Mahershala Ali is hitting the big screen in another powerhouse performance, this time as a classical pianist in “Green Book.”
Ali told “Good Morning America” that he “immersed” himself in the real-life character’s music and researched all the material he could get his hands on to be “fully equipped” for the role.
The film is inspired by a true story of Dr. Don Shirley (played by Ali), a world-class African-American pianist who hires a tough-talking bouncer from the Bronx to be his driver and protection as he sets out on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. The two men bond and become close despite their differences in an era of segregation.
“What’s so beautiful about it is these two gentlemen are just so different,” Ali said. “They couldn’t be more different and they actually remain different, but there’s so much that is revealed about themselves and they’re so open and they listen to each other in such a wonderful way that they end up becoming like really close friends and allies.”
In order to get into Dr. Shirley’s head, Ali researched his mannerisms through documentaries, listened to old recordings and “immersed” himself in his music.
“I equipped myself as best I could with the materials that I needed in order to really try to capture his essence and do justice to this moment in time,” the actor said.
Ali pulled inspiration from a documentary called “Little Bohemia” about the artists that lived above Carnegie Hall that “[Shirley] appears in several times.”
“I was able to pull from that and sort of get a sense of his gestures and his rhythm and his speech and posture and how he played the piano. So I had that to lean on a bit,” he said.
The Oscar-winning actor has dabbled with rap in the past and said he’s now “working on something for a project associated specifically with the film.”
But in terms of “pursuing a career and doing it and releasing music on a regular basis, no,” he said. “But for my work as an actor, I’m working on something, I have been working on it for two years.”
“Green Book” hits theaters nationwide Wednesday, Nov. 21.
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