Exclusive Interview: ‘LEVERAGE’ STAR ALDIS HODGE HACKS INTO THE HEART OF HARDISON – PART 1
A new episode of the hit series (‘The Underground Job’) airs tonight at 9/8c only on TNT
By CARL CORTEZ, Contributing Editor
For three seasons now, Aldis Hodge has played the inventive hacker Hardison on TNT’s hit heist show LEVERAGE (a new episode airs tonight at 9/8c). When Hardison first joined the team in Season One, he was very good working by himself, but slowly had to evolve into being a team player.
Now, the expert hacker has come into his own in Season Three as he has ambitions of being the head of his own “crew” one day. The series has also began to showcase the deeper side to his multi-faceted character, as well as delving more into Hardison’s past.
Hodge recently spoke to iF, in this exclusive interview, about Season Three, where the show is headed and being a beginner on the violin and tackling the complicated Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov composition “Scheherazade” in the early Season Three episode “The Scheherazade Job.”
iF MAGAZINE: Can you talk about Season Three and where you feel the team was at the beginning of it?
ALDIS HODGE: We came in and we were trying to be back on our game. Nate [Timothy Hutton] was in jail. After Nate did what he did to us, we were left out of the loop and we went back to square one, “how do we get this team together?” and “how do we get this to work?” and that’s what the first part of the season was.
iF: “The Scheherazade Job” was a pretty cool episode – do you play violin?
HODGE: I practice violin. I’m not prolific whatsoever. I practice and [LEVERAGE co-creator and executive producer] Chris Downey had told me a little while ago, “I want to write an episode where you play violin” and I said, “okay, let me know.” He came up with the episode, but the piece, “Scheherazade” is very tough to play, even for professionals. It far exceeded my skill. I was quite intimidated by the challenge, but I was very up for the challenge. It was a great script and it’s one of my favorite scripts so far this season. It was a very tough one to get down, but we had a lot of fun. It forced me to go a little deeper into understanding of the violin. It was a great episode. I was around real musicians and it inspired me to do my thing, even though I felt very intimidated. My skill, I’m a super beginner, and “Scheherazade” is super expert. But I worked hard with my violin teacher to get my fingering down and the timing.
iF: When did you start practicing and taking lessons?
HODGE: I got a teacher last year.
iF: The thing that was amazing about that episode, was the whole act that was just the music – literal a ballet of conning.
HODGE: The whole idea of that was amazing. That was a bold choice and a big chance for a series to take and not often do people push that limit. I can’t wait to push that limit even more.
iF: Before a season starts, do you start thinking, “what other accents do I have in my tool kit? What other things can I bring to the table and let the writers know I can do.” Or do you just take the challenges as they come?
HODGE: I’m always thinking about what’s coming next. We owe it to the audience. They expect something new and fresh and deserve something new. I know, throughout the breaks and throughout the middle of working, I’m doing that. Sometimes during the last minute on set, we get ideas, throw them in there, and say “this would be great.” So we could throw something in there any time on set, and my mind is always on, because I never stop thinking. I’m always thinking about how to take this to the next level. For me, doing a TV series, you may get the same characters throughout six or seven different seasons, but you’ll never have the same story. We grow as people in real life and that’s what we want for our characters too and we always try to bring something new for the audience to enjoy. If you ain’t got nothing new, what’s the point?
iF: Does the hypnosis thing become a bigger issue throughout the season?
HODGE: The hypnosis is a small piece to a big puzzle as far as what Nate is going through. Once you watch it, it speaks to his evolution as a character and as a mastermind – and what he went through in jail, his personal time, and where he’s making his next move. Definitely pay attention to it. It’s an important part of the story. It’s a pivotal part of the story, but it’s not the only part. There are many other pieces that build up to who Nate Ford has become and that’s one of the tip of the icebergs. It’s one of the first insights as to who he is.
iF: I really liked in “The Reunion Job” where Hardison got to go against 1980s technology. It was fun to see Hardison get flustered with that kind of stuff.
HODGE: I could understand why he was flustered – that stuff was out way before I was born. Geez, I didn’t understand the language I was looking at.
iF: There’s been a lot of character building and background stuff with all the characters this year – has that been fun to explore?
HODGE: It’s definitely been more character-driven than story driven, because the audience is intrigued in finding more about who we are and why we are the way we are. We’re delving a little deeper and our relationships have grown. The relationship between Parker [Beth Riesgraf] and Hardison has matured and grown up since the first season and even the second season. There have been a few good episodes as far as Hardison, in terms of who he is, why he is the way he is and what’s going on with him. It may be a little set-up. Hardison has the ambition to run his own crew one day, so he’s learning and I think that’s all I can say to that.
iF: Will this wish of having his own crew have some sort of pay-off before the season is over?
HODGE: All I know is that’s Hardison’s ambition and that’s what he’s working towards. His mind frame is different this year. In the first season, he was “figuring out what job we’re doing and why we were doing it,” the second season was getting comfortable with that idea and the third season, he now enjoys what he does and why he does it and wants to keep giving it back. He wants to take over, when all is said and done.
iF: Is there still a lot of improvisation on set?
HODGE: From day one, we’ve always been allowed to improvise. We respect the foundation of the script, the story, the idea and we respect the words, but at the same time, the writers and the producers and directors respect us as actors, so they give us the space to create and do as much with the characters as we can. Personally, I don’t improv to take away. I improv only when I see an opening to add to a scene or add to the character’s style or to the character’s personality. I always make sure to respect what’s on the page. We’re allowed to improv, and it’s a good working relationship between the writers, producers, directors and actors. It only opens up the lanes for more creativity and even more fun, and it’s fun to watch when you’re working off that spontaneity. The audience can tell.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF iF’S EXCLUSIVE ALDIS HODGE INTERVIEW LATER THIS WEEK
Source: IF Magazine