Aldis Hodge Has Long Been Waiting for His Superhero Moment

Aldis Hodge tells me that I might be his good luck charm. We’ve spoken often over the years, and developed what he refers to as a “milestone-sorta relationship,” each conversation coinciding with the latest biggest moment of his career, whether it be as he prepared to co-headline a prestige Showtime drama alongside Kevin Bacon, or as he led his own film for the first time. And no offense to City on a Hill or Brian Banks, but our latest meeting is on the eve of what is definitively the biggest game changer yet for Hodge: facing off with Dwayne Johnson in DC’s superhero blockbuster Black Adam.

“It’s rare air,” says the 36-year-old actor, who has been in the business since childhood, making his film debut opposite Samuel L. Jackson (and Hodge’s older brother Edwin) in 1995’s Die Hard With a Vengeance. He’s since appeared in beloved TV series (Friday Night Lights, Black Mirror), Oscar-nominated films (Hidden Figures, One Night in Miami), and surprise hits (Straight Outta Compton, The Invisible Man). But now, a couple years removed from sharing with me that he was finally ready to acknowledge and embrace his success, how he’s viewing his past—and possible future—accomplishments has shifted.

“It’s a weird space, because I think of life differently now; I’m a father, and I get to share this with my family,” says Hodge, who was so downright giddy ahead of Brian Banks’s 2019 limited release that he couldn’t stay seated when we met in person, standing up and moving around as he declared, “I’m trying to reserve myself, but…fuck it, I’m having a drink tonight!” Let’s be clear, Hodge’s anticipation for Black Adam’s release and what it could mean for him is still palpable, as his gleeful smile and body language radiates through the Zoom screen on a late-September afternoon, days before he sets out on the film’s global press tour, the likes of which he’s never been a part of before. And yet, despite the brighter lights and this go-around, the keyword is “growth, growth, growth.”

“I’ve always aspired to have options and choices, and I want to get into different spaces and touch different audiences,” he explains. “But this is something I’ve been waiting for my whole career. I’ve now been in the game for 33 years, and it has finally come to this point. I mean, I’m doing a superhero movie with the biggest superstar in the world! And it’s not a vanity thing, and it’s not about being caught up in the visage of, ‘Oh, you know, it’s the biggest…’ It’s like, you know, DJ is who he is for a reason, and you get to sit back and learn how this brother handles things and how things move. To me, that is priceless education for the path I’ve been walking down. But where my excitement lies the most is for my team, my family, my reps, my friends. I get to go to the premiere and share that with them, and I’ve had to tell people, ‘Yo, calm down, we good.’ But, then again, it’s like, ‘Nah, get excited,’ because—excuse my language—this is some awesome shit.”

Aldis Hodge as Hawkman in Black Adam.By Frank Masi.

If there’s one thing that Hodge believes in more than anything, it’s that “manifestation is real as hell.” Although he admits that he’s often not aware of it, those closest to him will point out that everything he’s said that he’s wanted has, eventually, come his way. “When people ask, ‘What do you want for your birthday,’ I’ve always said, ‘All I want is to work,’” he shares. “I’ve said that since I was a kid. I don’t care, I just want to work. And, for some reason, it’s happened. I mean, I just turned 36 [on September 20], and I got another really fantastic job that’s going to be announced later. September is my month, man!”

The trend of Hodge’s birthday wish coming true started when he got a call on his 21st birthday that he’d been hired to star as sarcastic hacker Alec Hardison on TNT’s crime drama Leverage, which ran for five seasons before being revived last year on IMDb TV as Leverage: Redemption, with Hodge returning in a recurring capacity. Fast-forward more than a decade to 2020, and his birthday season was approaching, and so was the opportunity to audition to play Black Adam’s Hawkman, the leader of the Justice Society of America and a celebrated comic character with a legendary history who had yet to be portrayed on the big screen (versions of Hawkman, played by white men, have appeared on Smallville and Legends of Tomorrow).

“[It was] probably the most nerve-racking audition in my entire career, because I knew the magnitude of the project,” Hodge admits. “In my head, I said, This is mine to lose, so if I don’t get this, it’s on me. I’m not sure if that’s the right pressure, but in a room, I compete with myself—that’s it. And I keep competing with myself to make myself better. When I put this thing on tape, I kept redoing it, and I had lost count because I was so engrossed in the process. I ended up re-taping 300 times before finally submitting—I was just so ready to get it right.”

Despite that relentless effort and commitment, Hodge went weeks without hearing anything about the project, which led him to assume that he’d been passed over. And then came what he thought was set to be a rocky conversation. “The day after my birthday, I’m sitting in quarantine, in a hotel, and I get a call from DJ,” he says, affectionately referring to Black Adam himself, Dwayne Johnson. “At first I didn’t believe it was him; I almost hung up the phone. When I realized it actually was him, I thought he was calling to tell me that I didn’t get the job, and, of course, why would he waste his time for that, brother got a million things to do. But, when he said, ‘Welcome to Black Adam,’ oh, man, my head exploded. It’s one of the first times where I was truly shocked in my life, because I had been trying to work myself into a superhero world for, like, 15 years at this point. My mom cried when I told her. It was one of the most profound and greatest moments of my career.”

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