We had the honor of sitting down with Aldis Hodge, one of the stars of TNT’s Leverage, and Leverage Executive Producer Dean Devlin recently to talk about the series. We’ll be bringing you Part 2 of the interview with Dean Devlin next week. Until then, check out what Aldis Hodge had to say about his character, the series, and his acting career:
So how did you get involved in this project?
Aldis: Well I did the regular acting thing. Just auditioned and ran it up the lines. Get an audition, a call back, and get a network. I got lucky enough to hit my stride.
Now your character is a computer genius, but he is more of the badass cool guy and not geeky at all. How much of that is your influence?
Aldis: I think it was more a partnership there. Our executive producer wanted a fresh look on the standard of a geek. Now the aesthetic has changed. It’s not all, ya know, the high water pants with the loafers and a super buttoned up tie. We’re cooler than that. It’s okay to be smart. Smart is sexy. We can be a little stylish. Pocket protector, the BlackBerry. It’s all different. It’s more of a collaborative effort. They allowed me to put as much into it as I possibly could, which I love, because it gave me so much freedom to do what I do. And I’m a geek to the hip. I don’t know that much about sports, and I know more about science, animals, anatomy and what kind of gadgets are out there. I do cars, I’m a car dude all day. So I think it was definitely a collaborative effort of them writing, having the character put in front of me, and me being allowed to do what I can do with the character.
Now you say that you’re a geek but how much preparation did you do for the character? Did you already know a lot of the computer stuff?
Aldis: I knew none of the computer stuff. I’m computer savvy on a very basic level. But I started learning about hackers later on, and it’s a very interesting world. Not as complicated as one might think. I do know how to type. And that’s all I can do (Laughs).
What’s your favorite thing about this character?
Aldis: The fact that he is intelligent. As an actor, as an African American actor the roles are very limited. Usually it takes awhile to get a good role and not a product or a stereotype. I mean I’ve played thug-this and killer-that for so long it got boring and tired. It started to be make me unhappy in my career, but this role comes along, I can actually play a cool person. He knows what he’s doing, and yes he’s a thief but he’s doing it for the right reasons. He’s actually an intelligent person, and that is what I love. Everything that went along with the job, great people, great cast, great production and great crew… we actually had a really great set and a good environment. This job has been amazing, and I’ve had fun working on it. It’s probably been one of the best networks I’ve worked with, TNT, probably one of my favorite jobs so far.
What about as far as stunts? How much did you do, and what has been your most challenging stunt?
Aldis: I had to fight a little bit, but I was able to do my own stunts which I love because that’s apart of me. Whenever I go to set, I say I’m going to the playground to play, and that’s apart of me doing it. Being able to do this and that and our executive producer, Dean Devlin, was very gracious in allowing us to just do what we have to do. He took chances, and he made us take chances.
Dean Devlin: He was okay until he had to hang upside down for about two hours (Laughs).
Aldis: (Laughs) We get to do so much fun stuff. Everything is safety conscience. They never put us in danger to the point where we would actually get hurt, but we are running from buildings that are exploding and hanging upside down. We’re fighting. I get to blow some stuff up too.
I did have a stunt double on set at times, but I fought as hard as I could to not let the man work. Not that I didn’t respect him for his job, because I do. It’s just that when I get to do something I want to do it, that’s apart of my day right there, and I can go home and have a story to tell. So they let me do as much as I could possibly and physically do.
In your mind, what type of people do you see becoming fans of the show?
Aldis: Everybody (Laughs)! It’s not necessarily a show that segregates an audience where you have to be such an action buff to watch it or you have to be such a nerdy technical guy to watch it. We have a little something for everybody. We break it down in a different way where you can understand it however you watch TV. If you are an action buff, we have plenty of that for you. If you go for the drama, we do have drama for you, but if you want to laugh, we’ve got that too. We were able to mix it all perfectly, and it’s an everybody kind of show. If you want to just sit and enjoy yourself that’s what we’re bringing, because we want you to take a load off when you watch this. That’s what we’re here for. It’s got some sexiness in it too, so if you feel like lighting the candle, sipping a glass of wine (Laughs). We definitely do not discriminate when it comes to the audience, and I think that was more or less a play on the creators the decisions that went into what type of characters these are. Because we’re a group of thieves that take on the corporate criminals, we knock them down for the little guy. But who is the little guy? Any and everybody. I think at some point in time, we find ourselves to be the underdog in hoping that there might be someone there to pull us up. That’s what our team is. That’s what we do, so we’re here for everybody.
Now are you guys still shooting this season or have you wrapped?
Aldis: We’ve wrapped.
How many episodes?
Aldis: 13 episodes. Stay with us for all 13, because it will give you a wild ride. It’s different every single episode. The main consistency you’ll find is with the characters. They go on a wild ride of different emotional and mental maturity. Every story is different. You won’t find yourself stuck in a dragging, lagging storyline. It’s exciting every single week. But we are doing all 13, and God willing we are waiting on a second season.
I also read that you are attending the Art Center College and Design. What are you majoring in?
Aldis: Let’s say that’s on hold for now (Laughs). I was majoring in Architecture and Product Design. What got my interested was automotive engineering. I used to design motorcycles, and then I got hit with architecture for a little bit, and that is when I started attending school. But with work it’s difficult to make them both happen, so now that we are on hiatus, we’ll see if I can go back for another semester. Either way, I am going to continue my education, because my heart is in acting, but it is also in just the acquisition of knowledge. I love to just grow and expand, and it’s something I could possibly use for the show one of these days. Put my knowledge to use and design the set.
Now I want to ask you about the two episodes of Supernatural that you did. Because we run a smaller site for it off of FanBolt. Huge fan base for that show, so they’ll kill me if I don’t ask you (Laughs). I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your experience with those two episodes.
Aldis: Supernatural was amazing. We shot in Vancouver for a couple months. First of all, Jared and Jensen, those two guys are great. Those are two good guys, my buddies, and I actually think we are going to do a convention in… I think it’s in March for Supernatural so that is pretty awesome. It’s my first one.
They made fan cards and trading cards, and it’s kind of cool. Supernatural was a great experience. Vancouver was cold and rainy, so we would be sitting outside shooting until 2 or 3 in the morning in the cold, freezing rain. That wasn’t so fun (Laughs), but everything else was great. The set was great, the production was great and even though it was a little rainy, Vancouver was a great place to be. It’s a great city, it’s beautiful, and I had a lot of fun out there.
I was out there playing a little superhero for about two seconds when Jared and I, we had a huge fight scene, and I got to punch him and knock him back 10 or 15 feet, so we had a good time. It was my first time ever dying too, so I was a little nervous about that.
You had a dramatic exit there though.
Aldis: (Laughs) They shot me 6 or 7 times, and they wouldn’t stop shooting. I’m like “Okay guys, I’m dead!”
But I thank you guys for the support with Supernatural and all I can say is carry that on to Leverage. We have a good show on our hands and please support us. Check us out.
(Check out our interview with Leverage Executive Producer Dean Devlin next week!)
Interview By: Emma Loggins