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
The actor, who has been dreaming of a superhero role for years, didn’t quite believe it when he landed Hawkman: “It was literally like what I imagined winning the lottery to feel like.”
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Despite taking place in 1964, One Night in Miami felt eerily similar to present day, according to Aldis Hodge. In Regina King’s feature directorial debut, Hodge plays NFL legend Jim Brown who’s introduced in the film during a return trip to his hometown of St. Simons Island, Georgia. Upon his arrival, Jim visits the plantation-like estate of his neighbor, Mr. Carlton (Beau Bridges), who seemingly welcomes Brown onto his porch for a glass of lemonade and some small talk. Even though he was proud to say that he was from the same island as the great Jim Brown, Carlton quickly bowled Brown over when he casually referred to him as a racial slur and denied his entry into the house. Unfortunately, for Hodge, his family and so many others, this scene hit awfully close to home.
“I’ve never really been swayed by the rose-colored glasses perspective. What Jim went through in that particular scene is something I’ve been through and many of my family members have been through,” Hodge tells The Hollywood Reporter. “There are so many people who don’t understand cultural empathy and don’t necessarily prioritize it, and they think that there’s nothing wrong. So that scene showed the truth of the ugliness of what a lot of us have been dealing with for so long and what a lot of us are dealing with on the forefront right now, directly. We have to push through people’s ignorance to get to our own truth.”
In September, Hodge landed his biggest role to date as he will portray Hawkman/Carter Hall in Dwayne Johnson and DC Films’ superhero epic, Black Adam. Earning a superhero role has been a long time coming for Hodge since he’s spent the last 15 years auditioning for such roles. As a result, when Johnson called to deliver the news, he initially thought it was a prank call. And once Johnson convinced him that it was actually “D.J.,” Hodge then assumed he was calling to deliver bad news.
“There was some part of my brain that said, ‘He’s calling to tell me that I didn’t get the job.’ So I was preparing for that while I was in a state of disbelief. And when he said, ‘Welcome to Black Adam,’ it was literally like what I imagined winning the lottery to feel like,” Hodge shares. “I had been very, very much looking forward to being a part of any kind of superhero universe. I didn’t care what it was for such a long time just because I had been such a fan. I grew up on graphic novels. I got into the business so I could earn money to buy Batman toys, you know? It was like 13 to 15 years of constantly going up to bat and getting told no. So it really was a validation of those last few years of pursuit, hustle and preparation.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Hodge also reflects on the valuable advice that Samuel L. Jackson gave his family on the set of Die Hard with a Vengeance, the disturbing ending of The Invisible Man and going toe to toe with Kyle Chandler on Friday Night Lights.
To put it mildly, it’s been a challenging year, but your career is thriving in spite of everything. What’s this year been like for you in that regard?
Well, it’s twofold. Professionally, it gives me a sense of appreciation in a time where there’s still so many people not working. And of course, for a time, my industry was down and we all weren’t working. So to be in this position and to have the best professional year of my 32-year career is really kind of insane, but I look at it as a reminder to maintain faith and gratitude. At the same time, I’m now put in a position to help, so I’ve got to figure out what the real mission is. There’s a reason I’ve been blessed with this kind of opportunity in this particular time, and I have to use it responsibly. It’s also coupled with the experience of so much loss and so much pain that we’re not removed from, given this year. My family has experienced quite a bit of emotional and personal hardship, so that’s not lost on me. I’m just in a better position to have access to more options to do some work. Beyond the TV, beyond the movies, it’s not about that. That’s not the work. The work is representation and creating opportunities. I used my advantages this year to try to make as many opportunities as possible for myself and the people around me.
One Night in Miami introduces each character by showing what they’re up against in early 1964. And during Jim Brown’s introduction, he, along with the audience, were lulled into a false sense of security as things took a very sharp turn via Beau Bridges’ character. When you first read that scene in the script, did you have a similar experience given its sudden swerve?
Press: ‘One Night in Miami’ Stars Leslie Odom, Jr. and Aldis Hodge on the Burden of Playing Iconic Figures
VARIETY – Leslie Odom, Jr. has won a Grammy and a Tony award for “Hamilton” but he continues to expand and sharpen his abilities as an actor, musician and performer. Portraying Sam Cooke in Regina King’s “One Night in Miami,” the 39-year-old artist delivers one of this strongest turns yet, playing double-duty as not just an actor, but as a singer-songwriter.
In this week’s Variety Awards Circuit podcast, the 39-year-old artist discusses the monumental task of taking on the legendary Sam Cooke. “My number got pulled,” Odom, Jr. says. “I just didn’t want to do a wack Sam Cooke, I didn’t want to be bad, and have it wipe away any opportunity.”
Odom, Jr. has experienced an exceptional year, having also starred in the stage filming of Thomas Kail’s “Hamilton,” which debuted on Disney Plus over the summer. For his work in Amazon Studios’ “One Night in Miami,” he has received an abundance of love and high praise for his performance, which has landed him in the thick of a very competitive Oscar race. Very respectful and gracious about his success, Odom, Jr. is learning more about the film industry. With under a dozen film credits to his name, his passion nevertheless bleeds from his words.
“The first job of the director is to get everybody in the same mood,” Odom says about first-time director Regina King. “Every single note she gave me, every single thought she gave me, made me better.”
On top of his acting work, Odom, Jr. also a writer on the song “Speak Now,” for which he can also receive an Oscar nomination. He would be following in the footsteps of Mary J. Blige and Cynthia Erivo as acting nominees who were also cited in original song.
Also in this episode: Aldis Hodge came into the year delivering outstanding work in the horror film “The Invisible Man” and then took up the task of playing Jim Brown, the only living figure from “One Night in Miami.” He tells the Variety Awards Circuit podcast that initially turned down the chances to audition because he didn’t feel was adequately equipped to do. “My team told me that Regina wants to see you and I’m not going to be the fool who tells Regina ‘No,” Hodge says.
Hodge gained notoriety in 2019 for his incredible performance in “Clemency” opposite Alfre Woodard, for which he received a nomination from the Gotham Awards. Earlier this year, he delivered opposite Elisabeth Moss in the horror hit “The Invisible Man,” stretching out his abilities in different genres.
From discussing his early years acting, Hodge discusses some of the films that inspired his upbringing in the acting space including “Devin in a Blue Dress” with Don Cheadle and “Leon: The Professional” with Natalie Portman. He also speaks to the future generations in the entertainment space, “don’t let anyone tell you that you’re lucky to be here. I earned this spot.”
Both Leslie Odom Jr and Aldis Hodge will campaign in best supporting actor for the upcoming Academy Awards for their stunning performances.
“Variety Awards Circuit Podcast,” hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay and Michael Schneider (who produces), is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.