Saturday 16 February 2019

Mahershala Ali: A white actor can just be an actor

He also spoke about landing his role in hit show True Detective.

Mahershala Ali (Matt Crossick/PA)
Mahershala Ali (Matt Crossick/PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Mahershala Ali says black actors have to be “professors of cultural studies”, while a white actor “can just be an actor”.

The True Detective and Moonlight star, 44, told Esquire UK that white actors “are only asked about race if they’re doing a civil rights project”.

“(Otherwise) they talk about their process and life. But black actors are always talking about diversity, where the culture’s at, where it’s going,” he said.

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The cover of Esquire UK (Esquire UK Cass Bird)

“We have to be professors of cultural studies where a white actor can just be an actor!”

The US actor also told how he decided not to pursue a career in basketball despite winning a scholarship in the sport.

“I found college sports exploitative. They saw players as a product. We were just there to win championships,” the former House Of Cards star added.

“So I used sports to pay for my education. I knew I had to do something creative.”

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Mahershala Ali photographed for Esquire UK (Esquire UK/Cass Bird)

He said of landing the role of Wayne Hays in True Detective following his Oscar win for Moonlight: “It’s just a massive role, expansive. It checks so many boxes for me as an actor, that in terms of TV, it doesn’t get better.

“I just thought, coming off the Oscars, if I didn’t get that opportunity then, I don’t know how you get to that place.”

The full interview appears in Esquire UK, on sale from Thursday.

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