Q&A with Aldis Hodge

The 'Underground' star on his two latest roles and how he stays fit

In 2016, Aldis Hodge demonstrated his versatility and skill as an actor in two heartfelt roles: Noah, a slave who escapes from a Georgia plantation on the WGN America series Underground, and Levi Jackson, the husband of mathematician and former NASA aerospace engineer Mary Jackson in the film Hidden Figures. Both characters challenge paradigms and open the dialogue for social changes that transcend theTV and film screens. But when he's not on set playing these inspiring characters, Hodge hits the gym floor. We chatted with him about his characters, upcoming projects, and of course his workout regimen.

What attracted you to Underground as a project?

It was a fantastically written perspective of the American experience through the eyes of the enslaved. It really dignified who these people were as they persevered through such a horrific time in this country's existence. We see that they were not 'slaves,' they were enslaved, which gives accountability to the thought that someone and some system did this to these people. But regardless they had the strength to hold onto their dignity, their love, their hope, their faith, and their self-worth. And as an actor it really gave me an opportunity to create and engage in effective art.

What was the most physically challenging scene?

There are quite a few. But I can tell you anytime you see us running through the woods, you're looking at about three to six hours of running through swamp and our bodies are screaming at us. Our fight scenes are pretty tough, too, because we are battling the elements as much as our waning physical capabilities throughout the day. One scene in particular that was truly challenging was during season one when I was hanging from the roof. I was harnessed up there, but I had to hold my body straight the entire time and I was working directly from my core. Talk about being tired.

What do you hope viewers will take away from the show?

Excitement, entertainment, and a healthy appreciation for one another as human beings.

Let’s talk about Hidden Figures. How was the experience of portraying Levi Jackson?

Having the privilege of playing Mr. Jackson was absolutely fantastic. It was truly an honor to have been included in telling such an important and necessary story.

What is your workout routine during filming?

When it comes to Underground I try to get in the gym as often as possible. During my free time, I usually go for an hour and a half to three hours. I like to focus on one or two main muscle groups (chest/biceps or full back or full legs) and then cool down with a core set.

What is your diet like?

While filming, I try to be as healthy as possible. I can't afford to eat sloppily because I need all of the energy I can get for those long days. I'm a big seafood guy and I really enjoy cooking at home. I prefer my fruits and veggies in a shake. When I'm not filming, well, that's another story.

Do you ever have a cheat day or meal?

I don't really have a need for cheat days when I'm focused on a particular regimen. Once my taste buds get acclimated to a specific routine, that becomes what I crave. But it goes hand-in-hand with working out because my body craves it, too. I think it’s because I know when I'm working out and I'm eating for results, I don't want to waste the three hours in the gym on doughnut binging, even though I know it's alright to have your cheat days.