Mahershala Ali believes his Islamic faith has made him a better actor.

The 'Moonlight' actor went through a religious conversion in 1999 after attending a mosque with his now-wife Amatus Sami-Karim - the mother of his four-month-old daughter Bari - and he feels his beliefs help him relate to his characters better.

He explained: ''It benefits me from the standpoint of really creating empathy for these characters that I try to embody, other human beings with issues as deep and personal as my own. Because of Islam, I am acutely aware that I am a work in progress.

''[The daily practice] puts a healthy pressure on you to be your best self, beginning with your own spirit and how that feeds into your actions.''

The 43-year-old actor also spoke of his beliefs that one day America can be truly ''great'', though he is unsure if that will be in his ''lifetime''.

He told America's GQ magazine: ''I think African-Americans have a very convoluted relationship with patriotism.

''The fact is, we essentially were the abused child. We still love the parent, but you can't overlook the fact that we have a very convoluted relationship with the parent. I absolutely love this country, but like so many people have some real questions and concerns about how things have gone down over the years and where we're at.

''And that's from a place of love, because I want the country to be what it says it is on paper.

''I sincerely believe we have the capacity to actually make this country great. ''There are enough people, there are enough believers out there, there are enough intelligent, empathetic souls out there that want good for the whole. I don't know if it'll happen in my lifetime, but I believe in time the pendulum will swing in the right direction.''

The former 'House of Cards' actor also admitted he has always tried to make himself appear ''smaller'' in order to put other people at ease in his presence.

He said: ''I think I identify with characters who have to make themselves smaller. Because that's been my experience, as a large black man, to make people feel safer. Just because I always found witnessing other people's discomfort made me uncomfortable. And at the end of the day, it's a lot of BS too. Sometimes you gotta be like, 'Eff that.' ''