Skip to main content

91st Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

SPEECH BY: Mahershala Ali


Download Video


Q. Congratulations. 
A. Thank you, Jeannie. 

Q. And your other movie won, too, SPIDER VERSE. 

Q. This film is about people changing each other, or they're changing because of what they go through.  How did this film change you?  Could you put that into words?  I meant the making of it, obviously. 
A. Well, I never    it was the first time that I had that kind of responsibility.  I've always been very fortunate to contribute to stories in a more limited way, and this was the first time in which there was a good degree of the time I was at work in there all day every day, you know, or all day during the week, you know.  And so to    to shoulder that, to shoulder more responsibility than I've been accustomed to shouldering, to have to play a character that had attributes that were very different from my own; so, therefore, I had to let certain things go that were in my personality in order to    to take on and embrace other attributes that that man had.  It was    it was constantly sort of having    sort of negotiating and finding my way to locking into a truth and finding his essence, you know.  And so I was really just grateful for failing and succeeding at times and just fishing through it all, digging and excavating, and collaborating with Viggo.  So I'm sure I didn't answer your question.  But, you know, it was    it was difficult and beautiful and very grateful to have gone on the journey. 

Q. Hi.  Congratulations. 
A. Thank you. 
Q. What is going on?  It's your second Oscar for a supporting role.  How do you feel about it?
A. I feel very fortunate.  I feel fortunate to have been nominated.  Any of those gentlemen could have been up here and would be, obviously, deserving of being up here.  They did wonderful work, beautiful work, work that inspired me.  So to be the one that was chosen to get to hold this trophy again, it's not something that I take lightly.  It's not something I take for granted.  If anything, it makes me aware, more aware of all the people that have really contributed to my life, from childhood to my team that works on my behalf and is always looking to take advantage of the best opportunities, the opportunities that are fit for me.  And so I'm    I'm very grateful.  The first one helped me get GREEN BOOK, you know.  I don't think if I had won    I wasn't just getting offers like that, you know; and so to    to get an Oscar for MOONLIGHT, it changes your profile.  It changes    it gets you in other rooms, and it shines a light on your work; and then suddenly you could have been around for 15, 20 years and suddenly people notice you; and so I'm really grateful for that, because I've been wanting to work and expand and stretch.  I have been wanting to stretch my legs for a really long time, and this was the first time I got to stretch my legs. 

Q. How you doing?
A. Good, brother. 
Q. You kind of touched on what I was going to ask you a little bit about the failing and succeeding.  And then I just wanted to know what was your thinking when you    after MOONLIGHT the time that it takes to come to now.  Did you ever feel that failing and succeeding from, like, MOONLIGHT to now, or did some things that you thought would happen since MOONLIGHT didn't happen?  Can you speak to those things when you   
A. My life is    has changed tremendously since    in two years.  My daughter just had her second birthday two days ago, you know; and I was busy in that time, you know, working.  But I think when I say success and failing, I think of them as the same thing, in that as long as you walk away having been improved, having learned from the experience, that it's all an education, you know.  And    and so there's things that I try in my work where I personally watch, and I feel like it worked; or sometime I feel like it doesn't, it didn't work.  And    and I try not to be too hard on myself, but I got to just go for it, and take chances and commit and see how things turn out all with the goal of improving, and growing, and being stretched, and also just making a contribution.  I just want to feel like I'm being productive with my time on this earth, you know; and because I just don't take that for granted.  And so I will continue to fail, and I'll hopefully continue to succeed; and, but I    and continue to make my best efforts, and to do the best work that I could possibly do, and be the best person I can be. 

Q. Thank you so much and congratulations.
A. Thank you.  Thank you.



These transcripts may not be reproduced except as brief quotes used in conjunction with news reporting about the 91st Academy Awards®. All content Copyright 2019 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "Oscar®," "Oscars®," "Academy Awards®," "Academy Award®," "A.M.P.A.S.®" and "Oscar Night®" are the trademarks, and the ©Oscar® statuette is the registered design mark and copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Additional information regarding the "Terms & Conditions of Use" and "Legal Regulations for Using Intellectual Properties of the Academy" may be accessed online at

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Communications Department
8949 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211-1972
Phone (310) 247-3090
FAX (310) 271-3395