Aldis Hodge is Decourcy Ward in CITY ON A HILL - Season 1 | ©2019 Showtime/Eric Ogden

Aldis Hodge is Decourcy Ward in CITY ON A HILL – Season 1 | ©2019 Showtime/Eric Ogden

The title of Showtime’s new Sunday-night series CITY ON A HILL refers to early ‘90s Boston. “The irony abounds,” as several characters might say. Despite its lofty physical setting, the Boston of CITY ON A HILL is rife with racism, corruption and crime. Aldis Hodge plays Assistant District Attorney DeCourcy Ward, who’s just arrived from Brooklyn. By the end of the first episode, Ward has been so manipulated by both the Boston police and his own office that he’s willing to do just about anything to avoid further abuse. Ward joins forces with crooked FBI agent Jackie Rohr (Kevin Bacon) in order to take down a local mob that has murdered three armored truck drivers.

Hodge is known to LEVERAGE fans for his portrayal of tech genius Alec Hardison over five seasons. More recently, he received a SAG Award for part of the ensemble cast of the feature film of the biographical drama HIDDEN FIGURES, which chronicled the under-publicized contributions of three African-American women to the NASA in the ‘60s . Earlier this year, Hodge reteamed with one of his HIDDEN FIGURES colleagues, Taraji P. Henson, in the romantic comedy WHAT MEN WANT (now available on demand). In December, he will be seen in the capital punishment drama CLEMENCY. Hodge also starred for two seasons as Noah, who escapes slavery and helps others find freedom, in the pre-Civil War drama UNDERGROUND, and headlined the STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: SHORT TREKS segment “Calypso.” Hodge has just been announced as joining the cast of Blumhouse’s upcoming THE INVISIBLE MAN.

ASSIGNMENT X: Congratulations on your SAG Award.

ALDIS HODGE: Thank you very much.

AX: Was that win exciting?

HODGE: Absolutely. One of those long dreams that I didn’t realize was going to be fulfilled at the moment that it did, but it was awesome. Plus, the project that I won with, it meant so much more than just entertainment, so I was really happy about that.

AX: Do you feel that your UNDERGROUND character Noah would be happy with your DeCourcy Ward character?

HODGE: [laughs] Absolutely. We’re talking about a brother right now who is in a position of political power, who’s actually fighting for justice. Absolutely. It seems like a maturation of the UNDERGROUND character to a degree.

Kevin Bacon as Jackie Rohr and Aldis Hodge as Decourcy Ward in CITY ON A HILL - Season 1 - "If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly" | ©2019 Showtime/Francisco Roman

Kevin Bacon as Jackie Rohr and Aldis Hodge as Decourcy Ward in CITY ON A HILL – Season 1 – “If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly” | ©2019 Showtime/Francisco Roman

AX: Do you miss the physicality of Noah, or do you get to be very physical as DeCourcy also?

HODGE: When I did the pilot, I was coming off another project called BRIAN BANKS, so I had twenty pounds on. So even though I may not be physical onscreen, I’m definitely physical off-screen, because I’ve got to keep that weight on, and it’s not by eating. So I can’t run. Boxing’s not really that great, just because that’s all high cardio. I grew up a fighter, and I plan to keep on training when I can, but it’s cardio, so it’s going to drop weight really quick. I need to just get in gym, lift heavy, eat heavy, that kind of thing. I have to gain muscle weight.

AX: So you look the same throughout as you did in the CITY ON A HILL pilot?

HODGE: Yeah, I’ve got to match. So there’s physicality off-screen. Even if you don’t see it, it’s there.

AX: Did you have to do any kind of research to play a district attorney?

