Mahershalalhashbaz Ali Gilmore (//; né Gilmore; February 16, 1974), known professionally as Mahershala Ali, is an American actor and rapper. Ali began his career as a regular on television series, such as Crossing Jordan and Threat Matrix, before his breakthrough role as Richard Tyler in the science fiction series The 4400.
His first major film release was in the 2008 David Fincher-directed romantic fantasy drama film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and his other notable films include Predators, The Place Beyond the Pines, Free State of Jones, Hidden Figures, and as Boggs in The Hunger Games series. Ali is also known for his roles in the Netflix series House of Cards as Remy Danton and as Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes in Luke Cage.
For his performance as Juan in the drama film Moonlight (2016), Ali received universal acclaim from critics and won the Academy Award, the SAG Award and the Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor, and also received Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award nominations. His win at the 89th Academy Awards made him the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar.
Ali was born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore in 1974, in Oakland, California, the son of Willicia and Phillip Gilmore. He was raised in Hayward, California. He is named after Maher-shalal-hash-baz, a biblical prophetic-name child. Raised Christian by his mother, an ordained minister, he later converted to Islam, changing his surname from Gilmore to Ali, and joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. His father appeared on Broadway. He attended St. Mary's College of California (SMC) in Moraga, where he graduated in 1996 with a degree in mass communication.
Though Ali entered SMC with a basketball scholarship, he became disenchanted with the idea of a sports career because of the treatment given to the team's athletes. Ali developed an interest in acting, particularly after taking part in a staging of Spunk that later landed him an apprenticeship at the California Shakespeare Theater following graduation. Following a sabbatical year where Ali worked for Gavin Report, he enrolled in New York University's graduate acting program, earning his master's degree in 2000.
Ali was known professionally by his full name, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, until 2010, when he began to be credited as Mahershala Ali. Ali had considered shortening his name for a while, saying that using his full first name was "a crazy thing to do considering that we’re in Hollywood", although he had never been pressured by managers or agents to change it. What persuaded him to use a shorter version of his first name was being told that his full name was too long to fit on the poster for The Place Beyond the Pines, and not liking the alternative of "M. Ali" appearing on the poster, Ali changed it. He elaborated in an interview to Vanity Fair in October 2016: "I think if you have any desire to be a leading man or to really carry some of these stories, there's this relationship that has to be cultivated with an audience. People have to be able to say your name. I didn't want a couple of syllables to get in the way of me having the fullest experience as an actor."
He is known for his portrayal of Remy Danton in the Netflix series House of Cards, Cornell Stokes in Luke Cage, Colonel Boggs in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, and Tizzy in the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
His first major film release was in the 2008 David Fincher-directed romantic fantasy drama film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and his other notable films include Predators, The Place Beyond the Pines, Free State of Jones, Hidden Figures, and as Boggs in The Hunger Games series.
For his performance as mentor and drug dealer Juan in the drama film Moonlight (2016), Ali received universal acclaim from critics and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the SAG Award and the Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor, and received a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award nomination. His win at the 89th Academy Awards made him the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar.
In 2017, it was reported that Ali would star in the forthcoming season of the critically acclaimed HBO series True Detective as Arkansas State Police detective Wayne Hays. During the year, Ali joined the video game Madden NFL 18's story mode Longshot, in which he played Cutter Wade, the father of protagonist Devin.
Ali was signed to Bay Area recording label Hieroglyphics Imperium during the late 2000s and recorded music as Prince Ali. He released his album, Curb Side Service, in 2007 but did not tour to promote the album, choosing instead to focus on his acting career.
|2003||Making Revolution||Mac Laslow|
|2008||Umi's Heart||Ezra||Short film|
|Curious Case of Benjamin Button, TheThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button||Tizzy Weathers|
|2009||Crossing Over||Detective Strickland|
|2012||Place Beyond the Pines, TheThe Place Beyond the Pines||Kofi Kancam|
|2013||Go for Sisters||Dez|
|Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, TheThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1||Boggs|
|2015||Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, TheThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2|
|Gubagude Ko||Ochoro||Short film|
|Free State of Jones||Moses Washington|
|Hidden Figures||Jim Johnson|
|2018||Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse||Aaron Davis / The Prowler (voice)||In production|
|Alita: Battle Angel||Vector||Post-production|
|2019||Green Book||Dr. Don Shirley||Filming|
|2001–02||Crossing Jordan||Dr. Trey Sanders||19 episodes|
|2002||Haunted||Alex Dalcour||Episode: "Abby"|
|2002||NYPD Blue||Rashard Coleman||Episode: "Das Boots"|
|2003||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Tombs' Security Guard||Episode: "Lucky Strike"|
|2003||Handler, TheThe Handler||N/A||Episode: "Big Stones"|
|2003–04||Threat Matrix||Jelani Harper||15 episodes|
|2004–07||4400, TheThe 4400||Richard Tyler||28 episodes|
|2009||Lie to Me||Det. Don Hughes||Episode: "Do No Harm"|
|2009||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Mark Foster||Episode: "Unstable"|
|2010||Wronged Man, TheThe Wronged Man||Calvin Willis||Television film|
|2010||All Signs of Death||Gabe||Unsold TV pilot|
|2011||Lights Out||Death Row Reynolds||Episode: "Unaired Pilot"|
|2011–12||Treme||Anthony King||6 episodes|
|2011–12||Alphas||Nathan Clay||12 episodes|
|2012||Alcatraz||Clarence Montgomery||Episode: "Clarence Montgomery"|
|2013–16||House of Cards||Remy Danton||33 episodes|
|2016||Luke Cage||Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes||6 episodes|
|2017||Comrade Detective||Coach (voice)||Episode: "Two Films for One Ticket"|
|2019||True Detective||Wayne Hays|