LA TIMES: When actor Aldis Hodge says, “I sign on to things with the hope of purpose being added to that particular piece of art,” the totality of his signature roles comes into focus: the crusading D.A. on Showtime’s “City on a Hill,” the death row inmate in “Clemency,” the falsely accused athlete Brian Banks. Now comes his commanding portrayal of game-changing football legend Jim Brown in Regina King’s “One Night in Miami,” a what-might-have-been-said scenario based on a real-life gathering of Brown, Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) in one hotel room in 1964, the year before Brown’s string of legal issues began.
The potential audience impact of the quartet’s collegial yet pointed hashing out of one another’s ambitions, experiences and sense of responsibility was readily apparent to Hodge, never more so than after last summer’s protests against racial injustice. “There are a lot of people right now who don’t understand how to empathize with the pain of certain people, because they never will have known it,” he said recently. “That’s one of the most powerful elements of this film, that it shows how you understand somebody’s pain.” “One Night in Miami” was released on Amazon Prime last Friday.
One could assume four giants of their time might be sizing each other up in this situation, but the movie feels more complicated than that.
They’re friends. They’re seeking to understand each other. What we typically see from the outside perspective is the idea of comparison, right? Negative debate. When it comes to Black culture, we always have to be fighting, crabs in a barrel. That’s absolutely not what we have here, and that’s what I love. Because in my circles, talking to my people, I know this is how we handle each other. “You got your perspective. Yo, my man, I feel you on that. Let me give you this other thing to consider. Now let’s figure out how we could meet in the middle.” It also gives Black people a moment to breathe, and laugh. Because it’s pretty funny, the way they deal with each other.
Your portrayal of Brown has this quality of patience. He looks ready to be somebody’s big brother as needed.
Continue reading Press: A rare portrait of Black men: Aldis Hodge knows the impact of ‘One Night in Miami’
The actor and watch designer explores his personal history with horology and how watches can be used to build a lasting legacy.
HODINKEE: My language is art. Specifically, the art of design, which I’ve plied with an obsessive passion that eventually became purpose. I remember drawing my first watch when I was either 18 or 19 years old, after I had just become a student at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. It was a wooden wristwatch with a wooden cuff-style strap. I’m not sure if the design was any good. That’s not important, though. What is important is the symbolism it carried. It wasn’t until many years later that I was able to see the real value in that very distinct design, but I’ll expound on that later.
In my college classes, our primary focus was automotive and architectural work, but for some reason, my mind drifted towards horological design – which they didn’t teach, so I taught myself. I became enthralled by the intricacies of watch movements and how they were composed. In my mind, designing movements was kind of like developing a Tom Kundig house and building a 351 Cobra Jet engine inside of it. It seemed to make no sense yet, at the same time, made all the sense in the world.
I’ve been enamored with the freedom that the imagination of conception afforded me ever since I was two years old. I knew three things at a very young age: 1) tomorrow isn’t promised; 2) life isn’t a fair game, and 3) you must do your best in order to recognize and appreciate the blessings laid before you.
I come from a beautifully spirited family. My siblings and I were raised between New York City, New Jersey, and California by our gorgeous and courageous mother, who wasn’t always dealt a fair hand. She had a tremendously hard life, yet she always persevered. Even in the darkest times, like when we were living in our car, she was always (and still is) a champion who instilled her “never give up” fighting spirit in me.
I knew that I wanted for us to live a better life one day and for my mother to be afforded the comforts she deserved. I never thought that I would ever earn enough money to buy a nice house or a car. I thought that if I designed it myself, I could build it. Proper education – both scholastic and cultural – was the key. It was also my mother’s highest priority for us.
This is one of the primary reasons I began sketching blueprints for houses at the age of 12. Mom took notice and put me into a mentorship program where I actually interned at an architecture firm between the ages of 13 and 15 years old. Little did I know how much that would influence my horological design aesthetic. She’s also the reason I started college at 14, going through a few different institutions before landing at my favorite school, ACCD. This mentality of self-motivation came from the necessity to create an opportunity where there wasn’t one. Which is why I tell kids all the time: You are not a product of your environment. Your environment is a product of you.
My desire to create was further galvanized by my environment’s lack of recognition of who I was. I grew up in a country that told me, through subtle reinforcing factors, that I wasn’t supposed to amount to much in life. Oftentimes, people who didn’t look like me would take a guess at what they thought I wanted to be when I grew up. Scientist, doctor, engineer, or anything remotely associated with cerebrally motivated pursuits were never on their list – which was deeply insulting. The world I grew up in tried to teach me not to believe in my potential by beguiling me into not recognizing who I truly was. Were it not for the sagacity of my mother, I probably would have believed it.
The most alarming environment was actually elementary school. I never saw myself reflected in the history books. Growing up, I loved inventors, and Leonardo da Vinci was one of my favorites. There were many accounts of his great feats; however, there weren’t any for George Washington Carver, a Black American inventor who created over 100 products derived from the peanut. Nor were there any acknowledgments of other Black inventors whose designs greatly contributed to the ease of our daily lives, such as Garrett Morgan (the traffic light, 1923), Marie Van Brittan Brown (the home security system, 1966), Alexander Miles (automatic elevator doors, 1887), or Sarah Boone (an improved ironing board, 1892). And the list goes on and on.
That list reaches into the watchmaking field as well. Specifically, to Benjamin Banneker, a self-taught mathematician, astronomer, and horologist, who is rarely mentioned in the horological world – yet another Black inventor excluded from the history books.
Here’s a genius of a man who built his own clock from scratch in 1753. He borrowed his neighbor’s pocket watch, took it apart, and drew each piece. He then utilized those sketches to carve out a wooden clock using just a knife. What a painstaking challenge that must have been. And then to be able to calculate all of those ratios by his own determination – he was truly a savant. As a result, Banneker created the very first striking time device in America. It kept time and struck the hour for over 50 years until it was destroyed in a fire.