HODGE: Yeah. I talked to a couple of real D.A.s who work in Boston, who taught me the ropes and who told me a bit of their experience in the field in terms of how they have to get the job done, what they have to give up in order to get the job done. Sometimes you’re throwing away a case, or not really throwing away a case, but prioritizing cases, and sometimes you’ve got guys who are getting more time than they need, but they’re trying to service a larger point later. And it’s really a slippery slope, because you’re dealing with the judicial system and politics. A lot of us say it’s a broken system. The system is absolutely not broken. It was built this way. In order for real justice to prevail, we have to break the system.

AX: How does DeCourcy feel about Jackie?

HODGE: Ah. I can’t say that [laughs]. You’ll find out. They have a very uncommon relationship, just because they need each other. There’s a necessity there. They’re trying to figure out the semblance of respect for one another, but they are playing cerebral chess. So there’s an open manipulation that starts the moment they meet, and we get to see this ping-pong match go back and forth throughout the season, so I can’t really say in concrete how he feels about him. I think there may be an assumption of respect, but he knows that he’s playing with a monster, and he has to be a monster to play the same game.

Aldis Hodge is Decourcy Ward in CITY ON A HILL - Season 1 | ©2019 Showtime/Eric Ogden

Aldis Hodge is Decourcy Ward in CITY ON A HILL – Season 1 | ©2019 Showtime/Eric Ogden

AX: HIDDEN FIGURES, CLEMENCY, UNDERGROUND, and CITY ON A HILL – and probably some other projects you’ve done – deal strongly with racism. Are you specifically drawn to that subject matter?

HODGE: I’m drawn to substance. I took a stance, many years ago, to dive into effective art. Art that entertains, that’s one thing, but it has to have a meaning that’s progressive. Because we still suffer a huge deficit of opportunity for people in the industry who are not white. There’s a preference, there’s definitely privilege given – even last year, I was on a project where I auditioned, they said, “Hey, you are our guy, you are our top consideration. However, we want to try some Caucasian options first.” I said, “What is the reason for trying Caucasian options for the character? Does it have a real point to the story?” “No.” Just preference. And of course, they got a white guy. That still prevails loudly today. And it’s because there’s an ignorance in Hollywood that says, “Women have a place and they can’t do certain things, and they need to just be this, and sold this way in terms of marketing, and dah, dah, dah. Black people, Hispanic people, dah, dah, dah.” White people don’t get to monitor. They don’t get the boundaries, they don’t get the barriers. It’s not the same. And we see it on a regular basis. And I need to continue doing roles that show us a sense of normalcy and accomplishment and achievement where we normalize the idea and the actual engagement of black people. I don’t say “people of color,” because white people are a color, too, but again, it’s just a subliminal notes, when you say, “people of color,” when you say “minority.” I’m not a minority. But you’re separating us from the identity of white people, and what you’ve got to realize is, there is no separation. We’re all in the same group, but we don’t all have the same opportunities, so we need to keep fighting for it, until Hollywood catches up and realizes, y’all been getting it wrong for so long. So these roles mean something to a bigger point. It’s not even about the job. It’s about what I can do with the opportunity of the job as a sense of representation.

AX: How do you feel about the quasi-normalizing of racist characters, perhaps like Jackie, in period pieces, or in pieces set in parts of the country or the world where the implication is that we should be tolerant of the racism, because the characters are being shown as, “Oh, they just didn’t know any better”?

Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge in LEVERAGE - Season Three - "The Ho, Ho, Ho Job" | ©2010 TNT/Electric Entertainment/Karen Neal

Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge in LEVERAGE – Season Three – “The Ho, Ho, Ho Job” | ©2010 TNT/Electric Entertainment/Karen Neal

