The award was announced Sunday in ceremonies at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Ali topped Jeff Bridges for “Hell or High Water,” Hugh Grant for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” Lucas Hedges for “Manchester by the Sea,” and Dev Patel for “Lion.”
In his acceptance speech, an emotional Ali talked about his conversion to Islam and how he and his mother were able to reconcile that, a reflection of the current political climate.
“My mother is an ordained minister. I am a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her and told her I converted 17 years ago,” he explained. “But we put things to the side and I was able to see her. She is able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown, and that stuff’s minutiae. It’s not that important.”
Ali was nominated for his first Academy Award on Jan. 24 and faces Bridges, Hedges and Patel along with Michael Shannon for “Nocturnal Animals” for that trophy. He portrays a Miami crack dealer who befriends a shy boy in the opening section of the film.
Ali won the Critics Choice award for the role and was nominated for a Golden Globe. He’s also part of the cast of “Hidden Figures,” nominated for the SAG ensemble award, as a military office who marries Taraji P. Henson’s Katherine Johnson character.
Ali was part of the ensembles of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “House of Cards,” which were both nominated for SAG cast ensemble awards.