As connected lobbyist Remy Danton on House of Cards, Mahershala Ali is kind of how you imagine grown up men when you’re a little kid: He’s mature, confident, capable, and a damn good dresser. It’s hard to imagine that the guy who plays him—and also makes his mark on Katniss as District 13 solider Boggs in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1—out today, could measure up.
But Mahershala Ali (pronounced ma-HER-shuh-luh) is some seriously adult company. When he arrives to Stanton Social for a round of lemonades, I’m immediately taken with his outfit. Not only is he a black belt in layering—his look includes a chambray flak jacket, paisley print button down fastened up to the tippy top, and a fedora—but he makes it look easy. You know what else is easy? His face. On my eyes. But aesthetics aside, he’s the kind of person whose calm and self-assured mannerisms you find yourself mirroring. The guy is also a master at eye contact, who says things like, “So tell me about you.” When he asks me this, however, I’m so taken aback by the interest in my own life, that I practically short circuit. “Um…Well. I’ve worked at ELLE for nearly three years…” (good one, J!) “I’m 30…” (good God) “…and, uh, I like hot guys…very much like yourself?”
There’s a beat during which I consider passing out, but, luckily for me, Ali’s eyes crinkle, his tongue flicks up to the roof of his mouth, and his wide, classic smile unfolds itself to reveal a row of perfectly straight teeth. It’s like the sunrise of smiles. And, for a brief moment in time, it’s mine all mine. Here the Hunger Games newbie talks about his penchant for playing morally ambiguous characters, goofing off with Jennifer Lawrence, and fashion foibles courtesy of his well-intentioned wife.