Madam Noire – We don’t know if it’s the characters they portray on TV or their personas off screen, but there was just something about talking to Aldis Hodge And Alano Miller that was refreshing. We caught up with the stars of Underground during Essence Fest and they had great things to say about the moment they knew the WGN series was going to be a hit and how they feel playing these roles in a time when patience for slave narratives is running thin.
Check out our chat with the fellas above and tell us what you think about their pride as Black men and actors playing these parts.
THE WRAP – “You’re just like, ‘All right, take me, Jesus. This is my time’”
While “Underground” has been criticized by some — including Snoop Dogg — for its depiction of slavery in America, series star Aldis Hodge says that the WGN America show is about much more than that.
“It’s an amazing show that is really about the foundation of America; the foundation of American superheroes, the foundation of what it takes to persevere and really find your strength and your potential,” Hodge told TheWrap.
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.
EBONY – Najja Parker talks to Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Aldis Hodge about this oddly empowering trek back in history
Get ready to dive deep into your emotions. Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge take us on a journey through their roles on WGN America’s new show, “The Underground.” This show depicts the struggle and heroic uprising of slaves while trying to obtain freedom from a system of bondage. Hodge plays the role of Noah, a strategic, determined blacksmith who plans to break free from his Southern slave masters and relocate to the North. Along the way he meets Rosalee, a house slave played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who has the same determination for freedom and a better life.
Tune in to this interview with our own Najja Parker at the Johnson Publishing Chicago Office as each of them explain their roles more in depth, and the knowledge they gained during the process of filming. “The Underground” premieres tonight on WGN America, check your local listings for show times.
Hodge played both the clarinet and the violin as a child, but as an adult his focus is on the violin when he purchased his first at the age of 18.
In addition to acting, Hodge designs watches, writes, paints and attends the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, although he does take breaks from attending full time due to his acting work.
The actor is best known for his role as Alec Hardison on TNT’s highly rated television series, “Leverage.” Hodge won the role of Hardison on his twenty-first birthday.
NY POST – Aldis Hodge plays sexy Noah on “Underground” — the 1850s-era drama about a group of escaped slaves from a Georgia plantation.
Hodge, 29, says he’s gearing up for the show’s May 11 season finale on WGN America, which has renewed “Underground” for a second season.
“I was surprised by the success of the show, but I was not surprised that we got renewed,” says Hodge (“Straight Outta Compton,” TNT’s “Leverage”). “The fans spoke so loudly when it came to social media. I am surprised that we connected to our audience the way we did.”
The slaves in “Underground” are making their way to freedom up north by traveling 600 miles — with only a secretly coded song to guide them — and with Noah as their leader. The series also stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell (“Friday Night Lights,” “True Blood”) as Rosalee, Noah’s love interest.
“I feel like Noah recruited people specifically because of their strength and tools,” says Hodge. “But along the way he realized that he depended on them. Noah has that fire … to be free. Continue reading >
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