Aldis Hodge talks to Jalen Rose about playing superheroes

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If actor Aldis Hodge ever wins an Oscar, I hope he includes Batman in his acceptance speech. Hodge, who has starred in “One Night in Miami …,” “Hidden Figures” and currently Showtime’s gritty series “City on a Hill,” first fell into acting by chance. But he fell in love with it because, well: Batman toys.

“My brother, Edwin Hodge, who’s a little older than me, when he was 3 years old, he was looking in the TV … He wanted to be in the box. So the box was the television and [my mom] kind of figured it out,” he told me. His brother started working and during one photoshoot, they needed an extra kid. Young Aldis, who was there with his mother, was cast.

As a reward for doing a good job and being on his best behavior, his mother let him pick out a Dark Knight trinket.

“I was, you know, 3 years old, just trying to follow my brother, doing what he thought was cool because I thought it was cool,” Aldis, 35, said. “And I was just trying to get Batman toys, and I actually built up a nice little stock.”

And now he’ll be stepping into two proverbial superhero suits. This year he voiced John Stewart in “Green Lantern” and is playing Hawkman in the blockbuster, “Black Adam,” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which premieres in October.

“My love of superheroes is what made me pursue the industry,” he said. “And now I’m donning the superhero cape in two different ways, you know? And I just feel like it’s crazy how full circle things come around.”

When he landed the coveted part in “Black Adam,” he didn’t get the news from his agent or manager, which is normally the case. Rather The Rock called him directly to deliver the good word — turning the comic book fan into “a kid in a candy store.” Aldis called the wrestler-turned-actor a “teacher,” saying he picked The Rock’s brain on anything and everything he could while on set.

Another great teacher in his life is his mother. Both his parents were in the Marine Corps, which meant he moved around quite a bit. Aldis was born in North Carolina, moved to Hawaii and spent the bulk of his years in New Jersey. He credits his mother with being a stabilizing force and advocate.

“[The] industry was the privilege, never the priority. Education was always the priority. She was like … ‘You can have all the money in the world, but you don’t know how to read the contracts,’” he said.

That outlook also made him much more discerning in his choice of roles. He said he was even homeless at times, but he didn’t just take paydays. He wanted work that enriched his craft, range and self-worth.

“Just be you and do what naturally speaks to you. But also as an artist, if you try to sit here [and] be rich and famous, go do something else. Don’t waste your time,” he said. “If you’re trying to contribute something to the craft, there’s where you’re going to find your dedication because you will starve. You will have times you can’t pay your bills. You will sacrifice.”

He spoke about being told by people in the industry that he was too dark or too articulate, therefore “not black enough.”

“I’m like, first of all, black is articulate. It is intellect, it is academia. It is elegance. It is all of these things,” he said. “People have a set perspective because they are culturally negligent, and those are the things that you challenge in your workforce. So in challenging yourself, you have to maintain your moral compass.”

He’s always managed to follow his moral compass. Aldis has been outspoken on the importance of voting, especially in local elections. And he hasn’t shied away from taboo topics like abortion rights, reiterating that his occupation in the entertainment world shouldn’t preclude him from having a voice.

“Regardless of what I do or how it came down, I’m still a tax-paying citizen. I still am entitled to my civil rights, and I still got to fight to keep those civil rights,” he said. “So I’m gonna speak up.”

He’s doing it his way indeed — with his brother Edwin, 37, by his side. The Hodge sibling collective will soon be taking on an American adaptation of a Chinese movie called “Parallel.” The pair will also star alongside “Till” actress Danielle Deadwyler.

Speaking of Edwin, I wanted to know who is Aldis’ favorite brother act in Hollywood. His answer: the incomparable Wayans siblings. His dream co-stars would be Don Cheadle or Gary Oldman.

Aldis doesn’t just have a robust IMDb page. He also has quite a watch collection and even designs them himself. When it comes to choosing a timepiece, he has a philosophy that mirrors his approach to taking on acting roles.

“Don’t buy for investment, buy for love. Buy because the piece speaks to you. I buy for keeps always,” he said adding, “Simply that you’re buying a mechanical piece of art, something that has legacy potential to pass down to, you know, your kids or whatever, but buy because you actually love the art.”

Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.

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