HODGE: I can’t really speak to Jackie specifically, because we haven’t seen how his character fleshes out, but I will speak to the character archetype of the person who gets exemptions for not knowing. Those are real people in real life. I’ve of course lived in a reality where I’ve been taken advantage of by people in society or culture or professional environments, who will say, “It’s okay because they just didn’t know.” What we have to expose as artists is, yes, there are those people who are just, “Oh, I just didn’t know.” You have to expose why. It’s because you chose not to know. It’s right there in your face, and it’s a choice. Ignorance is a choice. It’s an absolute choice, because we have more information available to us than anything in the world right now. In this particular day and age, there is no excuse to not know. But when it comes to our art, what we can do, the opportunity that we really have, is fantastic in terms of creativity is, we can show those characters who want to say, “Oh, I just didn’t know,” but we can also show the consequences behind that. We can show the results. And we can show what the reality is on the other side of not knowing. So that’s what I love, and I believe we’ll be able to explore with CITY ON A HILL is, this show is nothing but consequences, choices and consequences, and that’s what makes it fun, because you don’t know what’s going to happen next. So we know we’re living in a reality where, “Oh, I just didn’t know and I just …” No, it’s not that you don’t know. You chose not to know. You chose not to see. You chose to ignore. But now what you’ve got to realize is, there will be an answer to that, because we don’t have to stay quiet about it anymore. The people who suffer the results of those who don’t know, we don’t have to stay quiet, and we’re not going to.

AX: To ask about a couple of your other projects, first of all, you’re in WHAT MEN WANT. Can you say what it is most men want?

HODGE: [laughs] I can say most men don’t know what they want. That’s just what it is. I’ll tell you what I want personally. I just want to know that my family’s secure – anybody in my house, that I’m charged with protecting, my family, as long as y’all good, I’m good. If you’re not, that means I’ve got more work to do. But the thing I love about the film is that, even though sometimes men can fall prey to the punch-line in this film, it’s not a male-bashing film, and we get to see how many different facets there are when it comes to the male identity, how many different types of men there are, the random thoughts that go through men’s heads on a regular basis, because that’s real. We get to see all of that and have fun with it, and I think it’s a really fantastic film, so I do hope the audience gets to have fun with it, because it’s great. Taraji, she’s phenomenal in it.

AX: And what has your experience been like with LEVERAGE fans?

HODGE: I mean, it’s 2019. We stopped filming seven years ago, in 2012, and people still love that show. I’ve never been part of an experience like that, where people still hold onto it, and they are still asking for the next season, seven years later. I’m like, I’ve been on two, three, four different shows in that time. [laughs] I love it. The fandom is insane. It’s great worldwide, because we are open in markets that are seeing us for the first time, all across the globe, and for them, it’s fresh. But it is a little sad, every now and then, having to tell a fan that, sorry, you realize we’re done and we’re not coming back. [laughs] They’re like, “Well, just give us a movie.” And I wish we could give you a movie, I’m all for it. I wish we could come together, but it is a fandom I never assumed, anticipated, and it’s something I’ve never experienced before, but I’m really grateful for it. To a degree, it’s artistic legacy.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about CITY ON A HILL?

HODGE: CITY ON A HILL, this ride is a monster. I want people to come in engaged. I want them to ask questions, I want them to have conversations about what the meaning is beyond the show, what the show actually represents. But it is full-fledged. We have a fantastic cast, and I just want them to enjoy it, sit back and sink their teeth into it. It takes me back to old school cops and robbers, grit. There’s nothing pretty or fanciful about it. If you get into a fight on this show, there’s no waking up, full face in makeup, hair is done perfectly. You’re going to get a little bloody, a little dirty, a little gritty and grimy, and that’s what I love about it, because there’s a sense of reality to it that they’re really prioritizing. And as an audience member, watching any show, any project, that pulls me in. I hate being taken out of a moment just because, “Oh, they Hollywooded it up, and now it’s just too clean, too neat.” That’s not real life. I grew up in New York and Jersey, around cops like this. I know what it looks like, to a certain degree, and I want to see that, and they’re matching that authenticity. So it’s authentic as hell, and I love it.

This interview was conducted during Showtime’s portion of the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

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Article:  Exclusive Interview with CITY ON A HILL star Aldis Hodge on Season 1 of the Showtime series and also talks about LEVERAGE fans

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