As an actor, as you grow into where you fit in the industry, you're just trying to find the opportunities, hoping they grow and you get to do more.

Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali

Profession: Actor
Nationality: American

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It's about very talented writers, directors, producers, and actors being in a position for their projects to be supported, but there's just not enough black projects being made.

Theater will cast in a more open way; Denzel Washington might play Richard III. Television and film don't really cast openly like that. The theater world has always been a leader in diversity.

'Free State of Jones' went beyond that. It got into how the South wasn't as homogenous as we thought it was - or even the North for that matter, where we like to assume everyone wanted to free the slaves and they were all abolitionists. It actually shows how complex these ideologies were on both sides.

Come on, we would be foolish to say that there's never been African-American leads in some capacity, people of color in some capacity, leading shows or what have you. But it hasn't happened enough and in a manner that is an accurate reflection of the world that we live in.

To really be conscious of how long the journey is, be patient, push yourself, persevere, and always be working on your craft while waiting for your break. That's what I'm still working on, having done this for 20 years now.

My mom and stepdad were strict. I couldn't date; I couldn't go out. And I was a kid who was never good at just taking no for an answer. I needed to understand why. And sometimes they weren't interested in explaining.

I think it's important for people of colour to have similar opportunities to white people; that's what is most important.

I really wasn't into comic books growing up.

I always felt that Jay Z, if he had a different upbringing, could be on Wall Street or in politics. If you really listen to Jay Z talk, he's kind of the smartest guy in the room.

If you're throwing someone off a roof, you're throwing them off the roof. It's there. You don't have to do anything extra with that. The audience is obviously going to react to that because it's such a heightened thing to do. But in the other moments, you really look for ways to craft those, because they're more important, honestly.

I think #OscarsSoWhite is about there not truly being enough people of color represented.

It's funny how you can be thought of as somebody who humanizes bad guys, and I'll take that, but it is something that gave me pause, and I started speaking to my team about finding a good guy.

To get to play someone who was in some capacity the King of Harlem, that meant something to me. Deep within my bones. I was inspired by the energy that I knew to be a real thing.

I'm not shy about trying to find what truth there is in any genre, whether that be an action piece, a sci-fi piece, a small indie film, or a play. I'm open to it all.