Mahershala Ali To Co-Star With Julia Roberts In Sam Esmail and Netflix’s ‘Leave The World Behind’

Mahershala Ali
Mahershala Ali Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

EXCLUSIVE: With his upcoming Blade pic finding a director and his Apple Studios pic Swan Song setting a release date, Mahershala Ali doesn’t shows signs of slowing down. He now has found another exciting role to add to his dance card, as sources tell Deadline that the Oscar winner is set to join Julia Roberts in the Netflix thriller Leave the World Behind, with Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail on board to direct and adapt Rumaan Alam’s novel of the same name.

Deadline first broke news last year that Netflix had landed the hot package when Denzel Washington was circling the role opposite Roberts; that’s now the role Ali will play. The film will be produced by Roberts through her Red Om Films banner and Esmail and Chad Hamilton through Esmail Corp. Alam will exec produce, with Red Om’s Lisa Gillan and Marisa Yeres Gill also be involved in a producing capacity.

Based on Alam’s novel, Leave the World Behind is a story about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong. Suspenseful and provocative, Alam’s third novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. It explores how our closest bonds are reshaped—and unexpected new ones are forged—in moments of crisis.

The novel was published in October 2020 and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Awards, listed as one of Barack Obama’s Summer Favorites, and was A Read with Jenna Today Show Pick. It has been named A Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Time, Esquire and Elle among others.

A production start date is still unknown at this time.

As for Ali, the two-time Oscar winner for his performances in Moonlight and Green Book is not only staying busy on the acting end but producing as well. His Apple Studios film Swan Song, in which he is starring and producing, just announced its release date for December 17, as Apple sees this as an awards player this season. He is also gearing up to star as the titular character in Marvel’s Blade, which just landed a director in rising star Bassam Tariq.

On the TV side, Ali recently received an Emmy nomination for his supporting role in the Hulu series Ramy and also produced the HBO documentary We Are the Dream, which recently won the Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program.

He is repped by WME, Anonymous Content and Sloane, Offer.

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