Aldis Hodge stars in The Invisible Man as a single father who is tasked with protecting his daughter and close friend from an unseen horror.
Hodge plays ‘James‘ childhood friend of lead character ‘Cecilia‘ (Elizabeth Moss) whose quiet life as a detective and father to Storm Reid’s ‘Sydney‘ is disrupted when he gets caught up in Cecilia’s nightmare of domestic abuse and terror.
Hodge is probably more recognisable to us in the UK as ‘MC Ren‘ in Straight Outta Compton (2015) and as ‘Noah‘ in the criminally cut short Underground (2016-17) series. Flexing his acting chops in a new genre for him, we discussed why he felt it important to play a single father, what motivates him to pick his roles, and he tells us a bit about his side hustle as a Horologist!
How are you doing during this surreal time that we’re experiencing?
I’ve managed I think quite well actually. The first couple weeks were a little tough trying to figure out how to switch up my rhythm. Going from working every day … and I think it just plays on the mind a little bit because you’re so used to being active. When we’re moving on the go and have all these other things to focus on I think a little bit of our own personal value is tied into those things. You now have to sit down and deal with yourself, you have to revaluate and that is the work you go through that might be a bit taxing. But once you figure that out, and realise it’s not an individual experience. For me this time is preparation for when things get back to moving, I’ll be involved in a completely different way.
Agreed. I actually had to ask myself, who am I? And who I wanted to be… Have you reconciled that?
Actually, before quarantine hit, I wanted a vacation, not necessarily in this particular form, but I’m grateful to take what I can get. For me, I’ve taken a moment to prioritise what’s more valuable to me. I’ve had a lot more time to spend with my family. Also, I’ve had that internal conversation about what are the things that may be holding me back, the habits that need to be corrected, and now that I have the time to pause and sit. I can actually address them without distraction.
You star in ‘The Invisible Man‘, is it an Action film, or Thriller, or Horror?
That’s the thing that I think is cool about it, it has elements of all of them. Due to all the technical advancements at our behest how they were able to execute this and tell a story and how they decided to show this story is what put us in a different horror definition.
What was your first reaction to the script?
I was curious about how they were going to execute it, as far as us believing in the nature of the horror this woman is in; the mental imprisonment this man had her in. It’s a very sensitive subject to approach especially in this kind of genre. For me, I thought okay cool we’ve just got to do our job. Then you put someone like Elizabeth who plays lead character ‘Cecilia‘ in this so has the weight of carrying the suspense and the tone, I think she did a brilliant job with that. I was just excited. I’d never done this genre and if this is the way to step into this genre, then this was the right way to do it.
Black people have our own gauge of superiority when it comes to Black actors and who we rate. But as a Black actor stepping into the mainstream space where who, the industry holds dear is a little different and a lot less Black, was there any pressure working alongside Elizabeth Moss someone who is an industry favourite?
As I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years, my advice to any young actor is, if you are occupying the same space as accomplished, talented, skilled people you are obviously of the same calibre so live up to your own potential. I’m there because I earned my spot. I’m there because I’m talented, I’m there by design it wasn’t a mistake.
So I can’t think about what someone else has done, I’m excited that they have this calibre of actor to pair with me because I know that we’ll do a fantastic job together. So whenever I get around that environment, I really learn to take in the moment because we’re all just creative people trying to create something great. Everyone wants to get the best out of this project. We’re all on the same page. Because you could very well have someone in there who has done a few things and may think they’re too special and they do a terrible job.
I’ve been in situations as a young actor working alongside a more senior actor and people oftentimes tried to make me feel as though I was so lucky to be there, or I was so privileged to be in this person’s presence, or I wasn’t as good as this person, but I had to say ‘yo, you’re acting like I got a handout and that isn’t the case‘.
What was it like playing father to Storm Reid’s character ‘Sydney‘ and working with her?
She is a fantastic young woman. Her mother did a great job. She’s educated, she’s cultured. She reminded me a lot of my little sister. So in terms of playing a father, that wasn’t foreign to me. The children of my friends, my godchildren, nieces, nephews you know, it’s a seat I fell into naturally. But the fact that she’s a teenager, she’s 16, she’s, in fact, the oldest child I’ve had on screen.
