You can see Aldis around 1:40 mark I think. (its quick)
GQ – How the Underground star finds his characters, from Voodoo Tatum to MC Ren.
You’d recognize Aldis Hodge, even if you don’t know his name. You probably enjoyed his underrated turn as MC Ren in last year’s blockbuster Straight Outta Compton or his great performance as one of Friday Night Lights’ best villains, Ray “Voodoo” Tatum. Soon enough you’ll remember the name: Hodge is starring in WGN America’s Underground Railroad drama Underground (premiering tonight at 10pm). The show, which follows an escaped slave named Noah (Hodge), is paced like a prison break thriller. We sat down with him to talk about the show, Friday Night Lights, and the best way to get introduced to Hamilton that doesn’t involve seeing it in a theater.
Congrats on Underground. I really enjoyed the pilot. How are you feeling about it right now?
I am very excited about it. I mean we have to wait to see how it performs, but the response has been so overwhelmingly positive that I can’t help but feel a lot of good things about it. Plus I just really trust in the integrity of the project. So far people who have seen it have been wonderful, but we’ll have to see on Wednesday night.
You’ve recently played a lot of historical figures — or at least people placed in historical contexts — whether on Underground, AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies, or as MC Ren in Straight Outta Compton. Does your approach change for roles like these as opposed to purely fictional characters?
My approach is always the same. I try to be as honest as possible. Find the real honesty and humanity in the character, because even a fictional character is supposed to feel real. And my job is to find that reality and bring it to the screen. For someone like MC Ren, who is still alive, and I can go talk to, that’s more of a niche challenge because I do have to match his energy and I do have to pay homage to who he is as a person, but that just comes with research. And the difference there is I can do the research there right on the spot. I can just go ask him. But with a character like Noah (on Underground) the research comes in by reading narratives written by real runaway slaves who had been through these things. You read their stories and you get a sense of what they went through. But either way the intention and the approach is the same in that it has to be honest.
I was wondering about working on something like Underground. Now obviously the subject matter is very serious and dour, but film sets are often these fun, silly places full of inside jokes and goofiness. Does that still happen even when you’re working on something so sobering? Or does the weight of the history sort of supersede all that?
Oh man, we had plenty of jokes. The thing that really helped us with that was the natural camaraderie that forms between a cast. When we all got there, the fact that we could find a way to get along and respect one another helped us a lot when it came to finding the ease on set doing these hard scenes, where you have to submit to another character. You have to grovel or feel some pain or get some punishment. The actors, we were all there for each other, so it never felt like it got out of pocket. Nobody ever took it too serious. Nobody ever crossed a line with things. After every scene we were all, “Are you okay?” “What do you need? “How can I be here for you?” And that really helped along with the jokes. Because this was a set that needed jokes.
VARIETY – Aldis Hodge became an actor because his older brother wanted to be “in the box” and his mother promised him some Batman toys. He’s been working tirelessly ever since — including a stint on TNT’s “Leverage” — but now he’s finally having a breakthrough moment. After appearing in “Straight Outta Compton” as MC Ren, he’s starring in WGN America’s new series “Underground” as Noah, who leads his fellow slaves in a daring escape on the Underground Railroad. (The 10-hour drama, which is exec produced by John Legend and creators Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, debuts March 9.)
Below, Hodge tells Variety about the role he calls one of the hardest of his career, how this series offers a new perspective on slavery, and the humble beginnings that taught him to appreciate the career he has now.
What drew you to this part? What made you want to take on this role?
I respected the character, and how they were executing the storytelling. The most important thing to me was as far as the characters, usually the subject matter of slavery depicts black Americans as victims. It kind of elevates their weaknesses. This particular story, the way they did it, it exaggerates our strengths and celebrates the fortitude of these people in the times that they were in, and how they actually flourished as a culture dealing with all of this, and managing to keep some sense of sanity. It showed how courageous they actually were, and that’s something I’m proud of.
How did you find your way into this character?
We did research, we studied, we watched documentaries. There’s a really great documentary called “Many Rivers,” which documents the totality of slavery from its inception and then it gives you a little history on how America came to prominence. It’s crazy, the first black man to actually step foot in America came as a free man, as an explorer, with the Spaniards. That’s something for me, as a black American, it gives me a little bit of pride because we were free and respected somewhere else, before slavery became what it was.
We read memoirs, actual accounts from real enslaved Americans who went through it. Also, it really just came from trying to be honest to the fact that I wanted this character to be courageous, I wanted him to be a good man. He has moral value, and I wanted to pay homage to that. I wanted to make sure that this character actually had a life; he had an identity and a soul. Most people say they’re slaves, but in my opinion, to say that I am a slave is to take ownership of actually being a slave — to be a tool, be a thing. Basically cattle.
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.”
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.
The success of Universal’s “Straight Outta Compton” continues to pay dividends for its breakout cast — Aldis Hodge, who played MC Ren in the film, has landed his next project.
Sources tell Variety that Hodge is in talks to join Tom Cruise in Paramount and Skydance’s “Jack Reacher 2.”
Variety previously reported that “Heroes Reborn” star Danika Yarosh was the choice for one of the female leads along with Cobie Smulders, who is currently in negotiations to join the film.
Ed Zwick is set to direct. Zwick and and Marshall Herskovitz wrote the most recent draft of the script after Richard Wenk penned the original draft.
Paramount grossed $218 million worldwide from 2012’s “Jack Reacher,” directed by Christopher McQuarrie from his own script based on the Lee Child series of novels. The sequel will be based on Child’s “Never Go Back,” in which Reacher travels from South Dakota to the Virginia headquarters of the U.S. Army Military Police Corps and finds that his new commanding officer has been arrested.
Details on Hodge’s role are under wraps at this time.
Cruise and Don Granger are producing.
Hodge joins his fellow “Straight Outta Compton” co-stars Jason Mitchell and Corey Hawkins in lining up high profile followups to the N.W.A. biopic. Both Mitchell and Hawkins were recently cast in the King Kong prequel “Kong: Skull Island” which just left Universal for Warner Bros.
Hodge previously appeared in a recurring role on AMC show “Turn” and some of his past credits include “The East,” “Leverage” and “A Good Day to Die Hard.” He is repped by Paradigm and Priluck Company.