What started for writer-director Barry Jenkins  as a very small and personal independent film has been storming through awards season, with his Moonlight picking up everything from critics group nods to Golden Globe and SAG nominations on an almost daily basis. The passion behind the project was evident when Jenkins and five of his key cast members — including all three of the young men who play the central character of Chiron at different points in the film — turned up last month at Deadline’s big annual event The Contenders Presented By Deadline.

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During the panel, part of the A24 presentation before a packed house of Academy members and key guild voters at the DGA theater, Jenkins talks about how he took Tarell Alvin McCraney’s original unproduced play and molded it — with the help of McCraney, who has a story credit — into a very personal story about how the world affects young men growing up in the Miami neighborhood where they both were brought up.

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Jenkins also talks about the unique casting idea that brought three different actors, 10 years apart in age, to play the three different Chirons (not to mention three other actors to play childhood friend, Kevin). Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes and Alex Hibbert all talked about what playing the same role at different times meant to them. Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, both receiving a lot of awards action for their searing performances, discuss the film’s impact and what it meant to be part of this unique movie experience.

Check out our conversation above.