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Category: Article about Aldis

‘Underground’ TCA Panel Decries Trivialization Of Slavery In Political Discourse

DEADLINE – Producers of WGN America‘s upcoming pre-Civil War drama Underground blasted the trivialization of slavery by those who use the horrific history as a metaphor for everything from Obamacare to gun control. “We’ve seen a lot of hyperbolic comparison,” said exec producer Akiva Goldsman at a TCA panel today. “Everything is ‘slavery’, everything is ‘the Holocaust.’ These words have specific meaning. It’s the corruption of words that begins the corruption of ideas. That is terrifying,”


Underground follows a group of slaves who escape from a Georgia plantation, traveling 600 miles to freedom and aided along the way by a secret abolitionist couple running a station along the Underground Railroad. The slaves are tracked by a group tasked with bringing them back dead or alive.


The era of the Underground Railroad, Goldsman said, “is a period of time in our history which has somehow become obscured by shadow. It’s not taught, we don’t learn it…it’s the vanishing of our past, and therefore the whole wonderful notion we are doomed to repeat it becomes ever more likely.”


Underground, he added quickly, is “not teaching history here, but this is the truth of where we come from.” Goldsman said the series is designed to be both entertainment and “edifying.”


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Yes, Underground Tells Slaves’ Stories, But It’s No Historical Snooze


TV Guide – Yes, WGN America’s Underground is about the Underground Railroad, the term given to the network of people and safe stations that allowed slaves to escape bondage in the South for the northern part of America and Canada. Although it’s a topic often explored in American history textbooks, the show’s writers and producers want you to know that this is decidedly not an educational exercise. “We didn’t want it to feel stuck in the period,” says John Legend, an executive producer. “We didn’t want people to feel like they were in a museum. We wanted it to feel fresh.” That begins with the musical direction. Although Kanye West was previously attached the project as a musical director, it’s Legend who’s the head honcho of the show’s sound (is you listen closely, you can hear his background vocals on the show’s theme song, “Heaven’s Door,” by Alice Smith).


Created by Misha Green (Sons of Anarchy) and Joe Pokaski (Heroes), Underground tells the story of people who dared to make the 600-mile trek from a Georgia plantation to freedom. The show digs into their humanity, bringing to life the small details you may (or may not) have read. “All I saw about the Underground Railroad was this little square in social studies,” said Pokaski. “The more I learned, I saw how dangerous and heroic it was to run.” With five seasons in mind, the creators are looking to tell lots of stories and illuminate the three-dimensional qualities of people we know little about. We’ll see, for example, their ingenuity, Green says — how people hid costumes, shipped themselves in crates or pretended to be white to get freedom for themselves and others.


Stars include Christopher Meloni, Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett-Bell– sister of Empire star Jussie Smollet, who will guest-star; this will mark the first time in 20 years the siblings appear in the same series.


Underground premieres Wednesday, March 9 on WGN.

‘Underground’ traces path from slavery to freedom


USA TODAY – The Underground Railroad, a path and a movement that allowed people to escape slavery in pre-Civil War America, forms the center of WGN America’s Underground (March 9).


Actors in the drama, which opens at a Georgia plantation in 1857, Friday told writers at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour that they appreciate the empowerment of the characters, who are charting their own course to freedom.


“It glorifies everybody’s strength,” said Aldis Hodge, who plays Noah, one of the escaping group’s leaders. “Noah realizes everybody around him has something he doesn’t have. It’s going to take a sense of community to figure this out.”

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‘Straight Outta Compton’s Aldis Hodge: Tom Cruise Is “Remarkably Awesome”

DEADLINE – When N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton took critics and audiences by storm, the cast were in for some major accolades, among them SAG and Critics’ Choice noms for the ensemble cast. Aldis Hodge–MC Ren in Compton–is also the lead in the new John Legend-produced series Underground and is currently filming the next Jack Reacher film with Tom Cruise, an experience he’s very much enjoying. “Tom has been remarkably awesome,” Hodge says. “He is really accessible when it comes to trying to learn something. He’s really forthcoming with information with his experience, how he sees filmmaking. His main priority is making sure that every actor on the film looks great, feels great, does great. He’s one of those actors who is trying to promote his team to be the best that they can be, and you can feel it. He speaks to everybody on set, he’s nice to everybody, because he understands. He’s not just an actor, he’s not just a marquee name on the ticket, he is also a producer. So he’s going to produce the best product.”


