Aldis Hodge is reuniting with his “Hidden Figures” co-star Taraji P Henson, in the comedy “What Men Want.”
The film which is loosely based on the 2000 Mel Gibson film What Women Want follows sports agent Ali Davis who gets the power to read mens’ minds. Hodge chatted with The Knockturnal about reuniting with Taraji on-screen as well as the film’s message.
The Knockturnal: What was it like working on another film with Taraji P. Henson?
Aldis Hodge: It was great, it was fantastic. We were able to work with one another in a new capacity this time. It was more one on one, plus it was also a comedy so we got to have fun throughout the whole film. It’s not something that’s new to us but it’s new to our audience because they haven’t seen us in this way before. So for us we were excited about so many things, but it’s good just teaming back up because you already have rapport, you already have a healthy respect for one another. We kind of worked off of that naturally to bring it to our characters.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about the chemistry the two of you built that made the romance/relationship so realistic with its ups and downs?
Aldis Hodge: The chemistry is just built off of respect of each other’s craft – artist to artist. We’re both very much talented professionals at our game, so we want to bring out the highest level of confidence to these characters and we work off one another for that. We also had a great leader in our director Adam Shankman who really just kept the energy high, kept the tone right where it needed to be. But between Taraji and I personally, it was like I know what you’re capable of, you know what I’m capable of. We just wanted every take to push each other further and further and further to get the best out of it. But Taraji she already gave me her blessing before I even got to set. The director Adam told her about a couple of different choices and she heard my name and she said absolutely Aldis, give him a shot he’s good. That respect started before we even got to set.
The Knockturnal: As an actor, to what extent is it an advantage and a disadvantage to play opposite someone you’ve worked with?
Aldis Hodge: So I can’t really say there are disadvantages because if you’ve worked with somebody in the past just in general you are able to continue working with people and you’re gonna continue to grow. As long as there’s a healthy respect established there, which we did initially have, it just enhances the ease with which you execute your job and it also allows you to be more free creatively when it comes to building out these people and their backstories and their relationships and where they’re trying to go. I think that if you have a prior existing working relationship, that next job, that job after that just keeps getting better, and better and better. I feel like that’s what we had here.
The Knockturnal: You’ve had some favorable roles in your filmography. Can you share how you decide on a role? How did your role in What Men Want, speak to you?
Aldis Hodge: My process … I focus on effective art, what am I doing that has a real point to it and some percentage of a chance to affect change progressively positively. With this film, I love the fact that the character I play Will is a single father who is doing right by his child. He’s a good family man, he’s a good person in general and we have to see more of that represented on screen. I love the fact Ali Davis (Taraji’s character) is a very strong woman, she’s not gonna let anything get her down and she knows her worth. I think throughout this film, there are so many subliminal messages that we can teach our female audience and our male audience. For me as a man the best thing is to show this younger generation even some of the older generation, you can be in the presence of or work with a woman who assumes a position of power without having to feel emasculated, without choosing to feel emasculated. You can support a woman in a position of power all the way up to the top and that’s still not a knock to your pride or ego. That’s what I love about it from the male perspective. But I think it’s necessary to show that. I think we can and should support women to the top without trying to tear down anyone’s accomplishments just because we choose to feel inferior or something like that. That is just ridiculous. Ali represents her strengths, she’s like look I’m gonna be unapologetic, I’m gonna do what I gotta do and she’s fighting for hers. And I think that’s just a natural representation for a lot of younger women out here who are still dealing with that same thing with that glass ceiling. So for me when I choose a role whether it’s dramatic, comedic or whatever, I look for the potential to inspire or affect cultural change in the best most progressive way and I think this film does that in a really fun package. It’s hilarious, but you get a message and I love that.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about your reaction to What Women Want, the original 2000 film with Mel Gibson?
Aldis Hodge: I was young (a teenager or something like that) when I saw it. I thought it was pretty cool. I was a fan of it back then. As a young child, it was nothing that I really applied to my life because I was young. I just thought it was a fun film, I thought it was funny and I was a fan of it. But when this one came along I did not re-watch that one because when I read the script for What Men Want I thought it was a strong stand-alone film. It didn’t feel like a sequel or remake it stood on its own, and when I watched it, I said it definitely does stand on its own. I didn’t go back and watch because I wanted this film to have its own gravitas without the influence of what took place in the past. I wanted to give it its own real shot.
The Knockturnal: What do you feel is the biggest misperception, women have about men?
Aldis Hodge: I think it’s the perception that we all think the same thing and want the same thing. That’s what I love about this film. I know it was paramount to our director Adam that this was not a male-bashing film, it wanted to show men from all sides and spectrums. And I think it executes that brilliantly. You get to see brothas think a lot of random things … just out here just thinking crazy stuff. I think the greatest misperception about men is that we all just want one thing. Honestly, it’s not true. A lot of us are out here with substance, of course, that’s what I get to portray as Will. I like the fact that they show so many different facets of men, so many different types of men and their crazy ramblings.
The Knockturnal: How do you feel What Men Want responds to that film in a more modern time period when women are fighting for equity and equality?
Aldis Hodge: So far the response that I’ve gotten, the reviews I’ve read, just the audience response is people love it. I think it’s just because right now they need a fun time and that’s what this movie is — mature fun. But then again we represent the message in a very fun package. And when it comes with women dealing with the challenge that they still go through in terms of equity in the workplace and equality in terms of acknowledgment and respect, I’m glad we get to show that from the perspective of Ali Davis who of course eventually realizes that she is all, she doesn’t need validation from anybody much less a man to get to where she needs to go. I hope that sort of resonates with everybody actually, that’s kind of the point of it. I do hope we can be effective in that space of changing people’s perception of single woman in a position of power and how hard it is. Still, you can be as good as you want to be but you still have this fight to go through. Ali is at the top of her game and still dealing with this glass ceiling. We get to see how she creatively breaks through it. So it’s not an easy thing. I’m glad we get to expose what her challenge is and her struggle is. So far I know a lot of people really love the film, a lot of people are receiving that message and feeling better about themselves and confident. I just hope that continues.
The Knockturnal: Lastly, what can you tell us about your other latest project Clemency?
Aldis Hodge: Clemency, so I’m really proud of that film starring Alfre Woodard written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu. We did just win a Grand Jury prize at Sundance which was unexpected and such an honor. Clemency deals with the judicial system particularly focused on death row. Alfre plays the warden and it shows how it affects her life then I play her last ward or I guess her ward that’s next up as I’m fighting for clemency. I’m on death row for a crime that I maintain innocence on something I didn’t commit. And we show how the world of the judicial system in that particular space how harrowing it is. What her experience is and how it affects her life as a warden she has to go back home and try to be a regular person. From perspective of my character Anthony Woods how the idea of being on death row and being treated inhumanely to the point where human communication is nearly cut off completely. We show how inhumane and desensitized people can be and we really I think explore the value of life when you have the power to take it. It’s a really beautiful film, it’s really heartfelt, it gets you there. Yet again another effective art piece with a real message and I can’t wait for people to see it.
The film hits theaters this Friday.
Kristen Martin contributed reporting.