Aldis Hodge stars as “Noah” in the upcoming WGN show Underground
“Underground” a new show whose storyline takes place during the antebellum south is set to premiere on WGN March 9. It stars Aldis Hodge (Leverage, Straight Outta Compton) and Jurnee Smollet-Bell (Friday Night Lights, The Great Debaters) as a field slave and a house slave respectively, who plan and execute a daring escape from the plantation where they’re being held captive. Underground is is being produced byJohn Legend’s production company Get Lifted and also stars Jussie Smolett (Empire) and Christopher Meloni (Law and Order SVU) . The actors as well as the show’s writers Misha Green (Spartacus, Sons of Anarchy, Heroes) and Joe Pokaski (Daredevil, Heroes, CSI) were on hand during New York Comic Con last year and were all very vocal in pointing out that the show is not “another slave narrative”, but instead should be seen as an adventure about a daring escape. I was lucky enough to interview Hodge to get his take on things and ask him some questions about what made him decide to play a slave on network television.
The Blerdgurl Interview with Aldis Hodge
TBG: Aldis, when you first got the script and your agent said “Hey, you have a lead in this show. It’s awesome, it’s brand new, it’s on WGN…you’re a slave.” What was your reaction?
AH: When my agents first told me about it…obviously I wasn’t very interested because I thought that we had seen this narrative before. When I read the script, that changed everything because I realized they told an honest story we’ve actually never seen before. They were talking about people’s strength, they told the strength of these people as opposed to the weaknesses, the victimization of it. We got to see heroes, we got to be proud of these people, we got to see how smart and intelligent they were, and we got to see where the foundation of that came from. Not just for Black culture but for Black American culture and for American culture, for just what we are today.
TBG: Okay but is it realistic?
AH: We didn’t want it to be glamorized and Misha and Joe, they didn’t want it to be glamorized either and it shouldn’t be, because it’s got to be honest. I can’t stand it when you see shows and you know I’ve been running for my life and I’ve been in this fight and that fight and they cut to me an I’m all beautiful. Nah, we got dirty on this one.
TBG: This is not going to be on BET though, how will this work as a mainstream show?
AH: This is a story that resounds with everybody and speaks to a lot of people. You know I don’t put myself in a box, I like to speak to everybody. And this is a show that does that even though we’re talking about black culture, you realize these are Americans, regardless of what they look like or what their color is, they’re Americans. And you also get that beautiful perspective from the white abolitionists who didn’t agree with slavery back in the day. And it’s very important to see that, because again that validates the fact that this is about Americans. I loved how strong we are, and I loved how brilliantly the script is written because it’s an adventure, a constant adventure, the pace is constantly up. You know this is not something you watch and you feel like okay all heavy and it’s slow, no this is an adventure, we go through all out war, you know what I mean? Either the woods and the elements are going to kill us or the slave catchers are going to kill us. We had no choice either way, it’s not easy, we’re making sacrifices every five seconds. So because of that, because of how much insight you get from the show, how brilliant the execution is in a literary sense, it’s something I’ve never seen before you know, but it’s something that I understand is very great, and I’m happy to be a part of it.
TBG: So for any black folks out there that are going to say “Really? A slave show?”, what would be the one thing that you would say to them?
AH: Lose all your assumptions because initially I assumed the same things. Once I read what it was, once I saw that it was something completely different, it’s something we’ve never seen. This story has never been told in this way. We get to be proud of us, we get to be proud of what happened. We get to be proud of what we went through, because these are the people that made the change to get us to where we are today. So if you enjoy your freedom today, if you enjoy whatever luxuries and privileges you enjoy, understand it comes from somewhere. And this is something where you go back and realize a little bit about where it all came from, but you’re not going to be angry, you’re not going to be upset, there’re going to be times you cry, but you’re not going to submit.
TBG: So it’s not going to make me want to go out and hurt people.
AH: [Laughs] No, no, no, this is something where you’re going to feel hope. It gives you that and that’s what’s the best thing about this show.
Ok so full disclosure, I’ve had a crush on Aldis Hodge since he played Hardison on Leverage (I’ve seen every episode), I’m also a fan of Misha Green who is one of only a handful of black female writers in Hollywood right now. Because of them, I’m going to give this show a chance. I’ll be live tweeting during the premiere on March 9 @theblerdgurl so please join me for the show!
Trailer for WGN Underground
(Check your local listings for show times)
• What do you guys think? Are you going to give the show a chance?