Mahershala Ali Opens Up About Family And Impending Fatherhood

- By Bossip Staff
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“The Hollywood Reporter” Releases Mahershala Ali Cover Story Week Of Baby’s Expected Arrival

He’ll be a dad any day now! Bossip can exclusively confirm that Mahershala Ali’s baby with wife Amatus-Sami Karim-Ali was due Monday of this week — but the couple has yet to announce a delivery. But Mahershala did tell The Hollywood Reporter of his newest role, “I’m even excited about being tired.” Ali is the cover star of this week’s edition of the magazine, which was released Wednesday and inside he opens up about his family life, growing up depressed over his parent’s divorce, having a mother and grandmother who are both ordained ministers and how he met his wife just as he was discovering Islam.

Check out a few of our favorite excerpts from the story via THR:


On His Father’s Role In His Life:

My parents were in high school when I was born. My mom was 16, my dad was 17. They were kids, at the very beginning of coming into their own and finding themselves.

My father, Phillip Gilmore, was very talented. He was getting seriously into dancing. He was on Soul Train and won $2,500… He went off to New York and got into the Dance Theatre of Harlem and immediately started working and traveling with the companies of the larger shows. They split when I was 3. I remember clearly my mom’s reaction, one of the first things that felt traumatic in my life. She was leaning on the dresser, crying, and I said, “Mommy?” I asked her what was wrong. She told me that my dad had left, and I started crying. Just seeing her, I understood the weight of what was happening. She said, “He’s gone. Your father’s gone.”

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.

I started traveling by myself as early as 5 to see my dad. I’d go to Toronto or Los Angeles, depending on what show he was doing, but most often New York, and we would hang out, and he’d take me to museums and Broadway plays. The ones that had the biggest impact on me were the George C. Wolfe productions. I saw Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Angels in America, Spunk. But I never thought I could do that. If anything, it made me feel like I couldn’t, because they were so great.

My dad was in Dreamgirls, and I was just so happy to be in his presence, I was ready to jump in, whether in the summer or Christmas break. He did much more for me by leaving than he would have done by staying. He gave me so many more tools because he chose to go on the adventure he went on.

Wow… This is just a tiny sliver, but as you can tell Mahershala’s life is one full of colorful characters and many adventures. Hit the flip for the lessons he learned from his grandmother and how he met his wife.

Instagram/Mahershala Ali/The Hollywood Reporter

@hollywoodreporter much love👐🏿

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On His Relationship With Grandmothers:

My grandmother, Evie Goines, was an ordained minister in Hayward Baptist Church. She was the assistant pastor until she died, and [years later] my mother became an ordained minister, too. I grew up in a prayerful home; I never remember not praying — I prayed every day of my life, and that was instilled in me as a kid, and as I’ve gotten older, that’s just matured in me.


Out of everyone in my life, my grandmother, Mamie Gilmore, my dad’s mom, had the most influence. We spent so much time together. Every Thursday, she would take me to Lucky’s grocery store, which was about a block away from her house, and I remember her putting me in the shopping cart. She would push me around the grocery store, getting her bread and whatnot, and on Fridays we’d go to McDonald’s. And while I ate my fries and my burger, she would tell me that I was handsome, that I was intelligent, that I could do anything I put my mind to. She said, “You can be happy or miserable. It’s up to you.” She was teaching me to think a certain way, and that has really served me, because at a certain point you believe it enough, where it’s not something that you wear as arrogance or armor. There’s times when you need to pull that out to encourage yourself.


On Becoming An Actor:

I won a basketball scholarship to Saint Mary’s College in 1992, and then I found acting. I had a professor there, Rebecca Engle, and she approached me about doing Othello. That scared me, but it let me know what she thought of me. I ended up doing a different play, Spunk, which my father had taken me to see. It was standing-room only, standing ovations every time we did that play. It was borderline revolutionary for us to do a black play in a college that was 90-some-odd percent white, and here’s this white woman who was a Berkeley hippie, embracing of all people, whatever their walk of life.

That was the trigger for me: when I felt that was the only thing I could do, and if I did anything else I wouldn’t be on track. It was therapeutic to get down to the seeds of other people’s dysfunction, with the goal to crack it open and shed light on it. That’s what led me to graduate school [at NYU] and to follow acting, like my father.

We love that high school basketball picture of Mahershala. It’s funny how he never intended to become a performer but isn’t it something how no matter how hard you fight your destiny it will find you one way or another.

Mahershala Ali Amatus-Sami Karim-Ali WENN

On Meeting His Wife And Finding Islam:

When I was in grad school, I met Amatus, who later became my wife, though there was a [period of 12 years] when we weren’t really in contact. She’s artistic, extraordinarily independent, very straightforward, very intelligent, kind. She’s really high-functioning — morally, ethically and socially.

She was in undergrad, studying acting at NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing. She was coming to terms with whether she even wanted to be Muslim, because her father is an imam. And I was looking for my anchor or the thing to bring structure to my spiritual walk. She was almost coming out of it, and I was going into it.

So I went with her and her mother to the mosque in Philadelphia. I remember watching the imam give the khutbah, or sermon, and then we’re making the congregational prayer. And I started crying. I didn’t quite understand why I was crying, because the prayer was in Arabic and I couldn’t understand Arabic. And I’m just crying in a way that I hadn’t quite experienced before.

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.

You have to read the full article for all the details, but Mahershala describes a number of estrangements in his life — similar to the one with his (now) wife. He’s a living example of what is meant to be will be.

We’re actually big fans of his wife Amatus-Sami’s work as an artist and producer. You can actually hear her on this song with Microclimate below:

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