Name at birth: Mahershalalhashbaz AliMahershala Ali received rave reviews -- and then won an Oscar -- for his performance in the 2016 film Moonlight. Raised outside of Oakland, California, Mahershala Ali played basketball at St. Mary's college (graduating in 1996) before turning to acting. He got his first break with a role on the TV series Crossing Jordan (2001-02). He then spent a dozen years working mostly in television, including the series The 4400 (2004-07). His big screen career got a big boost with a role in 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (starring Brad Pitt). He gained more attention as political operative Remy Danton in the TV drama House of Cards (with Kevin Spacey) and as bad guy Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes in the modern superhero TV series Luke Cage. The exposure from House of Cards put Ali more in the spotlight, and he appeared in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Parts 1 and 2, 2014 and 2015) and The Free State of Jones (2016). But his major breakthrough was Moonlight, a small-budget drama directed by Barry Jenkins. Ali played Juan, a hardened drug dealer in Miami who befriends a vulnerable young boy. He was nominated for an Academy Award at best supporting actor, and won the award at the Oscar ceremony on February 26, 2017.
Mahershala Ali is “the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award,” according to a 2017 report in Variety… His first name at birth was Mahershalalhashbaz. He told E! Online in 2017, “It’s the longest word in the bible… Mahershalalhashbaz was the prophet Isaiah’s second son”… His wife, Amatus Sami-Karim, is an artist and composer. Their first child, a daughter named Bari Najma, was born on February 22, 2017, four days before his Oscar win… Mahershala Ali is no relation to boxer Muhammad Ali.
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