First I’m a single father. I had to think about how to portray a good single father and I just pulled from all my experience of my sister. Because I remember those talks when she was 14, 15, 16 when she was coming into her own and trying to figure how to make the best moves in life. And as a man around a young woman, you have to be very conscious about setting the example because that’s the example she’s going to go pull from when she deals with men going forward. Your relationship will establish her relationship in the future with other men. So you gotta be very careful about what you do, how you do it.
I wanted to make sure that the relationship on screen was for anybody out there who does have or is about to have a daughter, I wanted to make sure that they had a great bond, a great friendship; great chemistry, a great father/daughter connection. That was important to me if he is going to be a single father, which was one of the draws for me for this film. The fact that he got to be such a positive person. He was a point of protection and safety for Cecilia. That was one of the things I love the most about the film and I wanted to make sure that resonated.
I can imagine the finger-clicking in response to your perspective on the importance a father plays in the role of a young girl’s life. Which first lets me know your mama raised you right but also reflecting on the characters you’ve played across Straight Outta Compton, Underground, Hidden Figures, Clemency… I wondered if your morals dictate the roles you choose?
Absolutely. for me a role has to have substance and quality. There is no barometer for the exact part or archetype of the role. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lawyer or a doctor. It could even be somebody who’s living a criminal lifestyle. But my thing is, even though I have to step outside my own personal moral compass for how I would like to play these roles, that’s my job artist, but I must always keep in mind the representation of Black Culture whenever I’m doing these roles.
Say I am playing someone who may be addicted to drugs, then let’s play a human being who’s real and faceted and has layers and has a real story; a journey. But if the role is just your perception of how you think Black people are displayed and that’s how you wanna represent Black people for the sake of your ignorance of the culture. I can’t do that. I can’t be a part of something that’s going to be derogative towards the image of my culture for the sake of negligence. So again, it doesn’t matter what the role is technically it’s about the intent of the role and the value of the character I’m playing.
Sidenote, you’re a watch designer, you play classical instruments your whole family’s talented and educated and brilliant… I’m surprised you find the time to do all of this around your acting …
As you and I are talking I’m designing a watch. I’m a watch designer, a Horologist I do have a company. I’ve been in research and development for years, I’ve just secured a manufacturing partner and I hope to see a prototype very soon. I haven’t picked up my violin for years and I just purchased a couple of silent violins so I can play without disturbing anybody. I say play, play’s a strong word. Practice! I love art. I love creation, and acting is just one side of that. I don’t see myself as an actor. I’m a businessman, many different variables of art and artistic expression are my business. I kind of swim in that World 24/7. Even when I’m not on set. Education was the pinnacle of my family. Education is what got us out of poverty and allowed us to survive. So for us, it is always the saying about being book smart but also having a street sense as well.
Did I get my facts right that you like Vampire books?
No, I’m a Vampire lover, and I’m an avid book reader. for me Vampires, I was always enamoured by the idea of Vampires who and what they were. I love Vampires and Werewolves together. In terms of books do you remember the books Goosebumps? My brother and I used to read those books all the time.
What’s next for you?
I have City On a Hill the second season, we’ll commence with filming after quarantine. Also coming out will be One Night in Miami, the film that was directed by Regina King.
*One Night in Miami the film has been adapted from the 2013 debut play from African-America playwright Kemp Brown. The story tells the tale of the aftermath of Cassius Clay’s defeat of Sonny Liston in 1964, the boxer meets with Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown to change the course of history in the segregated South. This film adaptation will also star British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir who’ll play Malcolm X, and Tony award-winning star of Hamilton the Musical, Leslie Odoom Jr who’ll play Same Cooke.
One Night in Miami had a run in the UK in 2016. Directed by Kwame Kwei Armah at the Donmar Theatre it starred Arinze Kene as Sam Cooke, Sope Dirisu as Malcolm X and David Ajala as Jim Brown.
The Invisible Man is available on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™ and DVD in the UK from 29 June.