‘Moonlight’: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Andre Holland on Masculinity, Addiction

     October 21, 2016


Moonlight, the first original production from ace indie distributors A24, was a buzzy fall festival film which appears to be headed for some heavy Oscar attention. Particularly after a few high profile disappointments from Billy Lynn’s Last Walk and The Birth of a Nation have already dropped this month. And such recognition would be well deserved.

Barry Jenkins‘ (Medicine for Melancholy) film follows a young Miami boy into early adulthood in a three act structure; Chrion’s played by three actors at three distinct times in his life, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes. His mother, Paula (Naomie Harris), is a crack cocaine addict. A neighborhood drug dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali), is his surrogate father figure. And a young man named Kevin (played both by Jharrel Jerome and Andre Holland) is a childhood friend who provides a sexual and emotional release. This triptych portrait of emotions that are repressed by masculine codes of conduct touches on many heady themes such as mass incarceration, closeted homosexuality, and lack of community options in low income areas, without telegraphing its intent and leaving many things unsaid, Moonlight is a delicate drama with great performances and an expert use of music.

The veteran adult cast of Moonlight—Ali (Luke Cage, House of Cards), Harris (28 Days Later) and Holland (The Knick)—mostly share the screen with exciting newcomers (in addition to the above listed, pop star Janelle Monae makes her film debut). And due to a quick shooting schedule (Harris shot her entire role in only 3 days!!), have only recently come to know each actor that assisted Chiron’s coming of age via the film festival circuit that just finished at the New York Film Festival last week.


Image via A24

In promoting the film, this is the first time that most of the cast is meeting each other. Harris said, “It’s only now, through touring around the continent with this movie, that I’m seeing people’s true personalities, which is lovely. It’s such an amazing cast of people.” Holland agrees, “It’s been super cool trading stories from set, because we were all there at different stages of the movie.”

We recently sat down with Ali, Harris and Holland to talk about their roles, what drew them to the project, what reservations they might have had and how they view their roles in assisting the youth of today to be more confident in their skin. Bonus: the vets discuss a few of their future projects and Holland shares his long personal history of living amongst this narrative for more than a decade.

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