Mahershalalhashbaz is the longest proper name in the Bible, as well as the name of one of the prophet Isaiah's sons. It's a lot to live up to, but actor Mahershala Ali was more than up to the task. The California native turned his basketball talent into a full scholarship to St. Mary's College but eventually turned to writing and acting as creative refuges. Armed with an MFA from the prestigious NYU Tisch School of the Arts, the charismatic Ali began acting professionally with a debut role on NBC's "Crossing Jordan" (2001-07). He followed up his appearance on the cult hit "The 4400" (USA, 2004-07) with David Fincher's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008), where he again played the father of a child with unusual aging issues. Ali's intense demeanor and calculating intelligence enlivened his portrayals of a federal agent on "Alphas" (SyFy, 2011-12), an investigator on HBO's "Treme" (2010- ), and his ruthless lobbyist on "House of Cards." With Ryan Gosling as his co-star in "The Place Beyond the Pines" (2013), it's safe to say ditching basketball for acting was the smartest move Mahershala Ali ever made. Ali grew up outside San Francisco, CA with his parents and extended family. Life wasn't always easy, but he managed to qualify for a full sports scholarship to St. Mary's College in nearby Moraga and soon settled into the life of a student athlete. The death of his father in 1994, as well as his increasing disillusionment with the grueling demands of collegiate basketball, prompted him to start writing and performing poetry. After graduating from the school in 1996, he trained and worked with the California Shakespeare Festival before following his professor's encouragement and auditioning for (and winning) a spot at Tisch School of the Arts in New York City. Reinvigorated and re-energized by the school's demanding workload, Ali legally shortened his name to the simpler Mahershala in 2000 and began heading out on auditions. He made his TV debut with a recurring role as a medical examiner on "Crossing Jordan," before joining "The 4400" as the father of a girl who instantly, mysteriously ages decades. With echoes of that role in his performance as the adoptive father of a backwards-aging Brad Pitt in "Benjamin Button," Ali showcased his talents across a range of genres. With the momentum of small but steady successes behind him, the late 2000s proved a turning point for Ali. He joined the supernatural "Alphas" as stoic government agent Nathan Clay, and landed a recurring role as a determined investigator on the acclaimed "Treme." The following year he showed a softer side as Eva Mendes' fiercely protective boyfriend (and Gosling rival) Kofi in the epic "The Place Beyond the Pines." In 2013 Ali returned to familiar icy territory as lobbyist Remy Danton in the David Fincher-produced "House of Cards" (Netflix 2013- ). Leaving that series after four seasons, Ali next appeared in the Marvel vigilante series "Luke Cage" (Netflix 2016- ) and co-starred in indie drama "Moonlight" (2016).