The made-in-Miami film “Moonlight” won its first Oscar on Sunday when Mahershala Ali was named Best Supporting Actor Sunday at the 89th Academy Awards.
Playing Juan, the compassionate drug dealer who takes Chiron, a bullied Liberty City boy, under his wing in the film, Ali beat an impressive lineup of colleagues: Jeff Bridges as a crusty lawman in “Hell or High Water”; Dev Patel as an adopted son seeking his real mother in “Lion”; Michael Shannon as an entirely different sort of lawman in “Nocturnal Animals” and newcomer Lucas Hedges as a grieving teenager in “Manchester by the Sea”.
“My grandma would want me to button up,” said Ali when he got to the podium and buttoned his tux jacket. He went on to thank “my teachers my professors, so many wonderful teachers . . . they told me, ‘It wasn’t about you, it’s not about you, it’s about these characters ... you’re in service to these stories.’ It was about Juan. It was about Chiron.”
He also thanked his wife, who gave birth to their daughter just four days ago.
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Ali, who’s known for his roles in TV’s “House of Cards” and “Marvel’s Luke Cage,” also won best supporting actor at the Screen Actors Guild awards.
Miami celebrated Ali’s win during an Oscars watch party at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Liberty City. As “Moonlight” picked up its first award, the crowd erupted into applause.