“When it came to representing this particular culture and this particular timeframe for American history, I wanted to show all that we haven’t seen,” says “Underground” star Aldis Hodge as we chat via webcam (watch above) about his hit WGN America series. The actor plays Noah, the leader of a group of runaway slaves who try to escape via the Underground Railroad. “I saw how smart this character was. He’s just so cunning and beguiling when it comes to how he needs to play all of these people around him like chess pieces.”
When we first meet Noah, he’s been brought back to the plantation after an unsuccessful escape attempt. “That’s why he said, ‘I need to go recruit some people,” explains Hodge, “because they have all these different skills that I need.’” This team includes the cunning and crafty Cado (Alano Miller), the shy yet courageous Rosalie (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and the fiery preacher Moses (Mykelti Williamson).
“At first, they depend on him,” he explains, “but I think along the way, at least for me personally, I feel like he depended on them. Just growing as a man, he grew in mercy, he grew in understanding, he grew in compassion for dealing with all of these people and having them obligated to him and his path. I loved the complexity in him trying to figure out what choice to make, and trying to decide whether or not it is the right choice, because there’s no easy choice.”
For Hodge, “Underground” gives viewers the opportunity to heal and discuss. “I know this particular portion of American history is probably one of the most unresolved,” he says, “probably the most uncomfortable subject to talk about.” He continues, “People are afraid to challenge this because they feel like they’re going to engage personal guilt or shame, but really, I feel like it’s necessary to challenge this particular subject matter because it hasn’t gone away yet. If you’re talking about looking at the future of America, when America as it stands today is still so separated we have a real big problem and need to handle it.”
Hodge received a SAG nomination as part of the ensemble from “Straight Outta Compton.” Will an Emmy for “Underground” be next?