We had a chance to talk to Aldis Hodge, who plays Alec Hardison on TNT’s hit drama “Leverage”. He reveals his favorite episodes, and talks about his fascination with technology and the camaraderie on set.
What was your favorite episode in season 2?
Aldis Hodge: My favorite episode had to have been the “Ice Man” job and then also the “Three Days of Monica Hunter” job. They’re the most fun to do because I got to play different types of characters and got to play a crazy person with the “Three Days of Monica Hunter” job. So I really got to just explore and enjoy my imagination. That was the most fun of it all because I got to push it to the limits in the first new episode.
How similar is the personality of the character you portray, Alec Hardison, from your own? How similar are you guys in real life?
Aldis Hodge: Well I – I’d say we’re pretty similar. I add a lot of my own personality to the character as far as his humor, as far as how he plays in jokes. So I would say we definitely have a kinship there. We’re definitely very, very close. And our lightheartedness as far as our way of thinking, you know, I’m not a thief but I would say that he has a good heart that I try to model after what I would like to be. So yes we’re pretty close. The only thing that he does different that I don’t do is probably the hacking and stealing thing.
With your love for watches does that help you in your role, because Alec is a gadget technological wizard?
Aldis Hodge: Oh it does help me to understand how someone could be so into his craft. Watches, you know, it’s all gears and everything. But I have to know a little something about computers. I have to be a little savvy. It does help me to understand how somebody could be so into- I mean, I want to say it’s a dorky thing but, you know, some people would call me a geek, with my watch and gears and things like that. So we have that mutual understanding, Alec and I.
How much are you guys or how much are you allowed to improvise in the show from the script?
Aldis Hodge: Allowed is a very casual term. Our writers trust us enough to take these characters where we feel they need to go. We respect what’s written. We honor the idea and we respect the theory of the idea. And when it comes to improv we usually improv what we feel is best for the situation or what’s most respectful and relevant to the character and the situation at the time.
I have a rule. I say “give them one straight and give them hell” which means as long as we’ve gota good clean original take on there which is what’s written, then I’m good. After that I play with the scene and we see how I can dress it up, make it colorful and I guess throw a little something, something on there, you know? To flesh out the potential of the scene and the characters in it.
How did you avoid being the nerd on the show?
Aldis Hodge: Because I’m a nerd in real life and I like think that I’m sort of cool. Especially when it comes to TV, there’s a lot of assumption that goes with playing a specific character. When your hear computers or geek or whatever you just automatically think pocket protector, glasses, not very social, always kind of clumsy. You think that kind of a model.
When it came to the pilot and when it came down to me and Dean Devlin, and John Rogers trying figure this character out, we kind of wanted to throw a different spin on it because nowadays computer nerds are coming off as the kind of shape of society, but we’re not just one thing.
And I don’t want the audience to get what they’re already used to having. I wanted to give them something different and something fresh. It’s funny people say there’s a cool vibe there. I feel like I’m kind of dorky and corny sometimes, but that’s just me. But if you all think it’s cool, hey I’m thinking I’m going to keep giving it to you.
I’m trying to figure out a way to really to describe Leverage to folks who haven’t seen it. What’s your quick definition of what this show was really all about?
Aldis Hodge: My quick definition is, you know, a group of criminals who take down corporate bad guys in order to give back to those that they take advantage of. Now, it may take a little figuring out but usually people end up saying “Robin Hood”. They usually say Robin Hood on the very first shot. But you know, a lot of people said that of Oceans 11, with a little “Robin Hood” in there, a little “A Team” in there.
In 20 years, ten years past after the show is done, I believe somebody’s going to look back and say “Yes, that new show out, it’s like that show ‘Leverage’…” So I believe were setting that up a little bit. We have our own identity going, which is a blessing. And, you know, it gets easier to explain this show year by year. But I just say it’s kind of like a modern day Robin Hood.
You have been acting since you were a child. How did you avoid the pitfalls that a lot of the child actors fall into?
Aldis Hodge: Because my mama whipped my behind when she needed to. No my mama was always good. I attribute my career to my mother. She’s always been great. She’s always been very supportive. She was never a stage mom. She never pushed me into doing it. She allowed it to be my choice and she allowed me to find my own way.
But every time there was something that threatened my childhood, you know, she stopped it immediately because the one hard thing about this business was to remain a child. You’re on set, people treat you like an adult. My brother and I did a Broadway show for 2 1/2 years and I was l 8 when we started doing that show. Out of a cast of 100 people, there’s only five children so you’re running around and there’s a lot of people that don’t really notice and they don’t care.
You hear people talking about things and doing things or whatever and it’s not necessarily a horrible environment, it’s a professional environment but it’s also an adult environment. So my mama was always very much a big presence in there. And everybody knew my mother so they always knew to respect us in order to respect her. So she made us aware of our priorities very early on in our lives.
I want to talk about costars. How familiar were you with your fellow actors and actresses before you signed up? I know Timothy Hutton obviously won an Oscar and he’s a big name, but no one else was really too big of a name before this show. Were you familiar with their work and did you go back and study it or anything like that?
Aldis Hodge: I actually wasn’t familiar with anyone.
Did it take a while to form the kind of chemistry you seem to have?
Aldis Hodge: No actually I think there were no barriers, there was no preset notions around anything. So when we got into Chicago to film the pilot we all kind of meshed and gelled. And we were forced to be aliens because we didn’t know Chicago, we didn’t know the city. All we knew was us.
I met everybody in Chicago. I wasn’t aware of anybody else’s work. But as the show went on, you know, we’re running constantly. One of the best compliments we got as far as the pilot goes is a lot of people said it doesn’t look like a pilot, because it seems like you guys have been working together forever.
Was there one moment when you knew that you had a hit show on your hands?
Aldis Hodge: Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t know if I’ve really never had that moment. I knew that we had a good show on our hands. I knew that we had a great product going.
But, you know, this business not all the time does the good stuff get through. So I’ve always been on my toes about saying “Okay, look, don’t get lazy.” So you just keep pressing on and don’t ever think about that. I don’t take it like that. Every new season we get picked up is a blessing. Every new show that we’re able to do is a blessing. But I never get comfortable in that yes, you know we’ve got it, we’re good.
You have some earlier print experience. Does that help you in this role? Sometimes it’s like where you guys are standing, it’s choreographed. It reminds me of print ads. It’s like everybody has a choreographed place to stand and I’m just wondering if that helped and is everything choreographed like that?
Aldis Hodge: Well everything is usually set because we have to work off of our camera operator, who is amazing at his job. But you have to know where to go with your person, to find our mark. So yes, we organize it, but it’s not too rehearsed. We just kind of shoot from the hip and see what happens. We never really rehearse the scenes, on average, more than twice. We rehearse to get the words and then after that we let the acting happen as soon as they say “Action”. It feels better that way. It feels more organic for us as actors.
The new season of Leverage premieres on Sunday, June 20 at 9 p.m., 8 p.m. Central on TNT.