices of people we’re looking for for this part?
“I was a fan of [Riz’s] for so long, it became so exciting to have him in this role. He’s got that steel, that laser focus, that grit, that grit, and that determination that I really could imagine him incredibly playing a Marine. And I had never seen him play that before. He also has that warmth and humanity in all of his characters, so I thought the father-son dynamic would be felt very deeply on screen.”
Janina Gavankar plays Malik’s wife, Piya Khan, in the film and since the couple are old friends, they decided to work together to name their on-screen children.
Janina explained, “Riz is an old friend, mainly because the Indo-Pakistani-South Asian diaspora, we’re a very tight-knit community and we support each other a lot. Rice and I were looking for something to do together for a while. So when I signed up for this, I called him and said, “Do you want to name our kids together?”