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Alita: Battle Angel Mahershala Ali wearing sunglasses and a purple jacket

Whether you’re an Academy Award winner or a highly regarded actor who feels overdue for such recognition, some arts performers just seem on the way to new success. Next up, two-time Oscar recipient Mahershala Ali is going to follow the iconic Wesley Snipes’ footsteps as the new face of Marvel’s slick Black superhero, Blade. What makes this casting choice all the more awesome is that Ali has always felt a sort of connection to Snipes, as folks he went to school with couldn’t help but see a resemblance.

As he was recently featured as a guest on The Tight Rope podcast, Mahershala Ali spoke with hosts Dr. Cornell West and Professor Tricia Rose about his personal history and how it connects to that of Wesley Snipes’ career as an actor. Ali started his story with the following anecdote:

I definitely had a connection, at least in my mind, to Wesley Snipes going way back to high school when people used to joke and say we looked alike and all this stuff.

The joking nature of Mahershala Ali’s classmates saw the actor, famous for award-winning performances in Moonlight and Green Book, landing quite a few nicknames related to other Wesley Snipes characters. As an example, Ali mentioned how some of his friends would call him “Shadow,” taken from Snipes’ character in director Spike Lee’s film Mo’ Better Blues. So that connection actually laid the groundwork to inspire him to take the next step in securing a role he was ready to own.

Naturally, it also helped that Mahershala Ali was also a Marvel Cinematic Universe alum, as he actually played the role of Cottonmouth on the Netflix series adaptation of Luke Cage. When you’re already in the Marvel family, it doesn’t hurt to ask what other openings are available, especially when Blade is on the books to come back. Those ideas in motion, Ali asked his agent to see what the status was on the dormant intellectual property, and he told that part of the story through the following remarks:

It was really my participation in Luke Cage that sparked the idea, married with being so inspired by Wesley Snipes' work and what he had done and how much had changed since his iteration of Blade and how that had really kind of ushered in this era of this Marvel and DC sort of comic book stuff. So for me, I just felt like since they were having conversations about bringing it back into being, I just wanted to be considered for it.

Thanks to Mahershala Ali’s inquiries, Blade went from being a TV series in limbo to a future feature film project with him playing the lead. Score yet another example in how you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and another fantastic example of dreams becoming realities. The MCU film is currently looking for writers, so we still may be a ways out from seeing any official looks at how Ali will ultimately look as the Daywalker. However, if you’d like to see Mahershala Ali again on the big screen, you can attend this weekend’s re-release of Alita: Battle Angel, as he played the villainous figure Vector in that very film.

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