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Oscar Nominee Mahershala Ali on Why ‘Moonlight’ Resonated With Audiences

”We live in a time where there are so many people that feel marginalized in some way and have connected to that character,“ says Best Supporting Actor nominee

Newly minted Best Supporting Actor nominee Mahershala Ali said he’s not surprised that his film “Moonlight” has connected with audiences, including the Oscar voters who gave it eight nominations on Tuesday for the 89th Academy Awards.

“[Director] Barry Jenkins did such a wonderful job and really captured a personal and difficult journey for the character of Chiron and people connected to his journey and that struggle and it was so beautifully acted,” the actor told TheWrap shortly after he was nominated.

“I feel like on a deeper level, we live in a time where there are so many people that feel marginalized in some way and have connected to that character and want the best for him,” he said. “It’s an ensemble piece that’s beautifully acted from top to bottom and well-written and directed and there are so many elements that come together to make that film special. It’s a combination of all parts that people have sort of attached or connected to and we’re seeing the results of that connection.”

2016 was Ali’s breakout year. In addition to “Moonlight,” he starred in Netflix’s “Luke Cage” and “House of Cards,” “Free State of Jones” and another Best Picture nominee, “Hidden Figures.”

When asked how he feels about being the actor that people credit as being in “everything” (think Chris Rock’s joke about Jude Law at the Oscars last year), he said, “I think they are giving me more credit than I deserve — I wasn’t in everything!”

“What that means is, I was in projects that had a real cultural impact, from ‘House of Cards’ to ‘Luke Cage’ and most definitely ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Hidden Figures,'” he added.

“Which is a good year, yeah, I will admit that. You can be in that many projects and people don’t necessarily support them and you can be in projects that just don’t resonate with people, and I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of projects that people have supported and that have resonated with folks and that they’ve gone to see and are talking about. I’m excited by that. I made some decent choices but I was around people who made me look perhaps better than what I am.”

How does he plan to top 2016?

“Trying to be a good dad — we have a baby on the way,” said the actor, who is married to Amatus Sami-Karim. “I don’t know if anything can top that.”

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