A gifted "newcomer" ... who's been in show business for 20 years


You might have noticed my total lack of comment on the Emmy nominations or Wednesday's "So You Think You Can Dance."

That's because I'm currently trapped in a world in which the average age is 5.5 (or 6.7 if you count a golden retriever). My outside contacts have been limited.

To compensate, partly, here are a couple stories I sent to papers about exceptional shows airing this Sunday (July 17). Here's one:

By MIKE HUGHES

For “Leverage,” this was a chance
to leap generations.

Sunday's episode has a World War II
veteran tell his story of love and loss. The young actors (Aldis
Hodge and Beth Riesgraf) then re-enact it, via flashbacks.

“We had a dynamic guest star, Danny
Glover,” Hodge said. “With someone as great as that, you want to
sit and hear him tell stories all day.”

Here was a a four-time Emmy nominee,
who turns 65 on July 22. Playing him in those flashbacks was Hodge,
25 and sort of a newcomer.

Or not. “I'm not new at all,” Hodge
said. “I don't feel new, because I've been doing this for 20
years.”

Really. By the time he was 10, Hodge
had done TV (“Sesame Street”), movies (“Die Hard With a
Vengeance”) and Broadway (the “Showboat” revival).

None of the jobs were imposing, partly
because of blissful ignorance. “I didn't know what Broadway was,”
he said. “(“Sesame Street”) was just a place where you go to
the set and play around.”

In racial terms, those jobs were
opposites: “Showboat” has a plot reflecting long-ago bias;
“Sesame” is a multi-hued world, where little red Elmo is played
by Kevin Clash, a large black man. Hodge befriended Clash and met a
show-business world where anything seems possible.

He was born in Camp Lejeune, the son of
two Marines. The family soon moved to New York; his brother Edwin
(one year older) also was in “Sesame,” “Showboat” and
“Vengeance.”

There was more; Hodge remembers a
concert at 10. “I thought, man, this is something I want to do.”
He went on to master the clarinet and violin; he also designs
watches, paints and writes.

The acting roles continued, some
elaborate – he was “Voodoo” Tatum, the new quarterback on
“Friday Night Lights” – and some not. Hodge was going to a
21st-birthday dinner with his dad when he told him the
news: That day, he'd landed a regular roles as Alec on “Leverage.”

This lets him work with top directors –
including Frank Oz (Miss Piggy on “Sesame”) – while the
regulars step in and out of scams. It also gives him a budding
romance with Parker, played by Riesgraf.

That relationship has nudged along
slowly – one of the problems with being in a band of scam artists.
“These characters, at their core, are cynical and suspicious,”
said “Leverage” producer Dean Devlin.

But for those flashbacks, Hodge and
Riesgraf play two people in love while facing 1940s bias against
inter-racial relationships. For large chunks of the hour, romance
rules.

– “Leverage,” 9 p.m. Sundays,
TNT; reruns at 11

– The Danny Glover episode debuts
July 17; it reruns a week later, at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.