On the TNT series Leverage, about a crew of high-tech crooks who steal from wealthy criminals and corrupt businessmen, in order to level the playing field for people whose lives have been destroyed by the rich and powerful, actor Aldis Hodge plays Hardison, the team’s miracle worker when it comes to hacking. With the relationship between Parker (Beth Riesgraf) and Hardison heating up, and a secret shared between Hardison and Nate (Timothy Hutton) that the rest of the team isn’t privy to, it will continue to be a season of new adventures and uncharted territory.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Aldis Hodge talked about the changes in Season 5, finally getting the pay-off for the Hardison-Parker relationship, how the secret shared between Hardison and Nate won’t be revealed until the end of the season, his favorite episode, getting to play so many different characters within his character, how he would still like to explore more about Hardison’s background and family, and who’s the goofiest and who’s the most serious on set. He also talked about his role in the upcoming film The East, from writer/director Zal Batmanglij and writer/actress Brit Marling, and his desire to establish a career behind the scenes as well. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ALDIS HODGE: Oh, yeah! It helps us tremendously because we don’t have to spend so much time hiding things. It’s a beautiful city. It’s a really great city, visually and aesthetically. It’s a really relaxing and calming city. There’s a lot to it that we can take advantage of, so the fact that we can now is amazing.
Do you think it’s always important to have those sorts of shake-ups, to keep things fresh for both you and the viewers?
HODGE: Yeah, definitely! I love my job, simply because we can keep things fresh, all the time. That’s a luxury not all shows have. For us, as actors, it keeps us interested in our jobs and it keeps us coming back to work, every day. A new setting is amazing ‘cause it’s new for the team and it’s new for our characters. It’s a breakaway from the normal deal. You get so tired, locked into a show for so many years. You get used to doing the same thing. A little shake-up and change is good.
What’s it like to finally have the pay-off for the Hardison-Parker relationship?
HODGE: The relationship now is funny. It’s good, but I think the pay-off is more for our audience because they’ve been waiting for so long. Every time I step out onto the street, somebody would ask me, “So, what’s happening with y’all?” I’m glad we could finally answer that for the audience ‘cause they’ve been waiting and I think they deserve that step. But, it’s fun because it adds a new element to Hardison and Parker (Beth Riesgraf), as far as them being teammates, and then also as lovers. They have to associate with each other a little bit differently. We don’t have to hide anymore. Now we can just be comfortable with it.
HODGE: We’ve been trying to figure that out. I don’t know if they’ve kept any of them in. Beth [Riesgraf] called me one day while she was on set shooting. Unfortunately, I missed the call, but she was like, “Hey, what do we call each other on set? I’m trying to figure it out.” But, I think she’ll surprise us with what she came up with.
Aside from the Hardison-Parker relationship, what other changes are going on with the team?
HODGE: Hardison and Nate (Timothy Hutton) have always had their own very specific relationship, but now they have something new going on. There’s a particular partnership going on that the rest of the team isn’t privy to. So, if anything, theirs is the most drastically changed because they have a little side gig going. It gets fleshed out. By the end of the season, you’ll figure it out. It’s weird because now they have to be secretive with everyone else. That’s not something that’s normal for them, but it works itself out.
Did you guys know ahead of time what that shared secret was, or did you have to wait until you got the last script to find out?
HODGE: We had to read the last script to find out. They wouldn’t tell us. I think they didn’t tell us because we have big mouths. But, they also didn’t want to affect how it played out. They didn’t want us to let on to anything different or new, so they kept it really, really under wraps. They did a dang gone good job of it too because I remember calling John [Rogers], the first day that I read it, and I was like, “So, what is the deal?” And he gave me the gist of it, but he didn’t give me the full monty. When I actually found out what the deal was, in that last episode, I said, “Oh, wow! I get it now. It makes sense!”
Do you have a favorite episode or storyline from this season?
