[This story contains spoilers for Black Adam.]
Aldis Hodge’s bucket list has gotten much shorter in recent weeks.
For nearly half of his 33-year career, Hodge has been trying to land a superhero role, and it finally came in the form of Carter “Hawkman” Hall in Black Adam, the reigning number-one movie in the world. The Dwayne Johnson-led blockbuster also marked the return of Henry Cavill’s Superman, which Hodge discovered shortly before the film’s premiere. But that wasn’t the only surprise as Hodge’s introductory scene was reshot during additional photography, and it included a reunion of sorts.
“So when we first shot the movie, [Viola Davis] wasn’t in it at all; we all had completely different scenes. But when we did reshoots, I saw her name on the script, and I said, ‘Oh shit!’ Hodge tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I worked with Viola when I was 12 or 14 years old on a show called City of Angels, and even though we weren’t face to face, it was awesome to share the screen with her again in something of this magnitude.”
Hodge’s good fortune continued last week as he’s now slated to be the third actor to play Alex Cross, joining the select company of Morgan Freeman and Tyler Perry. Created for television by Ben Watkins, the Amazon Prime Video series, Cross, appears to be taking a page out of the streamer’s Reacher playbook, one of 2022’s most pleasant surprises, and Hodge couldn’t be more excited.
However, on the same day that Hodge said hello to Alex Cross, he also said goodbye to his City on a Hill character, DeCourcy Ward, as the Showtime series that co-starred Kevin Bacon was canceled. But Hodge won’t let that news rain on his parade.
“This is the best time in my career, ever. I’ve literally been in this business for 33 years, and I’ve been working to get to a point like this,” Hodge explains. “It doesn’t get any better than being able to gracefully say goodbye to one great show, while stepping into another amazing project, all in the same week that my movie is number one in the world. I don’t know how to make it any better than that.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Hodge also discusses the unusual pressure of fighting Johnson’s Black Adam, as well as the significance behind Carter Hall’s watch.
So let’s cut to the chase. When did you learn that Henry Cavill’s Superman would be your castmate in Black Adam?
(Laughs.) Pretty close to the premiere. They kept that all the way under wraps, and I didn’t know until maybe a day or two before the premiere. So they kept it that close.
Apparently, Dwayne Johnson had been trying to pull this off for years. During production, were you at least aware that Dwayne had hopes and dreams of landing him?
Not at all. There was no talk of bringing back Superman and any of that. They’ve got to keep those things in a super vault, so all you can do is focus on trying to make Black Adam the best it can be. So you do hear things and you get ideas, but nothing is ever confirmed or really fully said. And honestly, I dig that because it was a huge surprise for me, and I love it that we got to experience it together with the audience. The fans have been trying to get Henry Cavill back in the red and blue for a minute, and D.J. was the perfect person to bring him back. It just doesn’t get any better.
Sarah Shahi told me that she didn’t know Viola Davis was in the movie until the premiere. So when you originally shot your opening scene at Hawkman’s estate, did you always know that Viola was supposed to be on the other side of that call?
There was talk about it. Originally, there was an idea for her to jump in, but then I think there was a scheduling conflict. So when we first shot the movie, she wasn’t in it at all; we all had completely different scenes. But when we did reshoots, I saw her name on the script, and I said, “Oh shit!” (Laughs.) So I kept that secret for the better part of this year, and it was pretty awesome.
Yeah, I had to ask because the one time Carter said the name Waller, his back was to us, which often implies ADR.
Yeah, the moment I mentioned Waller is the exact time that we knew she was on board. I was so excited. I mean, I worked with Viola when I was 12 or 14 years old on a show called City of Angels, and even though we weren’t face to face, it was awesome to share the screen with her again in something of this magnitude.
So you’ve wanted to play a superhero in a superhero movie for most of your life. How did the experience measure up?
It exceeded my expectations. As an actor and performer, I have bucket list items. I definitely want to get a raw, gritty drama, a great comedy, some scary movies and do different types of TV series. But a superhero film is also in there. You want to do an action film, but a superhero film is rarefied air. You don’t always get the chance to do it. And when you do, you’re not always given the chance to play such an awesome and dynamic character. So I had all of my ambitions met artistically, creatively and professionally, with this particular job, because Hawkman is insanely cool. The way that the audience gravitated and supported Hawkman was something I wasn’t expecting. And this cast is awesome. This team is awesome. The positioning and the timing were all really great, and this was fortuitous in many ways.
What surprised you most about the making of these massive films?
Honestly, the thing that surprised me most on this particular set was everybody’s attitude. Everybody came to set humble, happy, grateful, gracious and excited. So that was the most refreshing thing because you don’t always get that on set, especially one where everybody is basically a star. Everybody vibed, and we came together to do one of the biggest things that we’ve ever touched. So that was the most pleasant surprise.
The producers said they narrowly avoided an R-rating. During filming, did you ever think you were approaching R-rated territory?
I didn’t even think about that. It was not a concern in my mind. All I wanted to do was make the coolest action sequences that we could. So that was completely out of my wheelhouse, but I’m glad we were able to slide into a PG-13, which opens us up to a much wider audience. But even if we had an R-rating, I still think we’d be number one.
So what’s your lasting memory from fighting Dwayne/Black Adam?
My lasting memory is that I never hit him. That was all I cared about. I’m actually serious. Swinging around that mace, man … I grew up a fighter, and in terms of real fighting and stunt fighting, it’s all about understanding and knowing your distance. With real fighting, you need to know your distance and your opponent’s distance exactly, so that you know when to lock in, clock them and get out. With stunt fighting, you need to know your distance so that you never touch the other person, but the mace required the full extension of my arm. So I had to deal with understanding a different length because the mace added a couple extra feet. And man, all I wanted to do was make it through the day without scratching that man’s face. Because if I scratched his face and we had to shut it down because of me? Yeah, that’s no bueno. But aside from that, the back problems are probably [another lasting memory]. (Laughs.)