Hodge is no newcomer, having various TV projects on his resume (The Walking Dead, Leverage, Rectify, Private Practice, Castle), and film work (The East, A Good Day To Die Hard), but surely the response to Compton has been something of a head-turner for the cast? “At the end of the day we haven’t won anything yet,” Hodge says. “We can’t get too crazy, but what we have been doing is celebrating the success of it all. This was a big legacy that was on our backs, and we did not want to be the ones that messed it up. We wanted to get it right, we wanted to make sure that we represented these people well, we wanted to represent the fans well.”

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WGN America’s Underground Railroad Escape Thriller Gets March Premiere Date, Two Trailers


TV LINE -WGN America’s highly anticipated journey through the Underground Railroad finally has a departure date.


Underground, the drama series starring Jurnee Smollett-Bell (True Blood), Aldis Hodge (TURN) and Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU), will premiere on March 9, TVLine has learned.


We also have your first look at two trailers for the series, which provide introductions to the runaway slaves, the plantation owners who aim to keep them captive and the good-natured allies who provide shelter along the way.


Additional Underground cast members include Jussie Smollett (Empire), Marc Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Adina Porter (The 100), Jessica de Gouw (Arrow), Alano Miller (Jane the Virgin), Theodus Crane (The Walking Dead), Chris Chalk (Gotham), Reed Diamond (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Mykelti Williamson (Justified), Amirah Vann (Girls), Renwick Scott (Treme) and Johnny Ray Gill (Rectify).


‘Compton’ Star Aldis Hodge’s Guide to Six-Figure Watches

The actor — who studied horology in college and is developing his own watch — names his top seven mechanical marvels of 2015.

Aldis Hodge, wearing his Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde watch, was photographed Oct. 24 in New Orleans.


Aldis Hodge would like to have gone to watchmaking school; he just hasn’t had time. The actor — who portrayed MC Ren in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton and starred for five seasons on TNT’s Leverage — studied horology as an undergrad at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, basically creating his own major. “They didn’t have a watchmaking course. I consider myself a self-taught horologist,” says Hodge, 29.


Additional schooling would have gotten in the way of his on-fire acting career, which includes starring in the upcoming Jack Reacher sequel with Tom Cruise. So Hodge indulges his passion for watches between takes.


“The watches I love are haute aspirational,” says Hodge, a fan of such whizbang features as minute-repeater functions (which beautifully chime the hour) and mechanisms that find new ways to control force within a watch. “I’d like people to become more familiar with high-end engineering.”

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First ‘Underground’ Teaser Trailer Underscores Desperate and Dangerous Times

WGN America, home of Manhattan and Salem, is debuting a new series in the new year focusing on the story of the Underground Railroad. The series comes from Misha Green (Sons of Anarchy), Joe Pokaski (Daredevil), and is also executive produced by John Legend (who will handle the score, soundtrack and all music elements of the series); it will revolve around a group of slaves on a plantation who band together to fight for their freedom. As WGN puts it,

“Underground” tells the story of revolutionaries who use their ingenuity, power and perseverance to attempt the greatest escape in history despite the dire consequences that awaited them on the other side.

Or as the trailer puts it, armed with a Bible and a gun: “When we run, ain’t no white man going to be able to stop us.” Check out the first teaser trailer below (which, like Manhattan, is stylishly shot and full of restive energy).


The series will debut on WGN America in early 2016. You can check out all of the character descriptions and posters here, as well as the new character posters below.


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Today fans of Tom Cruise got some good news. Paramount Pictures has announced that principal photography has begun for the sequel to the 2012 action film, Jack Reacher. Check out all the details here.


Actor/Producer/Stunt Extraordinaire Tom Cruise is back at it again. Paramount Pictures, Skydance Media, and Tom Cruise have elected to go the franchise route with Jack Reacher, the 2012 action film based on the Lee Child’s book called “One Shot, which itself is part of a series of Jack Reacher novels. The new film will be titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and will be based on the 18th book in Childs’ Jack Reacher series titled “Never Go Back”. The new film is set to release on October 21, 2016, and will be directed by Edward Zwick. The film will be produced by Tom Cruise himself in addition to Don Granger, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Christopher McQuerrie. It will also feature Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Austin Hebert, and Aldis Hodge, among others.


