Somehow I missed this interview!
THE ROGUE MAGAZINE – You may be familiar with Aldis Hodge from his five seasons on the TV show Leverage, or you may have caught him on the big screen in any myriad of movies like The East and most recently Straight Outta Compton, portraying MC Ren. In 2016, you can catch him in WGN’s new series Underground. Hodge gives us the skinny on both projects.
Tell us about your new show Underground.
AH: Underground, which is set in the 1850’s, tells the story of a group of enslaved people in Georgia who revolt against slavery and chase the legend of the Underground railroad to gain freedom.
The subject matter is intense in regards to the slavery aspect, but I’m sure it’s about much more…tell us more about its perspective.
AH: It’s a story that engages and questions the “human condition” i/e how we treat one another based on how we value ourselves. It also serves as a great platform to expose the true prominence of The enslaved Americans of this nation. It displays their true strength, courage, and heart as opposed to viewing them from a point of victimization as we often see with slave-narratives. They fight back with vigor. It’s an all out rebellion – we go to WAR!!!
How did you prepare for your role as MC Ren in Straight Outta Compton? The fact that your role is based on a real person, did that change your regular approach to the character?
AH: I prepared mostly by listening to their music. Since my role was based on a real person, that helped immensely because there wasn’t much I had to figure out. I could simply pick up the phone and go straight to the source.
“My number one priority was to make Ren happy. After that it was about honoring the fans with a solid performance and giving the character a sense of honesty that people don’t often see.”
How was it meeting the real Ren, did he give you much guidance? Did he approve of the direction you took with the role?
GOLD DERBY – “When it came to representing this particular culture and this particular timeframe for American history, I wanted to show all that we haven’t seen,” says “Underground” star Aldis Hodge as we chat via webcam (watch above) about his hit WGN America series. The actor plays Noah, the leader of a group of runaway slaves who try to escape via the Underground Railroad. “I saw how smart this character was. He’s just so cunning and beguiling when it comes to how he needs to play all of these people around him like chess pieces.”
When we first meet Noah, he’s been brought back to the plantation after an unsuccessful escape attempt. “That’s why he said, ‘I need to go recruit some people,” explains Hodge, “because they have all these different skills that I need.’” This team includes the cunning and crafty Cado (Alano Miller), the shy yet courageous Rosalie (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and the fiery preacher Moses (Mykelti Williamson).
“At first, they depend on him,” he explains, “but I think along the way, at least for me personally, I feel like he depended on them. Just growing as a man, he grew in mercy, he grew in understanding, he grew in compassion for dealing with all of these people and having them obligated to him and his path. I loved the complexity in him trying to figure out what choice to make, and trying to decide whether or not it is the right choice, because there’s no easy choice.”
‘What they’re fighting for is not complicated,’ the actor says of the runaway slaves on the series
WALL STREET JOURNAL – “Underground,” the WGN America drama about an antebellum plantation and a group of escaped slaves, wrapped up its first season on Wednesday night, completing the story of the “Macon 7” and setting the stage for season two.
That second season was never a guarantee for this show, and while star Aldis Hodge wasn’t necessarily worried about that, he said that there was an effort on part of the cast and crew to pour everything into season one.
“We wanted people to remember what this was,” he said on the Speakeasy podcast. “Even if it was one season, it was one hell of a season.” In the interview, he talked about last night’s finale, how the show reflects an ongoing struggle, and how he’s handled moving into a starring role.
At the end of the finale, Hodge’s Noah is back in bondage, captured after staging a diversion that allows two others to escape to freedom. Ernestine (Amirah Vann) — after murdering her master — is put on the auction block. Cato (Alano Miller) is alive and somewhere on the road. The biggest twist comes at the very end: Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), now free in the north, determines to go back south to get more of her family, and is brought to meet the Underground Railroad’s real-life hero, Harriet Tubman, who plans to train Rosalee.
EUR WEB – *WGN America has renewed its hit series “Underground” for a 10-episode Season 2. The runaway slave thriller has resonated with fans across racial lines, and as TV Line reports, to date, the series is averaging a million weekly total viewers.
This is not the coma-inducing Massa vs. slave narrative that I expected when the series was initially announced. “Underground” is an exhilarating prison break-style drama-thriller that keeps the cast gasping just as much as the audience – as we learned during the Emmy Gospel Brunch in honor of the series. EUR/Electronic Urban Report chatted with the cast to find out their reactions to this breathtaking first season.
“You know, we were definitely just as surprised reading the script,” Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Rosalee) told us. “Every single script we would get was a page turner for us, and the whole cast had a group text message thread. We would text each other and be like, ‘Whaaat? Did you see what happened to Kato!’ It definitely for us was the same experience. Like, ‘Wow… I didn’t see that coming,,’ ” she explained. “But the thing is, when you’re telling the story of The Underground Railroad, you’re inherently telling a story we haven’t seen. This is the voice of the revolutionaries. The voice of those who rose up and fought back. And for that reason, I think we’re hungry for that story. We’re hungry to see our people in power, because it’s the truth. We come from survivors and warriors, and I think because of that, that’s why people are so excited about the show,” she added.
Super-delicious Aldis Hodge (Noah) leads this stellar cast of “revolutionaries,” and the suspense of his scenes leaves the viewer feeling as if we’re running right alongside him.
Wow! That was some finale! It was exciting and so nice to see Rosalee and Noah have some time to themselves. I was sad that Noah didn’t make it but it was so great that he sacrificed himself and the women worked together to get Rosalee and Boo to freedom. Plus Ernestine finally had some justice for the murder of her son. But at the same time, both her anad Noah are in a bad place now. Hopefully Season 2 will show them continuing their attempts for freedom.
How great is it that the city of Memphis, TN had day to honor “Underground”. This show has really touched a lot of people.
- Public Appearances > 2016 > May 10: WGN America Celebrates “Underground” in Memphis, TN
- Public Appearances > 2016 > May 11: 3rd Biennial Rebels With A Cause Fundraiser
- Underground > Season One > Episode Stills > 1.01 “The Macon 7” Episode Stills
- Underground > Season One > Episode Stills > 1.02 “War Chest” Episode Stills
- Underground > Season One > Episode Stills > 1.06 “Troubled Water” Episode Stills
- Underground > Season One > Episode Stills > 1.10 “The White Whale” Episode Stills
- Underground > Season One > Screencaptures > 1.10 “The White Whale” Screencaps