Ashton Sanders - NEW LEAD
Credit: John Prosper

When 20-year-old actor Ashton Sanders was cast in Barry Jenkin's Golden Globe nominated drama Moonlight, he knew the experience would be therapeutic. The plot centers on the coming of age of Chiron, a young man questioning his sexuality while growing up in Miami's poverty-stricken Liberty City area, and Sanders is one of three actors to play Chiron as he grows up on screen. "I had similar experiences to Chiron, from being bullied in school to dealing with family members who suffer from drug and alcohol addition," says Sanders. "To bring the character to life, I had to revisit difficult memories that were buried in my mind. It really did act as an emotional release for me." Sanders recently stopped by InStyle's New York City headquarters to give us a beek behind the scenes of the film. Here, three things you may not know about one of the season's buzziest releases—and why you should watch before the Golden Globes on Jan. 8.

The Body Language Is More Important than the Script

Chiron doesn't have a lot of dialogue in the film, but he does emote a lot with his eyes. It shows that he’s thinking about a lot but doesn't really express it. Playing him meant staying as true to those circumstances as possible. I tried not to overact the silence.

The Wardrobe Helped Sanders Develop His Character

I play sixteen-year-old Chiron and the audience doesn’t get to see everything that happens to him between the ages of 11 and 16. His mentor, Juan, died and he found out that his mom is a drug addict. Wearing his clothes helped because the wardrobe didn’t fit quite right and he sometimes wears the same thing day after day. I had to think about how I would feel in that position.

The Actors Who Play Chiron Didn’t Meet Before Filming

We didn’t interact at all before we started playing this character. We didn't see each other the entire length of filming either. Alex Hibbert [who plays young Chiron, or "Little"] had shot two weeks before I came to set. I shot my part two weeks before Trevante Rhodes [who plays adult Chiron] had to shoot his scenes. Our first time meeting each other was when all three of us were at the Toronto Film Festival. In retrospect, it's actually crazy that we played three variations of the same person and never spoke during that process.

Ashton Sanders Moonlight - Embed
Credit: Elevation Pictures