There is an unspoken truth in the acting fraternity that real life drama can help to contribute to on screen performances. For Moonlight star Mahershala Ali, the 42-year old can draw from a childhood that was a constant struggle. Dealing with drug use, early death and a family life that tried their best to support a young man growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The new film is up for Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2017, as it showcases the story of an African American dealing with love, friendship and a desire to fit into society. While the Barry Jenkins film might not take home the big prize on the night, Ali has used the title as a means of discussing his personal plight. Especially when it comes to how that shaped him to be the celebrity he is today.
Ali Alone In The Wilderness
Often portraying figures that are somewhat cut adrift from their compatriots, Ali explains to THR that he shied away from social situations to never genuinely find a group of people he could relate to.
"My father was an extrovert, but I'm not — I mean, I find myself in situations where, to survive the situation, to feel comfortable, I have to force myself to be more present, otherwise I cave in to myself," admitted Ali. "I was always a bit of a loner. When I graduated from high school, I didn't go to a party. I was by myself that night. That's a big thing. I just remember how lonely that night was. I graduated and I was by myself. I never found my tribe."
Dealing with a father that was flamboyant who loved the spotlight and taking risks, Ali revealed that the fragile nature of his lifestyle impacted his decision to retreat away.
"What affected me more was, because my dad was in musical theater in the '80s, I saw a lot of guys die from AIDS, people I was close to. I've seen more people die from that than from gun violence. Every year, there were friends that my dad had, 28 or 29 years old, who died."
Mahershala Breaks Away To Find His Place
Needing a clean break from his parents, Ali believed that his grandparents would be more of an assistance to guide him in the right direction.
"I had expectations — maybe all kids do — of how I wanted to be supported, (whether in) athletics or what I wanted to become or just (in) our spiritual practices," he remarked. "I wanted a bigger, fuller experience. I moved into my grandparents' home when I was 16. It's not that (my parents) didn't believe in me; they didn't understand. It all goes to trying to accept each other's points of view and coexist."
Following the death of his father when he was only 20, Ali would convert to Islam and eventually find his feet in the acting world. Going on to star in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 as well as a leading role as Cottonmouth in the Marvel Netflix series Luke Cage, Ali is able to take everything in his stride.
"Now, I'm just dealing with the things that all men and women deal with when we recognize our faults. We all have to do work to be our best selves, to civilize ourselves in the way we see fit. I'm dealing with the things that keep me from being the fullest person I can be."