Mahershala Ali Says His Acting Was Inspired By This Hollywood Legend

What would you do if you had to choose between dying and leaving your family to grieve or dying and leaving behind a replacement SO much like you that your family never even realizes you’re gone?

Source: Courtesy Apple TV+ / Apple TV+

That’s the question Cameron, the main character of ‘Swan Song’ faces in the new film, out on Apple TV+ Friday. BOSSIP Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden spoke with Mahershala Ali ahead of the release of his new Apple TV+ film ‘Swan Song,’ for which he’s already received a Best Actor Glolden Globes nomination.

We asked Ali about portraying his very emotionally vulnerable character Cameron, who is terminally ill and struggling to make the most difficult decision of his life in order to do what’s best for his pregnant wife and young son.

“One of my favorite actors is Harrison Ford,” Mahershala told BOSSIP. ” What I always love about Harrison Ford is that he’s always played these traditionally masculine roles, but you always feel like he may not succeed in the end. There’s always a real vulnerability and pressure he brings to his work and I always want to try to bring that to my work because you feel connected to people who allow you to be a fly on the wall and go on these emotional journeys with them and their arcs.”

“There is a real opportunity there with Cameron, who is someone who is really facing, really wrestling with their mortality and what impacts his death is going to have on his family,” Ali continued. “It’s not hard, being a husband and a father, to take a moment and imagine, allow yourself to imagine what impacts that could have on your family. So I really tried to be really honest and be true to that. Kind of drop the walls down, drop the facade and just allowed what I was feeling through Cameron’s journey to come up. It felt it was my responsibility to do that, like I owed that to Cameron and his story. It was gratifying from that sense because you feel like the part has certain expectations and you just want to keep working to meet the expectations so you can do your part for the story.”

We also spoke to Mahershala about being his own scene partner for much of the movie. In addition to playing Cameron, he also plays Jack, an incredibly realistic double who has been created to fill the void he’ll leave when he passes away.

“It was fun, it was challenging,” Ali told BOSSIP. “I had the help of a gentleman by the name of Shane Dean who was working as my double. And he was so gracious in allowing me to sort of guide and manipulate him in a certain way so that I could get all the important beats out. I needed to try to set myself up to trigger the responses.”

“Usually when you’re working with another actor, you’re usually very familiar with all the scenes, you’ve got your lines worked out. Like working with [‘Swan Song’ co-star] Naomi [Harris]who is an absolute genius. We never rehearsed, like ever, we just kinda showed up — the cameras start rolling and you just start going. She’s giving me certain things and I’m giving her things, and we’re just finding the scene in the moment.”

“We don’t have the luxury of doing that when you’re supposed to be working opposite of yourself. I had to have the scene sort of worked out in my head already and really sort of communicate what I was trying to achieve. Then once we started shooting it, and I kind of got my ideas out, it gave space for Ben Cleary our director to come in and say, ‘hey try it this way or try it this way” or “get rid of that.” It was very different from what I’m accustomed to, but it was a blast, honestly. It was difficult, but the hard things are where the joy is later. So there was a lot of joy when we were done.”

Check out the full interview below:

What did you think? Were you surprised to learn how much Harrison Ford inspired Mahershala Ali?

‘Swan Song’ is available on Apple TV+ December 17th




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