10 Questions With Actor Mahershala Ali

The 'Hunger Games' and 'House of Cards' star opens up about healthy habits and guilty pleasures.

From the WebMD Archives

1. You've been in a half dozen projects in the past year, including House of Cards, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, and the upcoming Free State of Jones. Is it hard to play so many roles over such a short time?

"I've never done it before, and I was really nervous about working on that many projects at one time. Because of all that was going on at once, I found I really had to take it one day at a time, as trite as that might sound. I had to be so focused and committed to what I was doing in the moment to make very clear choices very quickly."

2. You'll be playing bad guy Cornell Cottonmouth in the upcoming Netflix series Luke Cage. What's it like playing a villain?

"I don't approach it any differently from how I would play a hero. My job is to be truthful and to humanize a character so people understand why they do what they do. But at the end of the day, I feel a little bit darker because I've played the villain, and that takes a second to shake off."

3. Are you able to carve out time for yourself?

"That's always the most challenging thing, especially in recent months, and I can't say that I have it figured out. One week, I was working on three different characters. One thing I do is ride my bike whenever I can. That just frees my mind and grounds me."

4. Where do you like to escape to on your bike?

"I always preferred riding on city streets, but because of how hectic things have been, I have really found peace riding around in Brooklyn's Prospect Park for about an hour, going around in circles and listening to music."

5. What do you do when it rains?

"If I can't go out on my bike, I go to the gym and mostly focus on cardio. I have to be careful with weights, though. I get muscular very easily, and often that won't work for the characters that I play. When I play Remy in House of Cards, I can't be this guy busting out of his suit. It's a little easier for the audience to believe in you if you don't look like He-Man."


6. What types of food do you eat to stay healthy?

"I don't eat a lot of red meat, but I do eat a lot of fish and chicken once or twice a week. I don't do too much dairy. Sometimes, I'll go vegetarian for a month."

7. Any guilty-pleasure foods?

"I'm a cereal guy. I love granola. That's my cookie, my cake, my sweet treat."

8. What's your best health habit?

"My best health habit is probably prayer and meditation, which I do every single day. It calms me and gives me the confidence that I need to do my work while putting my mind at ease. And it's portable. I take it everywhere."

9. Your worst?

"My worst is probably drinking too much coffee or not being conscious enough of my sugar intake. And I have to get better with sleep."

10. Now that you're in your 40s, do you think about your health more?

"As you get older, you begin to process your mortality. And obviously there are repercussions for the choices that you make. My wife and I don't have children yet, but we would love to. And children make you think of being around, being healthy, being present."

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WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on February 18, 2016



Mahershala Ali, actor.

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