Currently undergoing a staggered release in Cineworld, multiple Oscar nominee Moonlight depicts three stages in the life of young black man Chiron in Florida in the 1990s.
Director Barry Jenkins' sensitive drama, adapted from the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, explores the character's grapple with identity and sexuality, and the atmospheric movie has received near-universal acclaim. But what about the three newcomers playing Chiron himself? Let's find out about them.
Alex R. Hibbert
Plays: Young Chiron aka 'Little'
The drama picks up with the youngest incarnation of our central character, undergoing horrendous bullying at school and exploited by his drug-addicted mother (played by a superb, Oscar-nommed Naomie Harris).
Miami schoolkid Alex Hibbert was encouraged to audition for his first-ever acting role by his drama teacher and, as revealed by the NY Times, is a keen trampolinist and dodgeball player. He also credits Oscar nominated co-star Mahershala Ali for giving him advice about those all-important close-ups.
"Mahershala taught me a lot of tips about facials," he says. "He was all like, 'Just think about the moment that is going on.'"
Plays: Teenage Chiron
The mid-point of the drama picks up with our main character as an adolescent, still suffering from bullying and increasingly confused over his place in the world, particularly his friendship with Kevin (played as a teen by Jharrel Jerome).
Unlike Alex Hibbert, young star Ashton Sanders has already accumulated some noteworthy credits. In 2014 he was the lead of indie American Civil War movie The Retrieval, which screened at the SXSW Film Festival. An even more significant role came in 2015 when he was cast in critically acclaimed N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton.
Cast in Moonlight when still a student at Chicago's DePaul University, Sanders tells Teen Vogue that he related to the character: "I was actually bullied growing up from elementary to middle school. I didn't have the same type of experiences that Chiron had, but I was bullied for being different, being skinny and black, and for being the actor. Just not the epitome of black masculinity, you know? So with that, I was able to pull and tie in my life experiences."
Plays: Adult Chiron aka 'Black'
The final stages of the movie pick up with Chiron still tormented by his earlier experiences; in fact he's translated his anguish into his physical appearance, having become a gold tooth-fronted drug dealer nicknamed Black. But a reunion with the grown-up Kevin (Andre Holland) promises to bring the past to light.
A former track and field sprinter Trevante Rhodes has appeared in an episode of dystopian TV smash Westworld, and has just signed onto The Predator, a continuation of the hit sci-fi action franchise that began with the 1987 Arnie classic. He's keen to stress the importance of Moonlight's message.
"It talks about a subject matter that is so prevalent today," he tells People. "Being a black man in American is relatively difficult right now, being a gay man in America is incredibly difficult and so being a black, gay man, like I’ve said before, can be perceived as the worst possible thing right now. So it is something that we need, that the world needs, and I’m thinking it’s a beautiful thing that people are receiving it."