HODGE: It would probably have to be “The Rundown Job,” which we shot as Episode 12 and will probably air as Episode 12. It’s just Hardison, Parker and Eliot (Christian Kane), doing their own thing for an episode. They battle global warfare, to a degree, because they’re dealing with something new that they have to combat. It’s a very new setting for them. We get to see a little bit, out of those three, that we haven’t seen before, so for me, that was the best. We had fun doing it.
Does playing so many different characters within your character, because of the nature of what they do, make it more difficult to figure out who Hardison is, or has he always come easily for you?
HODGE: I feel like Hardison has always been pretty easy for me. As far as playing different characters within the character, I think that’s fun. Very rarely, on TV, do you get to do that on such a regular basis. That is an element that you add to the original character to make it fun. That’s what we’ve done, through the years. It doesn’t confuse anything because I understand the nature of the character that I’ve created.
Are there aspects of Hardison that you still want to explore?
HODGE: I still want to explore plenty about him. I want to know more about his family and his background. I want to see who he is, as an individual, when he’s apart from the team. I want to know what his aspirations are when he’s not trying to help other people, but when he’s trying to help himself. I want to know about his fears. The best part about wanting that and not having gotten that answer is that we have plenty more seasons worth of questions to be answered, and plenty more good material that we can address. I want to know a little bit more about him, as an individual. This year, he’s in the role of boyfriend, and I want to flesh that out even more. This year is just the tip of the iceberg for it. Next year, we can go even deeper.
Since you guys are something of a family, after a few seasons now, who’s the goofiest on set and who’s the most serious?
HODGE: Christian [Kane] is the most serious. Beth [Riesgraf] is probably the goofiest. She’s always laughing. If you ever look at the outtakes, she is the one who’s laughing the most. If you collected all of the outtakes from all of the seasons, she’d beat everybody out. She kicks our butts. The rest of us fall in between.
HODGE: I don’t believe in breaks. Not yet. I’m too young. I’ll find the next job to keep me busy between seasons. There have been a few offers on the table, and I’ve gotta figure out how I’m gonna play it. But, I’m always ready and willing to just keep pushing and working and going because it’s in my spirit right now. I’m ready to just put in the time. I’m good, right now, on that. I’m happy with the workload, and I want more.
What was it that attracted you to The East, with writer/director Zal Batmanglij and writer/actress Brit Marling?
HODGE: Initially, it was the character. The role itself was very off what I usually do. Granted, the role changed a bit, in the middle of shooting, as most roles do, but it was still the story behind it and the grittiness of it. I love Hardison to death, but the audience gets used to you playing one role for so long, and they think that’s all you can do. So, for me to do The East was a good chance to step outside and show people, “Hey, I’m still the actor who was there before you even knew me, doing different, crazy roles.” And then, it also makes it better when I come back to Hardison because people realize, “Okay, he understands transition. He knows how to do his job well and he knows how to keep honoring his character.” Hardison will never change. Hardison is just going to keep getting better and better. But, I want people to see me in different kinds of roles, so they know that I’m still here, putting in my work. I’m ready.
Is it inspiring to you to see young filmmakers like that, who are getting movies done themselves? Are you looking to take that step yourself?
HODGE: Oh, yeah! I’ve been a writer since I was 13. I’ve been writing scripts and having pitch meetings. So, when I do see people like Brit Marling getting things done, it lets me know that it’s possible. It basically just tells me, “Dude, get to work!” For some reason, I think that I’m not doing enough work. People are like, “You’re on a series right now,” but I’m always like, “Yeah, but I can do more!” In my downtime, when I’m in my trailer, I sit there and try to write. As far as my contribution to this industry, I want to be like Dean Devlin, John Rogers and Chris Downey. I want to give people jobs and put them on great shows. I want to create careers for people. That’s where I want to end up, and I want to start now. I want to take the advantages I have now and utilize them because I don’t want such a long road to it, but I do want a long career.
Leverage airs on TNT on Sunday nights.