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Tonight, the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards are airing live starting at 8 p.m. EST from Los Angeles on TBS and TNT. In the category for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Mahershala Ali from Moonlight was up against Jeff Bridges from Hell or High Water, Hugh Grant from Florence Foster Jenkins, Lucas Hedges from Manchester by the Sea, and Dev Patel from Lion.
Ali ended up taking the coveted award, and took the stage for an emotional acceptance speech about persecution of individuals and his relationship with his Christian mother as a converted Muslim. The actor even got choked up by his own words, as he reflected on his experience of working on Moonlight.
"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 a result of the persecution of his community. And taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered," Ali said, as tears formed in his eyes. View the speech above and read the transcript below.
What I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is, we see what happens when you persecute people. 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 a result of the persecution of his community. And taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered. That he was okay. And accept him. I hope we do a better job of that.
When we get caught in the minutia, the details that make us all different, I think there’s two ways of seeing that. There’s an opportunity to see the texture of that person. The characteristics that make them unique. And then there’s the opportunity to go to war about it. And say that, “That person’s different from me. I don’t like you, so let’s battle.” My mother’s an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, you put things to the side, and I’m able to see her, she’s able to see me. We’re able to love each other, the love has grown, and that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important.