“House of Cards” fans know Mahershala Ali as the striving and sometimes conniving lawyer-lobbyist Remy Danton. Now “Hunger Games” fans will get to know him as the steadfast and trustworthy Boggs.
“What I appreciated about him is he had to carry a quiet strength,” Ali said during a recent interview to discuss “Mockingjay — Part 1,” which was filmed largely in Atlanta and comes out Friday. (Thanks to acting student Reagan Horne, 10, who was a big help during the interview!)
“Boggs is really commissioned to protect Katniss,” Ali said. “He’s really first and foremost in the military leadership of District 13. He’s at first a little apprehensive about the assignment, but he really grows to love and appreciate Katniss.”
Off-screen, he felt similarly protective of Jennifer Lawrence earlier this year when some creep hacked her cellphone and posted private photographs.
“You hate to see that happen, but if anyone can handle it, it’s Jennifer Lawrence,” Ali said. “She’s mature and grounded.”
“Mockingjay” is the last of the “Hunger Games” trilogy in its original written form, but for film was split in two, as were the “Twilight” or “Harry Potter” series finales. The first and second halves were filmed concurrently, making for a lengthy stint in Atlanta. During the production, the cast and crew leaned on one another to mourn the untimely passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in February of a drug overdose. His character, Plutarch Heavensbee, is a key one, and filmmakers were able to finish the project with footage completed prior to his death.
“It was a challenging time,” Ali said. “Prayers to him and his family.”
It’s been interesting as an actor, he said, to be a part of “House of Cards,” a series so popular it’s often consumed binge-watching style, as well as the blockbuster “Hunger Games” phenomenon.
“I hadn’t quite experienced (popularity) like that before,” he said of “House of Cards,” a Netflix series that stars Kevin Spacey as the ambitious and sometimes ruthless U.S. President Frank Underwood. “It was shocking. It feels great to be riding the wave of changing how things are viewed.”
He wouldn’t spill a single detail about what’s coming next.
“There are some good things coming up,” he teased. “I won’t even tell my wife!”
With “Mockingjay,” he said, “I’m a little late to the party, but it’s fun being a part of it.”
The two projects seem to speak to both the angels and demons of society’s nature, he said. “The Hunger Games” series “touches on the hope within us all,” he said, while with “House of Cards,” on the other hand, “you can’t believe Frank makes the decisions he makes and gets away with.”
“’Hunger Games’ are about the people you wish you were,” Ali said. “And ‘House of Cards’ is people who, you think, ‘I hope I’m not like that.’”