Mahershala Ali’s rise to fame was a slow burn that started with a small role on Netflix’s House of Cards, and then exploded with his Oscar-winning performance in last year’s Moonlight.
Both roles had particularly political angles, and Ali doesn’t shy away from his personal views in a recent GQ cover interview.
Who can forget the moving acceptance speech (see above) he gave at the SAG Awards back in January? In it, he talked about the adverse effects of persecution, and our collective need for acceptance and mentorship. In a way, he was talking not only about his character, Juan, from the film, but also about himself. He had been persecuted as a child growing up in Berkeley, California, racially profiled by the police and on the streets. After 9/11, his own country added his name to its terror watchlist. (He converted to Islam in ’99.)
“I think African-Americans have a very convoluted relationship with patriotism,” Ali tells GQ. He continues:
“The fact is, we essentially were the abused child. We still love the parent, but you can’t overlook the fact that we have a very convoluted relationship with the parent. I absolutely love this country, but like so many people have some real questions and concerns about how things have gone down over the years and where we’re at. And that’s from a place of love, because I want the country to be what it says it is on paper.”
Seemingly echoing (or recasting) President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, Ali says “I sincerely believe we have the capacity to actually make this country great….There are enough people, there are enough believers out there, there are enough intelligent, empathetic souls out there that want good for the whole. I don’t know if it’ll happen in my lifetime, but I believe in time the pendulum will swing in the right direction.”
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