Press/Gallery: Aldis Hodge’s Path To Purpose

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

The actor and watch designer explores his personal history with horology and how watches can be used to build a lasting legacy.

Words by Aldis Hodge, Photography by Glen Allsop
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


Gallery LInk:
Photoshoots > Session 80

Press: ‘One Night in Miami’ packs a powerful dramatic punch

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

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.

Press: The busiest actors of 2020

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

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

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.

Press: Watch New Trailer for One Night in Miami

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021

Oscar winner Regina King directs the film, based on Olivier nominee Kemp Powers’ stage play.


PLAYBILL: Check out the latest trailer for One Night in Miami…, featuring Hamilton Tony winner Leslie Odom, Jr. as singer Sam Cooke, above. The film, based on the 2013 stage play by Olivier nominee Kemp Powers (who also penned the screenplay), marks Oscar and Emmy winner Regina King’s feature directorial debut.

One Night in Miami… also features Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X, Eli Goree as Cassius Clay, and Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown. Rounding out the cast are 2020 Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson, Beau Bridges, and Lance Reddick.

Amazon Studios releases the film in select U.S. theatres January 8 and on Prime Video January 15. The movie made its premiere in Miami December 25.

Set on the night of February 25, 1964, One Night in Miami… follows a young Cassius Clay (before he became Muhammad Ali) as he emerges from the Miami Beach Convention Center the new World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Clay, unable to stay on the island because of Jim Crow-era segregation laws, spends the night at the Hampton House Motel in one of Miami’s historically Black neighborhoods celebrating with three of his closest friends: activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke, and football star Jim Brown.

Producers are Jess Wu Calder and Keith Calder of Snoot Entertainment and Jody Klein of ABKCO; King and Powers are executive producers. Chris Harding and Paul O. Davis also executive produce.

The film also features the original song “Speak Now,” written by Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashford, and performed by Odom, Jr.; ABKCO will release the original soundtrack in conjunction with the film.

Press: Regina King makes an engrossing directorial debut with a film about the meeting of four Black legends

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2020

THE WASHINGTON POST: Regina King makes an assured feature directing debut with “One Night in Miami,” an engrossing adaptation of Kemp Powers’s 2013 stage play.

In that well-received drama, Powers wrote about what might have happened on Feb. 25, 1964, when a cocky young boxer named Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight championship; later that night Clay, Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X, pop singer Sam Cooke and NFL star Jim Brown gathered in a hotel room to celebrate. No one knows for sure what they talked about, but Powers concocted a riveting piece of historically grounded speculation, in which the four men debate Clay’s decision to become a Muslim, the political advantages of assimilation versus revolution, the responsibilities of Black men to their communities, and why vanilla ice cream is no match for a flask full of whiskey.

The vanilla ice cream, by the way, is one of the few facts known about the evening that inspired “One Night in Miami” — it was offered as a refreshment by the gathering’s host, Malcolm X, whose religion forbade anything stronger. As the night plays out, tensions rise as the four men — all, it should be remembered, in their 20s and 30s — joke and argue, tease and provoke. Although Brown and Cooke are skeptical of Malcolm’s sway over Clay, emotions truly come to a boil when Malcolm confronts Cooke over his music, making an unflattering comparison to Bob Dylan, the White man who had written the era’s most stirring anthem of dissent.

Powers’s script can’t help but suffer from expository starchiness, having to educate present-day viewers about what may feel like ancient history. That makes it all the more crucial to find actors who can deliver the lines with unforced ease, and King has found just the right ensemble. The British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir plays Malcolm X with a convincing combination of reflection, fury and growing anxiety (he is harboring his own doubts about the Nation of Islam and is all too aware of the men who have him under surveillance outside the hotel); Leslie Odom Jr. effortlessly sinks into Cooke’s charismatic persona, while he soars into the singer’s distinctively honeyed tenor; Aldis Hodge inhabits Brown with imposing, watchful confidence; and Eli Goree brings just the right amount of humor and poetic cadence to his exuberant portrayal of Clay, who at one point does a double-take in front of a mirror, saying, “My goodness. Why am I so pretty?”

As a filmed version of a play, “One Night in Miami” has the same talky, slightly claustrophobic contours one might expect. But that pent-up quality is an advantage for a movie in which the room where it might have happened is a character in itself. The Hampton House Motel was a famous way station for African Americans traveling during the days of segregation; here, production designer Barry Robison gives it an attractive mid-century sheen, amped up by Terence Blanchard’s silky musical score and Tami Reiker’s lush cinematography. In both its verbal sparring and mounting unease, “One Night in Miami” resembles the recent Netflix adaptation of “The Boys in the Band” — another period piece that gives viewers the sense that they’re eavesdropping on a conversation taking place both amid and beyond the reach of societal oppression.

To her credit, King takes a few judicious opportunities to open up the action in “One Night in Miami,” which includes scenes on the motel’s rooftop and a nearby package store, as well as an electrifying flashback to one of Cooke’s concerts. Most powerfully, she gives each protagonist a prologue, telegraphing where each man is in his personal and political evolution. Jim Brown’s chapter is the most potent in the collection, following him as he visits his hometown of St. Simons Island, Ga., and pays a call to an elderly friend played by Beau Bridges. King takes her time with the scene, allowing it to play out with the relaxed rhythms of a sunny afternoon on the front porch, before delivering a finale that lands like a punch to the gut. It’s a masterful piece of cinema — a self-contained film within a film — and it signals that King’s directorial career is off to an exceptionally promising start.