Ahad Raza Mir is a self-described nomad.
The award-winning Pakistani-Canadian actor has built a robust career across provinces, continents, and disciplines. He’s starred in critically-acclaimed films and Urdu-language television series. Most recently, he’s entered the world of film and television production.
Now, four years after his last theatre production, Mir is ready to return home, and in more ways than one.
He’ll be reprising the titular Prince of Denmark role this October in The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth Productions’ reimagining of Hamlet, presented by RBC and Brampton On Stage at The Rose Brampton. This will be Mir’s second professional turn as the tormented royal, his first being in another collaboration from The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth, 2019’s Hamlet: A Ghost Story at Calgary’s Vertigo Theatre, in a breakthrough performance that earned him a coveted Betty Mitchell Award.
While Mir is no stranger to Hamlet’s journey, the production at The Rose has presented him with a new opportunity to rediscover the character.
“You can do as much as you want to develop a character,” Mir said in an interview, “but really, it’s the energy from your fellow actors, from the stage itself, the set, the music, even the audience, that helps to discover the character. At the end of the day, I can’t even call it ‘my’ Hamlet because it’s everything else around me that develops the character.”
Mir’s name has become almost synonymous with Hamlet in Canada over the years. In 2019, he became the first South Asian actor in the country to portray the famed character, and this latest venture at The Rose was announced soon after. Though three years of lockdown-induced delays slowed the momentum of the production, the actor is thrilled to be bringing the story to a new audience in a new community.
“The South Asian community in Calgary, and even Toronto, is a whole different story than Brampton in terms of size,” he explained. “I’m excited to have this show come to a larger group of South Asians: most importantly, young people who maybe want to go into the arts who want to be actors. It’d be nice to be the bridge for these kids to say, ‘Hey, if Ahad can do it, maybe I can, too.’”
Born in Pakistan and raised in Canada, there was never any question in Mir’s mind that he would eventually return to Pakistan to work in the film and television industry, which he did in 2016. His family has an impressive legacy in the country: his grandfather, Raza Mir, served as cinematographer for the first-ever Pakistani film, Teri Yaad in 1948. Meanwhile, his father, Asif Raza Mir, is an actor and producer, and his mother, Samra Raza Mir, was part of Pakistan’s first female band.
“For as long as I can remember, that’s what I’ve always wanted to do: be an actor, to have something to do with the arts,” Mir said. “There’s been no hesitation in my mind since I was very young.”
Upon graduating from the University of Calgary’s bachelor of fine arts program in 2014, Mir entered the world of professional theatre, working steadily until 2016, when he packed his bags for Karachi to pursue a career on screen. He quickly found success, landing the leading role in a film called Sammi as well as a lead in the television series Yaqeen Ka Safar, the latter of which earned him numerous awards. With his star on the rise, Mir remained in Pakistan until 2019, when The Shakespeare Company and artistic producer Haysim Kadri called him back home to Canada.
“The South Asian community in Calgary, and even Toronto, is a whole different story than Brampton in terms of size. I’m excited to have this show come to a larger group of South Asians: most importantly, young people who maybe want to go into the arts who want to be actors. It’d be nice to be the bridge for these kids to say, ‘Hey, if Ahad can do it, maybe I can, too.’”
“When I left in 2016, I thought I’d be gone for a few months,” Mir said. “But it ended up being two and a half years. So it was nice to come home and settle in with my friends again, to come back to The Shakespeare Company, where I started my professional career [in 2014]. I had a community of people in Pakistan who would see my work, but it was amazing that all my old friends [in the Calgary theatre community] came to support as well.”
With this new, innovative adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy on the horizon and a successful career in film waiting for him in Karachi, Mir is looking to expand his horizons as he moves forward in the industry.
“I want to do more for [Pakistan],” he said. “There is a huge lack of arts education in our country: I want to develop a school, to train people here. The long-term goal is to actively give back to the community. My family’s had a huge legacy in this industry, and I feel like there’s a responsibility that we have to give back.”
Mir is quick to acknowledge how lucky he’s been in the industry. He’s arrived in a coveted position that allows him to be more selective about the projects he works on, and with his own productions now in the works, there is plenty to look forward to. But Mir is passionate about his theatrical roots, and Hamlet certainly won’t be his last venture on stage, or in Canada.
“I do theatre to bring myself back to earth. Theatre brings us back to the basics, back to who you were: that hungry artist who just wanted to work. With something like Hamlet — or any piece of theatre — you have to re-interpret every character for yourself every time. I’ve already done probably 40 shows as the character already. But going back now, I know that something’s going to be different. I don’t know what it is, but it’ll be something. And that’s what I’m excited about. That’s what keeps me coming back home.”
Hamlet runs at The Rose Brampton from October 12-18. Tickets are available here.