For fans of action films, there is a lot to like here. First, the original film Jack Reacher pretty much gave fans what they were looking for and it’s always great to see Tom Cruise kicking ass. The film was profitable and earned mostly positive reviews. More importantly, it gave us the working relationship between Cruise and McQuerrie, which yielded the excellent Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. With this sequel, they’re back working together again, although McQuerrie, who directed the first Jack Reacher film, is only producing this time. Still, Edward Zwick has proven himself as a capable action-film director (Blood Diamond) to take over for McQuerrie, and has also worked with Cruise before to great success (The Last Samurai). It also helps that Zwick is helping to write the script as well. Typically directors do the best job when they are filming their own material.

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John Legend’s Historical Drama ‘Underground’ Teases First Look at Characters


WGN America series about Underground Railroad was executive produced by Oscar-winning composer and Akiva Goldsman and is set to debut in early 2016


WGN America released six character posters for its new Underground Railroad drama “Underground” on Sunday.


The series follows follows a group of plantation slaves who band together for the fight for their lives and their freedom as they make the perilous journey from the deep South to the North.


The series stars Aldis Hodge, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Amriah Vann, and Alano Miller. In addition, Smollett-Bell’s brother, “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, will appear on the series as a runaway slave.


The series will also feature Marc Blucas, Adina Porter, Mykelti Williamson, Johnny Ray Gill, and Chris Chalk and many more.


Misha Green wrote and created the series along with Joe Pokaski. The pair also serve as executive producers alongside Academy Award-winning writer Akiva Goldsman of Weed Road Pictures; Tory Tunnell and Joby Harold of Safehouse Pictures; and Academy Award-winning songwriter John Legend, along with Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius of Get Lifted.


Anthony Hemingway directs and serves as executive producer for the first four episodes. Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios are producing.


“Underground” is set to premiere on WGN in early 2016


Living Large

Sorry I missed this awesome article.


Icons now, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Ren, MC Yella and Eazy-E began their storied lives just trying to survive and prosper in the meanest ‘hood in L.A.


“I was watching TV in a New York hotel room when I saw Ice Cube on Queen Latifah [the talk show], and she asked what he was doing next,” recounts Oscar-nominated cinematographer (and lifelong rap/hip-hop fan) Matthew Libatique, ASC. “When Cube said a film called Straight Outta Compton, I literally jumped up and grabbed the phone. For the first time in my career, I called my agent and said I really want that project.”

Straight Outta Compton

Fortunately for Libatique, he and Compton director, F. Gary Gray, shared the same agency. They met on Oscar day, 2014, to discuss the film. As Libatique picks up the story: “I remember walking into Gary’s office and seeing this wall of images – one image per scene in chronology with the script. I had come to that meeting with some general ideas about camera movement, but nothing textural that related to color or mood.


“These images, which were basically snapshots by friends or people who were around N.W.A. at that time and happened to have a camera, were completely naturalistic. They put you right there in that time and place, in the recording studios, the concert tours, the photo and video shoots, right on the streets.”


Libatique says the office images felt like a good starting point, “because to me this movie was an origin story about superheroes,” he adds. “I remember telling Gary [in that first meeting] how I read a lot of comic books as a kid, and my favorites were always the origin stories – the ones that showed how Batman or Superman or the Green Lantern became who they are. That’s what Straight Outta Compton is – an origin story about people who ultimately become larger than life in the eyes of pop culture.”

Straight Outta Compton


The superhero metaphor (from the man who shot Ironman and Ironman 2) is well placed. The Los Angeles where the transformative gangsta rap group known as N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit Attitudes) came of age was as treacherous and crime-ridden as any in the history of that city. Rival Crips and Bloods gangs ruled the streets with crack-cocaine empires, while a militarized LAPD waged indiscriminate war on criminals and civilians alike. Black teenagers (especially those with phone pagers) were ever-moving targets.

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