PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRAD TORCHIA • GROOMING BY AMBER DREADON
Where You’ve Seen Him: Playing a real-life football player wrongfully convicted of rape in last summer’s Brian Banks, an assistant district attorney fighting police corruption on Showtime’s City on a Hill, and a fiercely independent slave named Noah in the WGN America series Underground.
Origins: The North Carolina–born son of two former Marines got his first big acting break at the age of 5, when he and his brother were cast on Sesame Street. “That was pretty cool, going to work every day to see Big Bird and Elmo and Oscar the Grouch,” says Hodge, now 33. “You’re living in the fantasy of this being your reality every day.”
Changing Course: At age 14, Hodge, already fed up with typecasting in Hollywood, made a commitment to avoid stereotypical roles. “For a while, all the auditions I was getting were thug this, thug that, and I realized that if we keep supporting that idea, that’s how people will continue to look at us,” he says. On his 21st birthday, he landed his breakout role as a brainy hacker on TNT’s Leverage. “I would have tons of black men, women, and young kids come up to me and say, ‘Thank God someone’s finally showing what we’re capable of.’”
Star Turn: In the drama Clemency (in theaters now), Hodge takes on his most complex role to date: death-row inmate Anthony Woods. The film, which also stars Alfre Woodard as a stoic warden, won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at last year’s Sundance Film Festival—the first time a black female director (Chinonye Chukwu) has received that honor. Hodge admits that Anthony’s journey is an emotional roller-coaster, but he points out that the experience is unsettling by design. “Our director would never tell me whether or not he did it,” Hodge says. “I don’t want the audience to see him through the lens of the death row condition. I want them to see a human being and see if they can empathize with that human being.”
Up Next: A self-taught horologist, Hodge is hoping to start his own watch brand soon. “I’m building a legacy to pass down to my kids,” he says. He is also honing his behind-the-scenes skills as a producer: “I want to put myself in the position where I can start creating jobs for other people.” More selfishly? “I would love to strap on some tights and do the superhero thing!”