Mahershala Ali felt like he was working with a first-time director under Hollywood veteran Peter Farrelly on the set of Green Book.
Farrelly made his name with comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, both of which he wrote as well as directed.
However, he’s taken a new direction with biographical flick Green Book, about celebrated pianist Don Shirley’s real-life tour of the Deep South in ‘60s segregated America.
“Here we have a guy who has 20 years experience in filmmaking. But he hadn’t done this (before). It was like working with a first-time director, only with more than 20 years experience,” Ali marvelled to Time Out London.
In the film, the Oscar winner stars alongside Viggo Mortensen as his driver Tony Lip, with the pair forming a unique bond.
While Shirley’s family have disputed much of the story, Green Book has been an awards season favourite, picking up three Golden Globes as well as a string of other nods, including a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Ali.
To get into the role, Ali learned to play the piano and looked back over footage of Shirley.
“It allowed me to see his eyes and pull from him. I learn more from documentaries than watching other actors work,” he explained.
He also used his tried and tested formula of creating a playlist specific for the character.
“I’d pull from music of the time and make that my world. Some classical, like Pablo Casals playing Bach, then Aretha Franklin, Little Richard and Sam Cooke,” he shared.