In the upcoming Apple TV+ movie Swan Song, audiences will see Mahershala Ali like they never have before. Starring as Cameron Turner, a husband and father who is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the fantasy drama delves into the realm of artificial intelligence with Ali, at times, portraying a duplicate of himself on screen.
When it came to the production aspect of playing two characters in the film, “It was a lot to think about,” Ali told ESSENCE. “In this case, playing both sides of it, I had to know what I was doing ahead of time. There was space for discovery in the moment in the scene, but that happens really often when you’re working with someone else and you’re discovering moments in the scene and it keeps changing while you’re shooting.”
Because Ali was portraying two versions of himself, he didn’t have the opportunity to play off of another actor as most thespians do, he explained. “In this case, because I was shooting both sides of it or playing two characters, I kind of had to play the whole scene out in my mind and try to duplicate what I saw in my mind on the day when we were filming. That was really different communicating with my body double in terms of what I wanted to do when and how emotional I felt like the moment needed to be and really honing in on those beats to make sure the scene was turning out how [Benjamin Cleary] and I envisioned the scene turning out.”
Though Ali described filming those parts of the movie as a “fascinating exercise,” having to act in a silo, in a sense, isn’t necessarily an experience he looks forward to duplicating. “I wouldn’t be quick to sign up for that again because I really do enjoy working with other actors,” he shared.
In terms of Swan Song, Ali was particularly excited about reuniting with his former co-star, Naomie Harris, for the project.
“Working with Naomie in this was unbelievable,” he said. “I remember working with her in Moonlight and thinking, Ah, I would love to work with her in another iteration and just have more time together. Once we had a chance to do this, it was kind of a dream come true because I have so much respect for her as both an actor and a person.
Check out our full interview with Mahershala Ali in the video above.
Swan Song will be released in theaters and on Apple TV+ December 17.