The 46-year-old actor – who converted to Islam when studying for his master’s degree in acting at New York University accepted a role in 2008’s ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ on the condition that a planned sex scene with co-star Taraji P. Henson would be dropped from the script by director David Fincher because he didn’t want to go against his faith.
Speaking on Common’s ‘Mind Power Mixtape’ podcast, the Oscar-winning star said: “So my old agent called me and said, ‘Mahershala, you got the part.’ And I said, ‘There’s just one thing … There is that one sex scene where they kiss … If there’s a sex scene, I can’t do it.’…
“[In the final shoot] Taraji and I begin to kiss, and we fall out of the frame … It wasn’t clear if [Fincher] was trying to have like some bumping and grinding … which I doubt he was.
“But for me even … at that time, 15 years ago, I was still like, ‘OK, I can only go up to this point,’ just because of just trying to hold a space of respect for my religion.”
The ‘True Detective’ star explained how he turned to acting after developing an interest in poetry in order to “connect” with his father.
He said: “He wasn’t really into sports he was like, you know, music, art, and all that, so I was always looking for these ways in which we connected, but as much as we were like sort of an odd couple, we were like best friends when he passed away.
“And so the things that spoke to him, or anything that resonated with him, if there was like some overlapping there, I would get excited about any of those things, so I slipped into acting from basically writing poetry.
“I started early on in the early 90s, there was all these like poetry slams and readings and all that, so I started like as a kid in high school. I was dealing with insomnia…so I would be up the entire night, and then go about my whole day and like maybe sleep an hour or two or be up for like 48 hours and then sleep that next night, so I was just writing all the time.
“And I started performing when my father was ill. I started when I went out to New York. I would do these little pieces for him, like perform them for him and that really made him excited, and then so his friends and whatnot I would perform for them as well.
“I think that was the first time where I kind of discovered this sort of overlapping where like, he and I both were connecting on something that felt true and real for both of us and so he passed away before I really started.”