‘Moonlight’ Actor Ashton Sanders

Ashton Sanders

*”Moonlight” Actor Ashton Sanders tells Jet magazine that acting came as an escape from his “strange” reality. In fact, it was actress Wendy Raquel Robinson’s all-Black Amazing Grace Conservatory in Los Angeles that provided the space that allowed him to get lost in his imagination.

“I had a pretty strange childhood in terms of my mother being on drugs and I was bullied through elementary and middle school,” the 20-year-old L.A. native tells JET. “Studying personality types and being able to embody somebody else with similar or different circumstances and losing myself in character [helped me] to not focus on the things that were going on in my life at the time.”

Sanders currently stars in the box-office hit film, “Moonlight,” written and directed by Barry Jenkins and based on Tarell McCranny’s play. The film centers on Chiron, a Black male struggling to understand his place in the world while also facing conflicts of sexuality.

“We’re raised to believe that Black men have to be one specific way. I feel like a lot of Black men ‘put on’ because of what they see and because of what people tell them they have to be,” Sanders analyzes. “I felt like I was supposed to do this project. There’s levels to being masculine and this was a story that needed to be told.”

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So far, “Moonlight” has earned over $900k in 36 theaters, and continues to stir Oscar buzz.

“This is very much a story about homosexuality but also identity and growing up without a father and with family members on drugs,” Sanders says. “I feel like I’ll be respected for the risk and vulnerability.”

The script came at a time when Sanders’ mother had relapsed and began using drugs again.

“It was a very hard time for me and the way Barry and Tarell wrote it, it was one of the most emotional reads that I’ve ever had,” he admits.

He added: “Everything that I had gone through booking this role and filming it, [I realized that] what we kind of do as people is put things into the back of our minds and don’t revisit them. I had to revisit all these things and they were very uncomfortable. It was one of the most vulnerable roles that I ever had to be in, but it was also very therapeutic.”

At the heart of it, “Moonlight” is simply a story about love.

“This is very much a universal story of love on all different levels, ” Sanders expresses. “I just really want people to connect and empathize with the film and to look at their lives and other people’s lives and just realize like damn, you never know what’s going on behind other people’s doors.”

“Moonlight” is now in theaters nationwide.