Minor spoilers for Moonlight follow.
André Holland doesn’t appear until the very end of Moonlight, but when he does he’s magnetic. Holland plays the grown-up version of Kevin, the childhood friend and one-time lover of our hero Chiron, and in his brief screen time, he has the tricky task of not only making Chiron fall in love with Kevin, but making the audience do so as well. He’s up to the job: The 36-year-old actor brings a familiarity to the part that’s immediate and visceral; it’s the kind of performance that feels lived-in. Watching him is like finding your favorite sweatshirt, burying your face in it, and discovering it still has that old smell.
And really, is there better way to describe your fall crush? Summer crushes come in hot and fast like a Florida thunderstorm, but there’s something about the smell of disintegrating leaves and an extra hour of sleep that makes us go a little nuts for an autumn crush. And this fall, there’s no better accompaniment for that feeling of drinking warm apple cider spiked with bourbon than crushing on Holland, who, in addition to his role in Moonlight plays the beleaguered Matt Miller in American Horror Story: Roanoke. So let’s get to it: What’s André Holland, your new fall crush, really like?
I don’t know why you’re crushing on him now. I’ve had a poster of him over my bed for years.
You’re right! André Holland has been doing swoon-worthy work for many years. He was the best part of the short-lived political sitcom 1600 Penn, and he appeared in smaller roles in Selma (as Andrew Young) and 42 (as Wendell Smith). But it wasn’t until The Knick that Holland had the opportunity to shine: He plays a talented surgeon, Dr. Algernon Edwards, who chafes under the idiocy of racism in the early 20th century. For his work on that show we named him the best male actor on TV in 2015 — Matt Zoller Seitz called his performance “masterful,” noting how “your eye keeps gravitating toward him” just to see how he reacts.
What makes him so good in Moonlight?
It’s really in his reactions. There’s a scene in the movie when Kevin looks at Chiron for the first time as an adult, and you can see the surprise mix with desire in his eyes. “When I look at Trevante [Rhodes, who plays grown-up Chiron], André is looking at Trevante. When I’m playing those scenes where they’re supposed to be intimate, André is finding something really sexy about Trevante,” Holland told RogerEbert.com. “I didn’t want to hide behind anything. I just wanted to be me.” In these scenes, Holland plays someone who exists as both a fantasy — the eternal What if guy — but also someone who’s grounded, tangible, and present. He’s that sexy guy you could imagine a life with.
Whew. I’m feeling weak. Where did my crush grow up?
Holland grew up in the small town of Shades Valley, outside of Birmingham, Alabama. His dad was a salesman and his mother worked at the local steel mill. He has two sisters, one older and one younger. And he says that he would have become a lawyer if he hadn’t become an actor.
Why haven’t I seen more of him?
Well, it might be because he won’t just take any role. If you look at his résumé, you’ll notice a lot of careful choices and a desire to work with talented directors: Spike Lee on Miracle at St. Anna, Ava DuVernay on Selma, and Steven Soderbergh on The Knick. Holland has also done a lot of theater, and has a long-standing relationship with Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote the original source material for Moonlight, starring in the playwright’s acclaimed trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays. “I have specific tastes about what I do and don’t want to do, and being on a cop show, or being on a procedural drama … that’s not really a part of my plan,” Holland told Esquire. “Opportunities to me are things that come along that are actually in line with what I’m looking to do, not just what the business thinks I should be doing.”
That is really thoughtful!
Right? So it’s no surprise that he brings the same kind of consideration into the political realm too. He has spoken beautifully about the importance of Moonlight centering the black queer experience. He’s also been active with black political struggles, protesting the death of Eric Garner with some of his Selma cast mates before the New York premiere of the film, and speaking at MLKNOW, where he delivered one of Malcolm X’s speeches, “Police Brutality and the Mainstream Media.”
Talented and woke: Just how I like my crushes! Is he single?
Our internet sleuthing has yielded no results, although he did say that he definitely does not use Tinder, so you won’t have any luck there.
So what’s my crush up to right now?
Besides Moonlight and AHS, Holland has also been cast in Ava DuVernay’s star-studded A Wrinkle in Time as Principal Jenkins. And if you live close to New York, you can soon see him in the Broadway production of August Wilson’s Jitney, which opens January 19, 2017.
Okay, now remind me, what’s it like when he smiles?
Like opening a gate of angels and puppies.