Interview on Mahershala Ali about the movie Green Book by The Hollywood Reporter in 2018
Though working together for the first time on Green Book, Mahershala Ali notes that he shared a connection with co-star Viggo Mortensen nearly two years prior to signing on to star in the film.
"We were both having this introverted moment at a big luncheon with a bunch of amazing actors around, and we found ourselves tucked in a corner and we spoke for a while," the actor told The Hollywood Reporter's Actor Roundtable, explaining that their "initial conversation" was what "peppered the moment" for them to meet later on. "We got to sit down and share and communicate some of our concerns and fears and go through the script."
In the film, Ali plays a highly educated and talented musician who chooses to go on tour in the segregated American South. Mortensen plays Ali's unassuming driver, tasked with transporting him to different hotels by use of a Green Book, a secret book that helped black Americans find safe places to eat, sleep and drink during the Jim Crow era.
Ali — who won an Oscar in 2017 for his supporting role in Moonlight — admitted that he finds discussing his craft as being similar to "the way we talk about business."
He explains: "The way we talk about acting, the way we talk about the business, we really don't talk about the workman-like qualities within it, and how you only actually act between 'action' and 'cut.' The rest of it is looking for material, prepping for it — the wardrobe, the costume elements, building the psychology and getting ready for the piece itself. Getting to act is such a minuscule part of the experience that you have to love it that much."
As far as what drives Ali to continue practicing his art, he explained, "My relationship to this work is honestly not about money. It is 100 percent about connecting to these stories, and these projects, and these characters, and these lives. As soon as I don't feel that, I won't be doing it anymore."