Mahershala Ali tried to follow in his father’s footsteps on Ellen Tuesday, showing off a few dance moves of his own after discussing the time his dad won $2,500 on Soul Train.
The Green Book star recounted the tale of how his father, who worked for years as a professional dancer, got his first big break on the beloved Seventies music series. After winning the Soul Train dance contest in 1977, Ali’s father received $2,500 and a new car: “I just remember this red Starsky and Hutch-looking car,” Ali said. “He sold that and moved to New York shortly after that.”
While Ali admitted that he’d failed to inherit his dad’s dancing expertise, the actor gamely pulled off a few moves at the request of Ellen DeGeneres. The Golden Globe-winner grooved, shuffled, popped-and-locked to the Jackson 5’s “Dancing Machine,” and in appreciation of his efforts, DeGeneres donated $10,000 to the charity of Ali’s choice, the Moonlight Scholarship at St. Mary’s College.
Ali also shared his father’s Soul Train story in a recent Rolling Stone profile. The actor elaborated on his childhood and his parents’ relationship, noting that they split when he was young so that they could embark on two very different paths. “My assessment of it is they couldn’t become the people they needed to become if they stayed together,” Ali said. “My mother ended up becoming a minister, and my dad went and did his thing. Those two people don’t go together, trust me.”