Aldis Hodge on Why You May Have to Film a Self-Taped Audition 300 Times

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“In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast” features in-depth conversations with today’s most noteworthy actors and creators. Join host and Awards Editor Jack Smart for this guide on how to live the creative life from those who are doing it every day. This episode is brought to you by Amazon Studios.

If you’re a performer who has ever recorded a self-taped audition over 300 times, Aldis Hodge is ready to be your craft and career mentor. That’s the level of commitment required for a career in entertainment, the actor-entrepreneur explains. 

“I find the true professionals to be more dedicated and more motivated now than they were when they started,” Hodge says, “because they realize how much hard work it takes to get there, to maintain, and then to supersede their positioning.” Those just beginning their life in the arts may not understand the “monstrous” work ethic of such professionals, he adds. “I would tell artists to always seek to improve your stamina. Go harder. Because at the end of the day it’s worth it, regardless of how tired you are.”

Hodge has clearly taken his own advice, rising through the ranks of Hollywood and making thoughtful, intentional choices on- and off-screen—including resisting the entertainment industry’s enduring Black stereotypes, which he speaks candidly about in his “In the Envelope” interview. After moving around the country with his military family as a child, then booking bit parts and studying at the Art Center College of Design, Hodge earned his big break on TNT’s “Leverage,” going on to star in “Straight Outta Compton,” the SAG Award–winning “Hidden Figures,” “Underground,” “Black Mirror,” the Gotham Award–nominated “Clemency,” “What Men Want,” Showtime’s drama “City on a Hill,” and next, the DC superhero film “Black Adam.”

He now plays athlete-actor-icon Jim Brown in Amazon Studios’ 2021 Spirit Award winner “One Night in Miami,” from Kemp Powers, adapting his play for the screen, and Regina King, making her feature directorial debut. “Thank God for Regina’s leadership,” Hodge says of the film. “Her ambition and her passion for it and her experience is really what carried us through. Imagine trying to do this film without somebody who’s that passionate, knowledgeable, and that protective!”

Too often, as Hodge makes clear, the industry’s powers that be aren’t as protective of authentic stories from minority cultures, or empowering Black talent in front of and behind the camera. Hodge’s worst audition horror story was being told, at age 12, he didn’t come across “Black enough.” As he says, “My mission is to be a part of productions that promote a healthier perception of Black people and normalizing the truth in how I see Black people.”

That mission has evolved and adapted with the times since Hodge’s work as a child actor; he’s learned how resilience and self-empowerment go hand in hand. “The moment you learn what to say ‘no’ to and the moment you get in the real driver’s seat and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices, you have to believe in yourself so much,” he says. “It takes pain to grow. Pain is the pressure that really creates the diamond inside. Because you get to learn how to deal with it and you learn how to get strong...and really believe in your path.”

Hodge also elaborates on his character-building processes (“I am a nerd, nerd, nerd, I do all that research,” he says with a laugh) and how they vary depending on each role. “I establish and assign a purpose to every character I try to play because it helps keep me on track,” he says. 

That echoes his philosophy on auditioning: Give every rejection a purpose, and know that they’re in service of the artistic mission. “You gotta have faith that you’re walking the right path and waiting for the right things to come,” concludes Hodge. “Whatever I don’t get or acquire doesn’t bother me because my path is mine.... Give all those failures and roadblocks a purpose. Give them something so that you can stay in a positive state and you can maintain some peace and some joy.”

Listen to Hodge’s advice in full, as well as Backstage casting insider Christine McKenna-Tirella’s practical tips on remote auditioning. Her casting notices of the week include an animated voiceover gig and biopic documentary series

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