It’s astounding to me that the very first striking clock invented in North America was made by a Black man. For a young Black kid with engineering aspirations – to know this and see that representation is so very impactful. The fact that it was a wooden clock run by wooden gears was a strange coincidence. His creation resonated with me personally because when I think back to my very first watch sketch, the all-wooden wristwatch, it let me know that my efforts in this profession are connected to something bigger than design, bigger than watchmaking, and bigger than myself. I’m connected to legacy. This is more than just trying to build a watch. This is about building LEGACY. That is the primary motive for establishing my horology brand, A. Hodge Atelier.
I hope that my brand will stand as a representation of all of the virtues that have been reaffirmed within me through my experience with horology. I wish to represent the strength of knowing one’s true value, the power of perseverance and belief, and the necessity to educate oneself beyond what is placed in front of you. I aspire to develop educational horological programs for children and young adults not only to learn the mechanical and scientific aspects of what we do, but also to develop the mental fortitude that is needed to succeed.
Those aspirations are actually the inspiration behind the skeleton key I chose as the foundation for my logo design. You see, skeleton keys were theoretically devised to bypass any lock. And I would like my brand to stand as a reminder that you can use your mind to bypass any of the world’s locks, no matter what the challenge may be. I would like people to learn from my journey, my mistakes (failures, flaws, and all) and successes. And I want them to see that it’s worth it to never give up on yourself – especially in the face of adversity and naysayers.
Horology has exposed me to so much wonderful life beyond my original scope. I’ve met so many incredible people, traveled to amazing countries, and learned about so many different cultures, so much history. I’m even learning a new language because of it. Most importantly, this journey has opened me up to a newfound purpose, and I wish to share what it has provided for me with many young people who are seeking that very thing. There’s so much more to say. But the rest of this story will be told through legacy.
For now, I’ll end with the words of Nelson Mandela for anyone currently navigating through difficulties on their path to purpose: “I don’t lose. I either win or learn.”
On the site, there is a mp3 of Aldis reading this but it won’t embed on here so here is the link: Audio
Photoshoots > Session 80
CNN: A fascinating historical meeting of the minds provides the foundation for Regina King’s impressive feature film directorial debut in “One Night in Miami,” a creative extrapolation about Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke coming together in 1964. It’s a small but riveting movie, anchored by a quartet of knockout performances.
Adapted by Kemp Powers from his play (he’s having quite a year, having just co-directed Pixar’s “Soul”), the story hinges on Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, who recently played Barack Obama in Showtime’s “The Comey Rule”) trying to recruit high-profile converts to Islam, using Ali (Eli Goree), then still Cassius Clay, as his point of entry.
The boxer has just won the heavyweight title when he and friends gather in a Florida hotel room. Rounding out the foursome are star NFL running back Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and crooner Sam Cooke (“Hamilton’s” Leslie Odom Jr.), who are skeptical about Malcolm X’s pitch, if only because of what it would mean, they joke, about giving up porkchops and drinking.
What ensues is a timely conversation about the civil-rights struggle, the conflicting demands of celebrity, and the benefits and dangers associated with leveraging one’s platform to speak out. That discussion has played out across the decades every time a singer, actor or athletes dares to venture into the world of activism.
“Strike with the weapon that you have: Your voice,” Malcolm urges Cooke, who is well aware of fame’s fickle nature, especially when crossing over to entertain White audiences.
Already much decorated as an actor, King opens up the movie beyond its stage roots during the early scenes, before becoming more theatrical and somewhat claustrophobic once the group settles into the hotel. There’s a clear urgency in Malcolm’s mission, given the internal politics he faces within the Nation of Islam. He would be assassinated a year later.
What really makes the movie are the strengths of the performances, which manage to get beyond mere impersonation. At the same time, Odom’s renditions of Cooke’s songs prove staggeringly accurate, as does Goree’s grasp of Ali’s physicality and poetry — no small feat on either score. The only shame awards-wise is the potential self-canceling quality in trying to single out one or two for praise.
As for Hodge’s Brown, he appears clear-eyed regarding the limits of his gridiron stardom as he contemplates becoming a full-time actor, a point bluntly made when he visits with an old admirer (Beau Bridges) in the beginning of the film.
Powers described the original play as “an imagining of what may have happened that night,” so be forewarned the drama comes with a heavy dollop of artistic license. But that approach allows “One Night in Miami” to address issues that resonated not just through the tumultuous 1960s but have continued to be litigated through the present, marking early salvos in a culture war that never ended.
“One Night in Miami” delivers a concentrated taste of that, but like its newly crowned champ, somehow manages to gracefully float through its history, while still packing a potent dramatic punch.
“One Night in Miami” premieres Jan. 8 in select theaters and Jan. 15 on Amazon. It’s rated R.
YARDBARKER: Acting may seem like a glamorous profession, but at the end of the day, it is as much a job as scrubbing toilets. Okay, so most toilet scrubbers don’t have a honey wagon and lack the luxury of craft services, but actors still have to show up at set at ungodly hours, learn their lines and deliver to the best of their ability lest they get replaced with Ted McGinley. The below thespians slugged it out in a tough year and helped us forget our troubles for a couple of hours. We are forever in their debt.
Aldis Hodge was stunning in last year’s criminally overlooked “Clemency”, but he couldn’t be denied in 2020 as NFL great Jim Brown in Regina King’s “One Night in Miami”. He was also excellent as a principled detective in James Wan’s “The Invisible Man”, and did something or other in Disney+’ “Magic Camp”. Now that Hodge is on Hollywood’s radar, we expect to see him landing roles commensurate with his tremendous talent.