EXCLUSIVE: 'Moonlight' Star Andre Holland Is Focused on the Craft, Not the Hype

by Stacy Lambe 6:08 AM PST, December 26, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

André Holland doesn’t appear onscreen until the end of Moonlight, the award-winning coming-of-age film about Chiron, a gay black boy coming to terms with his sexuality. Based on Tarell McCraney's semiautobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the story is told in three parts, with Holland playing the grown-up version of Kevin, the only man Chiron lets himself be sexually intimate with. 

“That part of the story is about them becoming reacquainted,” Holland tells ET about his chapter, “Black,” which sees Kevin calling Chiron to reconnect over dinner. “They’ve changed so much and they’re trying to find a common ground.” 

MORE: 'Moonlight' Star Mahershala Ali Is Ready to Carry the Story

When Holland does finally assume the role of Kevin, he doesn’t waste a single moment of his limited screen time. He’s so believable in the moment, seducing both Chiron (played by the quietly stunning Trevante Rhodes) and audiences. He’s magnetic. He’s handsome. He draws you in to the very last, heartbreaking scene with Chiron and Kevin. There’s not much dialogue exchanged between the two actors in those final moments, but all the tension is there. 

“The writing of that scene is so great,” Holland says, crediting Barry Jenkins, who wrote and directed the film. “It’s one of those things that often can get overlooked because it’s so seemingly simple. But every time you watch it, you go, ‘Wait a minute!’ There are these little shifts happening all the way throughout that scene that are really beautiful.” 

André Holland and Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight. Photo: A24 Films

Largely known for playing Dr. Algernon Edwards on Steven Soderbergh’s Cinemax series, The Knick, opposite Clive Owen, the 36-year-old actor (37 on Dec. 28) is enjoying a breakout moment thanks to both Moonlight and his debut role on the FX anthology series American Horror Story.

Playing Matt Miller, one half of a couple living on the outskirts of the lost Roanoke colony in North Carolina, Holland was one of the standout newcomers on Roanoke. Largely a talking head during the first half of the season’s TV documentary, Holland made the most of his monologues, offering compelling testimony about being terrorized by evil spirits. He joined Cuba Gooding Jr. and Adina Porter, who fit in nicely with returning AHS stars Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. 

MORE: How 'Moonlight' Stretched Naomie Harris as a Performer

But Holland, who is busy filming Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time and will be returning to the Broadway stage in August Wilson’s Jitney, is the first to admit that he doesn’t pay attention to the hype surrounding his projects. “I guess maybe that’s because my focus is always been on the work,” he says. “I’m like a craft creature. I’m always focused on that.” 

In fact, he hasn’t even seen American Horror Story: Roanoke. “I’m not even a big watcher of things that I do,” Holland admits, before correcting himself: “I’ve watched Moonlight -- a number of times!”

--Additional reporting from Denny Directo