Mahershala Ali’s chances of winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar just increased significantly, as the acting winners of the SAG Awards often mimic the eventual winners of the Academy Awards.That’s not surprising as the Academy’s membership has far more actors than any other film discipline and there’s a large crossover of voting members.
However, it wasn’t just Ali’s win for role in the gay-themed movie Moonlight that had people talking (he also won as part of the ensemble for the movie Hidden Figures), but also his impassioned speech as a Muslim man winning an award shortly after Trump’s executive order preventing travel for people from several Muslim-majority countries. “I think what I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is we see what happens when you persecute people,” he said.
Ali continued, “They fold into themselves—what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself, as the result of the persecution of his community, and taking the opportunity to uplift him, tell him that he mattered, that he was okay, accept him. And I hope that we do a better job of that.
“When we get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us all different, there’s two ways of seeing that. You can see the texture of that person, the qualities that make them unique, or you can go to war about it, say, ’That person is different from me, I don’t like you, so let’s battle.’”
He then added his own personal story, saying, “My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 yrs ago. But I tell you now, you put things to the side and I’m able to see her and she’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown. And that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important.”
Ali plays drug dealer Juan in Moonlight, who take a persecuted young, gay man under his wing.
While Mahershala didn’t mention Trump by name, Lily Tomlin, who received a lifetime achievement award was slightly more forthright, saying, “Any activist should really talk about how to mount some kind of legislation against whatever it is that they are opposed to. You’ve got to change the laws, just like he’s changing… I don’t wanna make this comparison—but the Nazis, they changed the laws if they didn’t agree with them. They just changed them and they could do whatever they wanted.”
You can take a look at Mahershala Ali’s speech below.
— SAG Awards® (@SAGawards) January 30, 2017