Photoshoots > Session 85
Magazines Scans > Harper’s Bazaar – March 2021
HARPER’S BAZAAR: For his first-ever on-camera role, Aldis Hodge says he wasn’t exactly motivated by the pursuit of artistic excellence. “Honestly, I just did it for the toys,” Hodge recalls of modeling for a magazine when he was all of three years old.
Now 34, Hodge, who has been working steadily since his toddler years—with childhood appearances on Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live before making the rounds on classic prime-time series like ER, CSI, and Friday Night Lights—wants more out of his work. “This is gonna sound crazy, and stupid, maybe,” he says. “[But] I used to audition to impress the people in the room so I could get the job. Wrong reason.” Hodge changed his approach. “If I do the audition and I’m satisfied with what I did, then I won.” And new opportunities have materialized. Hodge’s portrayal of football star Jim Brown in Regina King’s critically acclaimed feature directorial debut, One Night in Miami … (now streaming on Prime Video), stands out among a solid-gold ensemble. The film, adapted by Kemp Powers from his 2013 play of the same name, offers a fictional reimagining of a real meeting that took place between four towering Black cultural figures amid the social and political upheaval of the 1960s: civil rights leader Malcolm X (played by Kingsley Ben-Adir); boxer Cassius Clay, a.k.a. Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree); singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.); and Brown, who used his platform as an athlete to become active in the movement for racial justice.
I like to tie myself to projects that have meaning beyond just the entertainment aspect.
King’s movie aims to explore the men behind the mythology. Most of the action plays out in a cramped Miami hotel room in the hours after Clay’s legendary 1964 fight with Sonny Liston, an upset victory for Clay that won him his first world championship title. A heated discussion on the state of race in America ensues. “We get to see human beings,” Hodge says. “Not the super titans we all grew up knowing and understanding. We get to see what built those super titans.”
In a movie full of outsize characters, Hodge’s Brown isn’t flamboyant. He’s pensive, at times even stoic. And, according to director King, Hodge’s restraint is what makes his portrayal so powerful. “Aldis understood the nuanced moments that were needed to play Jim,” King says. “I could see that he had tapped into Jim the first time I saw his tape and knew his performance could only get better. I also knew I needed an anchor, someone who could be a leader. I knew I would have that in Aldis.”
I knew I needed an anchor, someone who could be a leader. I knew I would have that in Aldis.
— Regina King —
Hodge taped his audition during lunch breaks on the set of last year’s sleeper hit The Invisible Man in Australia. When he got word that King wanted to speak to him, he got nervous. But what was meant to be a 20-minute phone call became a two-hour discussion about the kinds of conversations the film could provoke. “I thought this film had the potential to teach within my community of Black folks, to help us figure out how to talk with one another and how to deal with one another,” he says. “For the people who aren’t Black, hopefully it would help them figure out how to listen and translate what our fears are, so it’s not just a foreign language. It’s something they can understand.”
Born on the base at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, to parents who were U.S. Marines, Hodge was raised in Hawaii, New Jersey, and, later, Los Angeles, where he and his older brother, Edwin, both pursued acting as kids. (Younger sister Briana opted out of the biz.) Their young careers were shepherded by their mother, Yolette, whom Hodge describes as “a soldier through and through,” recalling how she fought to get her sons auditions. “Oftentimes she would look for roles and it would say, ‘looking for Caucasian only,’ ” he says. “My mom would submit us anyway.”
Hodge is now training to play Hawkman in the DC superhero movie Black Adam, opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. His Showtime drama, City on a Hill, is about to air its second season. And he’s adapting the Chinese thriller Parallel Forest with Edwin and is set to direct for the first time. “I like to tie myself to projects that have meaning beyond just the entertainment aspect,” Hodge says. “Not every project will hit that mark for me, but when I can get that, it’s really—it’s like [winning] the lottery.”