Aldis Hodge on Visiting San Quentin to Play a Death Row Inmate in ‘Clemency’

Marc Malkin

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The script for “Clemency” wasn’t the only thing Aldis Hodge received from the film’s writer and director Chinonye Chukwu when she approached him about starring in the drama.

“Chinonye also wrote a letter to me speaking on her supporting me in the role, and what she thought I could bring to it,” Hodge told Variety‘s Marc Malkin at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival for this week’s “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast.

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Hodge stars in the film as an inmate on death row opposite Alfre Woodard as a prison warden who begins to face her own demons while struggling with the psychological impact of her job.

Clemency” won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Judy Prize at Sundance in February. Hodge received a Gotham Award nomination last month for his performance.

“After I read the script, I saw massive potential for an opportunity to do some really great work, because of how [Chinonye] wrote it,” Hodge said. “I was truly impressed with the duality of the situation, the characters, what they went through, the exploration of the context and subject matter, it wasn’t preachy.

“She lays out a situation, it doesn’t give the audience or force upon the audience her own ideas of an answer. She just poses a question, and the audience is left answer that for themselves, which is what I love, because I like going to movies and having experiences that make me think. I go home saying, ‘What would I do in this situation?’”

Hodge visited San Quentin to prepare for the role.

“We were given a tour of the facility by the brothers who are serving life sentences,” he recalled. “I went with the intent to talk to the brothers on death row, but I was not allowed to per the warden’s restrictions. We were not allowed to engage with them. Even to the point where, when they were transferred across the yard, the other inmates were made to turn their backs, and not speak to them, and not look at them. There was such an isolated environment created for them all the way down to their last breath.”

“Clemency” is in theaters on Dec. 27.

Listen to the full interview below, and find “The Big Ticket” at iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

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