battles depression

*“Moonlight” star Mahershala Ali is this season’s golden boy in terms of the number of nominations and wins he’s racked in damn near every awards ceremony, and now seems like the perfect time for the Oscar nominated star to open up to The Hollywood Reporter about his childhood, religion and dealing with depression.

In the issue, Ali reveals he went into depression after his father left him and his mother:

“After that, my uncle has told me, and even my grandmother, I went into a depression. I was borderline depressed for years. There was a sadness over me, a melancholy. That’s always been a part of me — those are some of the things that lead you to the arts. It’s something I still think about, not that it brings me sadness at this point; it’s a void or fracture that happened so early that now I have to address it in the healthiest way. We’re affected by things, but 20 or 30 years later we can choose to feel different about them. I understand: My mom and dad were kids. And I know that they loved me and did the best they could do.”

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battles depression

The “Luke Cage” star also dishes on how he started to explore different religions and beliefs outside of Christianity – and how his journey started when he went with his wife and her mom to a mosque when they were in college.

He shares:

“I was around 23 or 24 years old when I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I was going back in time and trying to find out why I believed what I believed, and it always ended with my mother, and with what I was told — not my own epiphany or studies.”

“A week later, it was Christmas break for school, and I just happened to stay in New York. It was Dec. 31, 1999. I woke up and thought, ‘I have to go to the mosque,’ and I go to this mosque in Brooklyn, and it’s packed. It’s multiple stories, and I’m all the way in the back, and they do this sermon in English and in Arabic, and they go to make the prayer — ‘In the name of God the gracious and the merciful. All praise is due to God alone’ — and the same thing happens to me, and I just start crying. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It was beyond explanation. There was this connection that pierced through it all for me. And I felt like I was in the right place. And this guy touches me on the shoulder and says, ‘Are you Muslim?’ And I say, ‘No.’ And he goes, ‘Do you want to be?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ So he took me up to the imam, and I made my pledge”

“When I told my mother, it was a little bit clumsy. I got on the phone and she wasn’t excited about that, in large part because at that time she believed there’s only one route to heaven, through Christianity. It probably took 10 or 12 years until she really embraced it. My mother is as spiritual as she is religious. She likes to have a good time, but she has an extraordinarily serious quality about her. She lives with the awareness that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, that everything is about the next life. She basically told me she accepted that was my path, and she’s been really supportive of that choice. We are in an extraordinarily positive place today.”

You can read Mahershala’s full interview here.

Check out a behind-the-scenes clip from his THR photoshoot below: