Oscars: Mahershala Ali Wins Best Supporting Actor for 'Moonlight'

This is Ali’s first Oscar win and first nomination.

Mahershala Ali has won best supporting actor at the Oscars for his role in Moonlight. 

He was nominated alongside Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Dev Patel (Lion) and Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals). 

This is Ali’s first Oscar win and first nomination. He also won this year’s SAG Award and Critics’ Choice Award.

Alicia Vikander, the winner of the best supporting actress Oscar last year for her role in The Danish Girl, presented him with the award. 

"I want to thank my teachers, my professors," Ali said in accepting the award, adding that they always taught him that "it's not about you, it's about these characters. You're in service to these stories and these characters. I'm so blessed to have had this opportunity." 

He also thanked his wife, who joined him this awards season through her pregnancy. 

Backstage, Ali said that it was an honor to win the award as a Muslim actor. "Regardless of one’s theology, as an artist my job is the same - to connect with these characters as deeply as possible. I’m just an artist who feels blessed to have the opportunities I have had."

"As far as the scripts that I’ve read in my 17 years of doing this professionally, Moonlight was the best thing to ever come across my desk," he continued. "That character really spoke to my heart, I had a real sense of who that person was." 

Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, follows the life of a gay black man from childhood to adulthood in three parts, based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Ali plays a Miami drug dealer and role model in the first third of the film.

Mark Rylance won the best supporting actor Oscar last year for his role in Bridge of Spies. 

Introducing the award, host Jimmy Kimmel joked, "It's what most parents of actors are still doing — supporting actors." 

The 89th Annual Academy Awards were held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center and aired on ABC.