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"Moonlight" star Mahershala Ali is the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar

Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim Oscar winner during Sunday's Academy Awards.

"Well, regardless of one's theology or however you see life or relate to worshipping God, as an artist my job is the same and it's to tell the truth, and try to connect with these characters and these people as honestly and as deeply as possible," he said during a backstage interview with reporters afterward. 


The 2017 Academy Awards was a showcase of diversity compared to the previous couple of years, when all acting nominees were white. This year's roster of nominations was far more inclusive and "Moonlight," with a mostly African American cast, was named best picture.  Viola Davis won a best supporting actress award for her role in "Fences," which also featured a mostly African American cast.

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Ali won a best supporting actor award for his complex role in "Moonlight," as a caring drug dealer who mentors a young boy even as he sells drugs to the boy's mother. He also appeared in Atlanta-filmed "Hidden Figures," which told the story of African American women key to NASA's early missions - another best-picture contender.

We talked to Ali a while back when he was in Atlanta promoting the "Hunger Games" series movie "Mockingjay." Here's that interview.

"I'm just an artist who feels blessed to have had the opportunities that I have had and try to do the most with every opportunity that's come my way," Ali said Sunday. "I feel very fortunate to ‑for all of us to have walked away with the best picture award.  It's pretty remarkable. "

Backstage interview transcripts provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


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Jennifer Brett is a multiplatform journalist and digital coach. She writes The Buzz blog for

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