In the recent film, Moonlight, Mahershala Ali plays an unlikely father figure to a quiet young African-American boy named Chiron. At school, Chiron is bullied. At home, he is neglected by a mother who is addicted to crack. Ali's character, Juan, is a drug dealer who takes Chiron under his wing in an attempt to provide him with some stability.
Ali, whose performance earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he knew men like Juan growing up.