ALL CROPS: Moonlight (2016) Alex R. Hibbert (L) and Mahershala Ali
Credit: David Bornfriend

This is Mahershala Ali’s year: The actor won the trophy for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Juan in Moonlight at the 22nd annual Critics’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles Sunday.

“I’d like to start by thanking my wife just for being so generous and supporting me and working on every audition, every project I get to go out on, she works with me,” said Ali as his wife, Amatus, looked on in tears from the audience.

Praising his Moonlight director, he continued: “I want to thank Barry Jenkins for just giving me an opportunity to be in this film. I think the only thing that saddens me in some way is that every actor is not going to have the opportunity to work with Barry Jenkins, and I wish that for all of you.”

Ali moved audiences with his portrayal of Juan, a flawed drug dealer who acts as a mentor to young Chiron, doling out wisdom and, in an especially beautiful moment, teaching him how to swim.

This year, Ali also had roles in Marvel’s Luke Cage and House of Cards. The actor is generating Oscar buzz for Moonlight, and with a Critics’ Choice Award under his belt, he may be closer to securing the Academy Award.

“My manager was worried about me,” the actor previously told EW about his busy year. “It was a little bit of a crucible, a rite of passage, you know? I knew it would be a bit of a marathon, but I felt, deep in my bones, like it was something I absolutely had to do.”

Watch Ali’s acceptance speech above. For a full list of Critics Choice Award winners, click here.

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