Received his bachelor of arts degree in mass communications from St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.
The name "Mahershalalhashbaz" is from the Book of Isaiah (chapter 8, verse 3) in the Hebrew Bible. It is the longest proper name (ordered by God to be given to the newborn prophet's son) that appears in the bible and is, in fact, a combination of four words: "Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz," meaning "Hurry to the spoils!" or "He has made haste to the plunder!".
Is a respected rapper in the hip hop community, having collaborated and performed with notable artists such as Talib Kweli, Planet Asia, Keith Murray, and others.
Received his MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Ali has twice played the father to children with unusual (supernatural) aging issues: as Richard Tyler in The 4400 (2004), his character's daughter, Isabelle, goes from infancy to adulthood in a single episode, and as Tizzy in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), he plays the adoptive father of a child who is born old and ages backwards.
He is the son of Willicia (Goines) and Phillip F. Gilmore. His father has acted and his mother is a Christian minister. Raised a Christian, Ali later converted to Islam.
As of 2019, has appeared in four films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Moonlight (2016), Hidden Figures (2016) and Green Book (2018). Of those, Moonlight (2016) and Green Book (2018) are winners in the category.
Revealed during his SAG Award speech in 2017 that he is a Muslim and converted to Islam 17 years earlier. He also mentioned in the same speech that his mother is an ordained minister.
Became a father for the 1st time at age 43 when his wife Amatus Sami-Karim gave birth to their daughter Bari Najma Ali on February 22, 2017.
His Oscar win for Moonlight (2016) marked the first time a Muslim actor won an Academy Award.
Won his first Academy Award only four days after becoming a father for the first time in February 2017.
Mahershala's unsuccessful auditions include The A-Team (2010) (for the part of B.A. Baracus) plus a role he lost out on in Game of Thrones (2011).
Has always cuts his own hair ever since he was 12 years old.
One of four multiple acting Oscar winners whose wins are all in Best Picture Oscar winners (the others being Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman). Two of Jack Nicholson's three acting Oscars are in Best Picture winners.
Is only one of seven actors who have a 2-0 winning record when nominated for an acting Oscar, his two wins for Moonlight (2016) and Green Book (2018). The others are Luise Rainer for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937); Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind (1939) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951); Helen Hayes for The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931) and Airport (1970); Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects (1995) and American Beauty (1999); Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry (1999) and Million Dollar Baby (2004); and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012).
With his Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actor for Green Book (2018), Mahershala Ali becomes the first black actor (male or female) to win twice in the supporting category. He is also the second black person (male or female) to win two competitive Oscars for acting-- the first being Denzel Washington who won in both the lead and supporting categories.