The host of the winners’ room backstage at the BAFTAs said that Mahershala Ali, who was there to celebrate his victory for “Green Book,” could well be winning back-to-back Oscars. Ali quickly pointed out that his “Moonlight” win was two years ago. “Time flies when you’re having this much fun – it zooms past,” Ali said in our interview.
Ali’s first Oscar came for playing Juan in Barry Jenkins‘ Best Picture champ. The role was a quiet one, but the character had a profound impact on the lead character. Ali’s graceful, dignified performance carried him all the way onstage at the Dolby Theater despite only featuring in the first third of the film.
In “Green Book” he portrays Don Shirley, a gay black pianist on a tour of the deep south in the ’60s. It’s another dignified performance full of gravitas and intelligence – traits Ali seems to specialize in and pull off with ease. This presumed second Oscar seems a lock now, especially considering that Ali beat British national treasure Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) on his home turf.
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Asked to choose between his two performances as Juan in “Moonlight” and Don Shirley in “Green Book,” he simply laughed. “It’s like having to pick between your kids – and I mean that. But I would have never gotten this part [of Don Shirley] without ‘Moonlight,’ which for me was truly a miracle.” And, he adds, “a film that was never filmed like that up until that point – I think it’s a Miracle.”
The soft-spoken actor explains, “I work the same with all my projects. I give everything that I have to give at that moment in time of my life and I care as deeply for each of these characters and each of these projects and I’m grateful for every opportunity that I’ve had.” And, he elaborates, “they are all so different, but I absolutely love Juan and I love ‘Moonlight.’ They have a special place in my heart. And because it’s led to so many other opportunities, that experience will always be extraordinarily special to me..'”
On a different note, he couldn’t choose between which award was the most aesthetically pleasing – the Golden Globe, the BAFTA or the Oscar. “You’ve put me in a tough position with another awards show coming up in two weeks,” laughs Ali. “They look good together, they really do! This is about unity – we’ve been talking about division and separation – just put them all together!”
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