Fuse is once again celebrating an extended Black History Month by highlighting a variety of rising forces who are creating Future Black History before our very eyes. Today we are honoring Mahershala Ali, whose personality and talent both on and off the screen will have you in a trance. Last year, actor received worthy praises for his role as Juan in the critically-acclaimed Moonlight (which scored him an Oscar nomination and was one of our favorite movies of 2016).
But Ali, 42, grabbed the attention of Hollywood way before that game-changing role. The Bay Area, CA native landed his first mainstream film with 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Since then, he has starred as the clever Boggs in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Part 2, the earnest Remy Danton on House of Cards, the wicked Cottonmouth on Luke Cage, the heartwarming drug dealer Juan in Moonlight and a military officer in Hidden Figures.
Ali's intensity as an actor also follows him off the screen, as he captivates you with his intelligence, charm and wit. He isn't a man who wastes words, so when he has something to say it is powerful. In Ali's 2017 SAG Awards acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor in Moonlight, he didn't use the platform to praise his work. Instead, his emotional speech was a subdued response to Donald Trump's immigration ban and what he's learned from being in the movie.
"My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago," Ali explained. "But I tell you now, we put things to the side. I’m able to see her, she’s able to see me, we love each other, the love has grown. That stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important."
Last summer, Ali revealed he would be leaving House of Cards, the show he believed got him his big break. "It’s time to go. I want to do more. There’s only so much space for you to stretch and develop and grow because there are so many characters," he said in a GQ interview. "I think this is a good time to be an African-American in this industry. I think that the opportunities are shifting and changing because people have spoken out." When asked about connecting to his character Remy Danton, he continued:
"I think that black people to a degree need to have a certain level of dexterity. If we want to be at the highest level of whatever our field is, we have to be able to navigate both worlds. We all just know that you gotta be able to put that suit on and have a conversation with people that don’t look like you or your family. But it’s interesting being able to step into some of these worlds with white people who will never come to your house. People who are uncomfortable when you’re in an elevator, but I can still be comfortable even though they’re uncomfortable."
This drive that Ali has to be a better actor, man and soon-to-be father for the first time with wife Amatus Sami-Karim shows he isn't afraid of the world's boundaries and expectations of what it means to be black. That's why his place in Future Black History will be solidified.
Next, listen to the Back of the Class podcast guys break down Luke Cage: