Mahershala Ali has had quite the year, and quite the awards season on top of that. With roles in Hidden Figures, Moonlight, and Netflix’s Luke Cage, the actor has finally garnered the attention that he’s long deserved. That all came to a head on Sunday night when he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and gave a powerful speech.
With the win, Ali becomes the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award in the show’s history. It was his first nomination and his first win. In the speech, he joked about how his grandmother would’ve wanted him to button his suit jacket before going a step further. At the SAG Awards, Ali spoke about his life as a Muslim in America, including his conversion, and how dividing people can have ramifications beyond belief. For this speech, he spoke about the teachers of his life taught him that acting isn’t about the actor, it’s about the characters, and how blessed he was to be able to be a part of the Moonlight story that brought to life such marvelous stories.
The speech may not have brought the political power that he has shown on other stages this awards season, but thanking both his director, Barry Jenkins, and his wife (who was incredibly pregnant while he was filming) was a classy touch, as was pausing to acknowledge fellow nominee Jeff Bridges on his way to the stage..