Interview: Aldis Hodge: Hard Working ‘Hacker’ of Leverage
by R.J. Carter
Published: August 22, 2011
—>When Aldis Hodge auditioned for the role of Leverage uber-hacker, Alec Hardison, it was important to him that the character portrayal was non-stereotypical, an African-American who was not just smart, but very smart and savvy. Creators John Rogers and Chris Downey were equally impressed with the (then) 21-year-old actor’s delivery, which rivals Eddie Murphy’s “48 Hours” performance.
As we count down to the summer finale for Leverage (August 28 on TNT), we borrowed a few moments of Hodge’s time to talk about his character and the forward momentum of the series.
Was there a moment when you realized that this series was really going to go somewhere?
No, I still haven’t hit that moment. I’m still surprised every time we get a season. Just recently we found out we got picked up for a fifth, and I was very surprised. I’m very confident in what we do, but I’ve been in this business a long time — I’ve been in acting since I was three — so I kind of play more to the experience [that] no matter how great you are, no matter how quality your show is, you never know the outcome. It can go any way. You can’t really be too sure. I mean, there are so many great projects out there that never see the light of day that get canned after two seasons, or one season, just because you really can’t factor in all the variables of audience perception and what networks are thinking — and the higher up it goes, the more political it gets.
So there’s too many factors. I’m still not at that comfortable place where I’m like, “Oh yeah, I’m on a hit show!” I’m confident — but I’m not there yet. I’m still very much surprised and appreciative every time it happens.
And the ratings just keep climbing.
That’s actually very rare that that’s going on. We’re lucky that the ratings keep up — apparently that’s not normal for most series, so for us that’s a big deal. So if they keep us on every year, it’s great. That’s just a massive, massive privilege.
I’ve been a fan since the first season, and I’ll tell you, you personally scared me when I turned on my television and immediately thought that the show had either been cancelled and you were doing commercial work or Alec Hardison was going undercover to infiltrate a Taco Bell.
(Laughs) That was done during the interim. That was the first season, we got done, and they hadn’t called us to tell us we were coming back for certain. So I had to keep pushing, I had to keep working. People think that I’m on a TV show and making big dollars, but that’s not the case. You really have to earn your stripes, and that comes after years and years of proving yourself. So whenever I’m on hiatus, I’m back to the hustle because you never know when it’s going to stop. Right now is the opportune time to make the most of this situation, and I’m just trying to do that.
I did get a few odd responses with the commercials, with people going, “Hey, why are you doing this?” And I say, “Because I need a job!” Maybe I’ll have to lay off the commercials for a while because people have been getting a little afraid. But I’m not turning down a job, I’ll tell you that much.
Do you have any thoughts on the relationship between your character and Beth Riesgraf’s character? That’s some “crazy” love going on there.
“Crazy” is the key word. Those two haven’t figured it out yet, but they get closer and closer… We really want to focus on building a nice story where these two people, when they actually come together, they’ve earned it over a long, long rough road, because that will make it that much sweeter at the end. They’re two people who are kind of introverted in the sense. It took them a while to figure out they had a family with the other Leverage people, so they had to get comfortable with that idea. Then they had to get comfortable with the idea of love — which means to allow yourself to be open to someone. You allow yourself to get hurt, you allow yourself to depend on somebody else, and that’s something they’ve never experienced before.
They’re still fighting there feelings, and to get there they’re getting more and more comfortable each season. But we’re giving them a nice little road to town, because when it comes together it’s going to be amazing. Now, granted, we don’t want to get there too soon, because if we do then we have nowhere to go for the audience. They’re like, “Yay, they’ve been running for so long,” and then, “Oh, boo, now they’re all happy and they’ve got the white picket fence and kids and there’s nothing interesting there any more.”
It’s been a fun relationship to watch, just because of the way your character and her character are similar and yet so different. And I think it also speaks to how far television audiences have come because it took me three episodes before I realized, “Hey, nobody’s saying anything about this being an interracial relationship!” It was really cool that that had just become invisible since the days of Kirk and Uhura breaking that barrier.
