Academy-Award winner Mahershala Ali has taken a boring “let me remember my rent is due so I should go to work” kind of Monday and turned into a spirited day of appreciation after the Internet learned he graced the latest cover of GQ.
The Moonlight actor, who took home the coveted golden statue at this year’s Oscar ceremony, spent years perfecting his craft before working alongside fellow Oscar winner Kevin Spacey in the Netflix original series House of Cards. However, after signing on to play Juan–a Miami drug dealer who takes a young boy under his wing– Ali’s star power grew rapidly. Yet that almost immediate elevation in visibility has been an adjustment for the 43-year-old, especially as a black man.
“When suddenly you go from being followed in Barneys to being fawned over, it will mess with your head,” Ali explains.
While chatting with the writer inside a Santa Monica cafe, Ali reminisces over the many micro and macro aggressions he’s experienced prior to becoming Hollywood’s golden child, including riding the subway and seeing people hide their jewelry with the assumption he would try and steal from them.
“Those experiences that you have from age 10, when you start getting these little messages that you are something to be feared. Walking down the street in Berkeley,” he says, “and some cops roll up on you and say straight up, ‘Give me your ID,’ and you’re like, ‘What the f**k?’ ”
Ali, who recently celebrated his very first Father’s Day with his wife and 4-month-old daughter, is hopeful his artistry can ease some of the nation’s racial tensions but knows it will take more than a principal role in a feature film to get to the bottom of it.
“I accept it as a possibility. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that’s what it is.… As long as what you’re doing as an artist is resonating with people, I’m not as concerned about if that’s convoluted or not by their own prejudices, because at the end of the day you gotta accept people on their terms.”
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