Unlike Black Adam, Hawkman doesn’t believe in taking lives. So Carter is the antithesis of Teth-Adam; he’s the movie’s moral compass. What do you make of his mindset?
His mindset is locked in because of certain things that have gone on in his life. Fans laugh about that; they’re like, “Hawkman is a savage. He’s killed more people than anybody.” So he’s got a history that he is trying to clean up, and he understands the consequences. In this film, we meet him at a very different place in his life, not that we’re taking that directly from the comics. So the reasoning for not killing and restraining himself is because of personal experiences. But I do agree with both Hawkman and Black Adam, to be honest. In times of peril, you have to try to preserve life as much as possible, but if pushed past a certain point, you have to do something.
Both my parents are former Marines. We have soldiers out there fighting on the front lines. You think about them and the situations they’re put in to protect life and liberty, and sometimes, you have to make choices you would otherwise hope to never make. But it depends on the point. What is the reason? Who are you protecting? Why are you protecting them? Is there a greater good behind this? What are the reasons behind the choices? At the end of the day, I hope that nobody ever has to take a life, but if there’s a dude out there who’s threatening many innocent lives, then you have to make a decision to protect those people. So it really depends on the situation. I’m more gray between Hawkman and Black Adam.
“Hawkman’s Estate” is one of my favorite location titles in a long time, as we see his sprawling wealth at that moment.
And that also applies to the way Carter is dressed in his introduction. Since you’re a watch guy, did you appreciate his choice of timepiece?
Well, I did because it’s my timepiece.
I swear I didn’t know that ahead of time, but it definitely caught my eye.
(Laughs.) That’s good! I am a horologist. I’ve been developing a piece that’ll hopefully launch next summer. I’m trying to aim for June or July of 2023. But with that model, I had an opportunity to produce a non-working prototype to present and wear in the film. So I absolutely appreciate it because it is the culmination of my two loves coming together. Being able to present this huge, awesome movie with my watch in the same package, that’s serendipity, brother. Serendipity.
Did you and Pierce Brosnan discuss Kent and Carter’s backstory at all?
No, we didn’t discuss it at all, actually, but Pierce is amazing. Working with an actor and talent of his caliber, you know, going in, that he’s going to be prepared and that you can just work. You can get in there on the day and just create on the fly. So that’s exactly what we did. But he’s also a man of such substance, and we just got along right off the top. So a lot of that off-screen relationship poured into our on-screen relationship, but I’ve got big love and big respect for Pierce. So what was on the page is what we went with, and the writers [Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani] and our director, Jaume Collet-Serra, pretty much made it quite easy for us to just fall into it.
Well, congratulations on the exciting Alex Cross news.
Thank you. It’s something that popped up by surprise. I’m actually literally turning into Paramount right now. I’m also a producer on [Cross], and we are holding casting sessions this week. But this is something that popped up out of the blue, and it was created by Ben Watkins. He’d kept an eye on me and my career for a bit, so I’m eternally grateful to this brother for the opportunity because I’ve literally been waiting for something like this my entire career. So, in that sense, it’s a huge deal to me, and I’ve been able to see how much it means to the fans, to the people that read the books. So I was definitely aware of the Alex Cross books and James Patterson’s work, which is fantastic. I was also aware of the film work [Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider, Alex Cross]. Morgan Freeman, man! Granted, I don’t reference any of the prior films to do my work. This is wholly individual and I’m going to go at it like that. But what this opportunity presents for me both professionally and creatively, it absolutely means an immense deal.
In what ways will you distinguish your version of the character on Cross?
I hope this doesn’t come off as any kind of conceit, but what I’m going to give is going to be my version. I just want to make my contribution the best version. I have never put myself in a position to compare any of my performances or choices, because I think that distracts you from doing what your real job is. It’s almost the same thing with Hawkman. There have been different iterations of Hawkman on television, but I never watched any of those. I just read the comics because I’m a comic guy.
As an artist, you should always maintain stone-cold, immediate focus and never let anything distract you in terms of what you’re going to put out. Because regardless of what you do, it’s always going to be different. That’s the magic that we all have as artists. We are all individually different in so many ways. We just have to lean into that. So no matter how I play it, it’s going to be my version, and I just want to make it the best version that it can be.
On the same day that you said hello to Alex Cross, you said goodbye to City on a Hill. Sarah actually told me that the two of you had moments on the Black Adam set where you looked at each other and took note of how far you’d both come since those early days on City on a Hill. So how are you feeling about this moment?
This is the best time in my career, ever. I’ve literally been in this business for 33 years, and I’ve been working to get to a point like this. It doesn’t get any better than being able to gracefully say goodbye to one great show, while stepping into another amazing project, all in the same week that my movie is number one in the world. I don’t know how to make it any better than that. (Laughs.) I can’t explain it more than that. It’s the best time in my career, and I’m a shepherd of this particular moment.
So I just want to take care of it and not completely blow up my life. I want to make the right choices and just continue rising. This is very much a step towards something bigger than this, and I want to make sure that I’m walking towards it the right way. So I need to be aware of what these opportunities really present, not in the sense of, “Oh, I get to be on TV in a great role.” No, it presents an opportunity and a responsibility, and I need to make sure I’m aware of that and taking care of that.
Black Adam is now available in movie theaters. This interview was edited for length and clarity.