Exactly, That definitely speaks to the audience’s credibility, and also it opens up avenues for other people to be comfortable with their reality. I’ve gotten a lot of response from people from inter-ethnic couples who thank us for taking the risk of creating that situation on television and having it be a comfortable ordeal. Never once have we really challenged the issue of there being a color boundar between Parker and Hardison. I mean, that issue was challenged in “The Van Ghogh Job,” but it wasn’t our time-frame — it wasn’t Parker and Hardison, it was Danny Glover’s character from his time. You know, you’re talking 1950s, back when it was very prevalent. So for Parker and Hardison, it’s not a common enemy; the only thing holding them back is their comfort levels in that situation.
And I think that’s what it is in real life. There should be no borders or barriers for people when it comes to their different ethnicities, because at the end of the day we’re all truly part of the same race — the human race. I think people just need to grow up and stop beating around the bush and just say, “Look, love is love, man. Doesn’t matter what color — it could be purple or green. If you love her, you love her.” That’s all that matters, and I think that’s what we’re trying to translate through these characters’ relationship and journeys is that it’s just about who you love.
Do you find yourself learning any practical stuff about computers or cons? Any tricks you’ve learned to pull off in the real world that you’ve picked up from the consultants on the show?
No. I should be learning them, but actually our schedule moves so fast I barely have time to learn anything, especially between my job and my other personal activities. I’ve been informed on how to hack an ATM, which I wish I would have remembered, because you can utilize that sometime later in life. (laughs)
But I do have to have an understanding of what’s going on, because — I actually just explained this not too long ago — when it comes to that technical jargon that I often have to spit out, I can only perform it properly and say it the way it needs to be said if I understand what I’m talking about. So I’ll go to John or Dean or whoever wrote it, and ask the technical consultant, “Hey, what does this mean?” and get an understanding of the virtual and technical world in order to give the right performance. I have to have a general knowledge of that which I speak.
Can I do most of it? No. No, I can’t. I think people expect me to, though, and I let people down when I say, “Uhm, no, I’m just a regular guy; I’m just an actor.” It’s like people who play doctors on TV: “Can you save a life?” “Well, I just play a doctor on TV. I can save a life with a check, or if you put a camera in front of me.”
Compared to Alec Hardison, how teched-out are you? Do you have a lot of personal gadgets you keep with you?
I just got an iPad two days ago. I’m super old school, man. As far as technicality, I design watches and watch movements, things like that. So for me, gears and things, as far as designing architecture, that’s where my technicality goes. I’m in love with it. As far as computers and the virtual world? That’s a whole different matter. I’m the other extreme of Hardison. He’s all gadgets and wires, I’m all gears. We’re two different sides of the same coin. But, I live on my Blackberry, and I’ve actually become pretty accustomed to my iPad over the last few days. I’ve got my computer — my MacBook — and that’s it, really. I’m not too technical after that.
In “The Scheherezade Job,” we got to see you play the violin, and as I understand it, you were actually playing. Do I have that right?
Well, I was really playing the notes. I wasn’t playing the music as we shot. We got to play to a track, because when it comes to editing and things like that — it’s like when we shoot a music video, people aren’t really singing because you have to make sure the editing is right and you’ve got a consistent track there to cut to. But I did have to learn the song because I do play the violin. I practice. [Chris] Downey, his wife plays the violin, so we had this conversation in the first season where he found out I was interested in the violin, and I had just started practiciing. And he was like, “Well, maybe one day we can do an episode.” And then two or three years later, he came around with it. It was a great episode for me, I loved it. It was rough learning that song. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do because it was the first time I really learned a true practical piece. We got through it, it was nice, but the fingering is very difficult.
Maybe in future episodes we’ll get to see you bring some of your gear expertise to the show — but that would require Hardison getting stuck in Victorian England and having to hack something.
Exactly! (laughs) I’m betting on bringing my gear technicality to the show hopefully next season… Get a few things done in the proper time, because I’m trying to make a watch right now.
Source: The Trades