4. Roxanne Roxanne (Cross)
Roxanne Roxanne tells the story of real life female rapper Roxanne Shante (Chante Adams). Mahershala Ali plays her husband Cross. It’s another one of Mahershala Ali movies that many may not have seen. I think what makes Ali’s portrayal of Cross so compelling is that he shows different levels of this man’s corruption, rise, and fall. We watch the charming side of Cross that wins over Roxanne, then we see the abusive, controlling monster he becomes.
We later see how his addiction plays a huge part in his failure as a decent human being, but then Roxanne Roxanne doesn’t let Cross off the hook by entirely blaming his bad behavior on addiction. This is part of his core. As stated before, even Ali’s “evil” characters have layers that keep them from being one-note or cartoonish. Cross very much feels like a real person, even when he’s doing inhumane acts. A lesser actor may have made Cross just simply the bad guy, but Ali makes him a bad guy with a soul, even if it’s damaged.