Mahershala Ali’s Subtle Edge in the 2019 Oscar Race

When you size up the Best Supporting Actor race at the 2019 Oscars, you can make compelling cases for several nominees. Start with Sam Elliott, who received his first nomination for A Star Is Born after 52 years in the business.

As we’ve seen in the past, the Academy likes rewarding veteran actors for long, distinguished careers. That same storyline helps the case of Richard E. Grant, the British actor who delivered in Can You Ever Forgive Me? after decades of memorable performances.

However, it’s hard to top Mahershala Ali in this year’s race. Not only does the actor shine in Green Book and already have an Academy Award to his name; Ali has also been reminding Oscar voters how great an actor he is every Sunday night when True Detective airs on HBO.

With the depth of his performance staring voters in the face every week, the Academy likely had a hard time picking another Best Supporting Actor.

‘True Detective’ offers weekly reminders of Ali’s greatness.

Stephen Dorff and Mahershala Ali in ‘True Detective’ Season 3| Warrick Page/HBO

With only the final episode of True Detective Season Three remaining, you can reserve Ali a spot on shortlists for the Golden Globes and Emmys later on in 2019. From the first episode on, he has put on a clinic with his portrayal of Detective Wayne “Purple” Hays.

In the first 10 minutes of Episode One, the audience sees Ali playing Hays as a young man (in his 30s), as a married man with kids (in his 40s), and as a senior citizen dealing with the onset of dementia.

By the time we see him dropping off his daughter at college (he’d be in his 50s then), it almost feels like Nic Pizzolatto and the True Detective producers are showing off their star actor.

Ali doesn’t flinch or show any cracks handling Hays in four different timelines. As Oscar voters got their screening copies of the nominated films and pondered the choices in recent months, Ali has made a strong case every given Sunday.

While all bets are off at the Oscars, Ali has the best odds.

Mahershala Ali attends the 91st Oscars Nominees Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 4, 2019. | Dan MacMedan/Getty Images

Whatever Academy voters think of Ali’s performance in True Detective, Oscar predictions in Gold Derby have him with the best odds of winning in the race. Two days before the ceremony, Ali had by far the most votes from experts and users alike.

The only competitor was Grant, whose sunny personality and abundant gratefulness likely tipped a few votes his way. However, Ali is also well-liked and considered a consummate professional in the business.

But will the Academy use Ali’s first Oscar (for Moonlight) against him? We wouldn’t put that absurd move — bypassing a deserving actor because he already won one — past the voters.

With Neill and Grant both up for the award, we’ll find out where Academy voters stand as of 2019. Whatever happens, Mahershala Ali made it awfully tough for anyone to vote against him.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!