MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - For his portrayal of classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley, Hollywood sent another love letter to Mahershala Ali, but the two-time Oscar winner might have given up acting if it weren't for his time at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
"Thrilled and proud,” said Jen LeGrand Reiter, a former Guthrie Theater employee. “I knew the first time and second time he was going to win."
LeGrand Reiter was the program coordinator for a Guthrie experience for actors in training when Ali came to Minnesota for eight weeks in the summer of 1999. She says the program's founder Ken Washington knew Ali was questioning whether he wanted to be an actor after his second year as an grad student in fine arts at New York University.
"He is kind of goofy,” said LeGrand Reiter. “We were all 20-something. He was just a generous grateful human with the greatest laugh ever in the world … You would talk to him about nothing or go really deep. One of my favorite persons on the planet."
LeGrand Reiter says Ali spent eight weeks performing with other now famous actors like Morena Baccerin from “Gotham” and “Deadpool” and Ricardo Chivera from “Desperate Housewives.”
At the end of the summer, he decided to continue acting, which eventually led to roles in “Luke Cage” and the third season of “True Detective.”
"It’s so thrilling to watch Mahershala and his incredible talent be something he can do as a living and be recognized for it," said LeGrand Reiter.
When Ali won his first Oscar for supporting actor for “Moonlight” two years ago, he gave a shout out to the Guthrie during his acceptance speech.
LeGrand Reiter says Ali's success is a lasting legacy to his time in our fair state.
"It’s the greatest joy seeing someone you love living their dream," she said.