Exclusive: Edwin Hodge Talks "NCIS: Red"

Exclusive Interview with Edwin Hodge for NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: Red on February 27, 2013
Interview by Jamie Ruby
Written by Jamie Ruby

Edwin HodgeLast week, NCIS: Los Angeles introduced the audience to the NCIS agents of Team Red. One of the new agents is technical assistant, Kai Ashe, played by actor Edwin Hodge.

Hodge will be guest starring again tonight in the conclusion of the episode arc as part of the NCIS Red team, which is a planned spinoff pilot for CBS. In preparation the actor sat down with Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview to talk about the role.

Hodge talked about his character. "I play Kai Ashe and he's basically the team's technical assistant and he's the computer savvy guy; he basically maintains their hub. They drive these 18 wheelers called Laverne and Shirley and they basically transform into their office and their sleeping quarters and interrogation room; it's actually pretty cool. But he just makes sure that he maintains the vehicles and makes sure that everybody gets to where they need to get to, IDs, passports, things of that nature."

Edwin Hodge
Photo © Brandon Showers
Before CBS will decide if the spinoff goes to air, Kai will appear on NCIS: Los Angeles. "We're basically doing a backdoor pilot, so we're doing two episodes where we incorporate the NCIS Red team into the NCIS LA team based on a case that falls into their lap. There's some evidence in the Red team's case that matches some evidence in the LA team's case and they basically come together to try to figure out who the bad guy is."

Hodge used his own experiences when he first auditioned for the role. "I just auditioned. This audition was one of my first pilots, actually the first pilot that I auditioned for this year. I don't know, I try to keep a very simple, direct approach when it comes to doing a lot of these roles, and I try to incorporate a lot of what has gone on, what is going on in my life, into these roles.

"So for Kai, this is a guy who basically came from the streets. He's from Compton; he's from a bad area, and he wanted to make a better life for himself. And in a way it somewhat mirrors my life growing up. We didn't start out with the silver spoon in our mouths. We were taught that if anything was going to happen, we had to work for it. So using my life experiences in a subtle way, it helped me to – I didn't even have to transform for Kai, but it helped me put into perspective what I needed to do to make Kai what I needed him to be."

The actor feels he is quite similar to his character. "I think Kai and I are actually one and the same. Everything that Tony, our director, and Shane, the creator, have talked to me about as far as Kai is concerned, pretty much mirrors me. His personality, how he approaches people, how he doesn't deal with certain people and aspects of their nosiness; he's very much like me."

One of the ways Hodge is different from his character is that he isn't as computer savvy. "When it comes to computers I'm not as educated as I would like to be, but I do know my way around a Mac at least. It's just one of those things where you grew up with technology. But to this level, in which the NCIS Red team has to perform? No, I don't. But it's fun because they always have specialists on set that will teach you certain things and you can pick things up and use them in your everyday life. I'm not that educated but I hope to learn a little bit more as we go on with the season."

Edwin's brother, Aldis, who starred on the series Leverage, played a computer tech, but he didn't ask his brother for advice, because their roles are so different. "I didn't ask him at all. Both these characters are very, very different. My brother's character, as serious as he was and as funny as he was, I think my character stays streamlined closer to the serious nature of what everything is. So he just gave me the "Good luck; don't break a leg," and I got it."

Edwin HodgeSometimes, however, the dialog is one of the things Hodge finds challenging. "I think [the thing that's challenging], that's got to be a lot of the dialog, a lot of the technical jargon that we have to say. That makes me nervous. I hate long speeches, and when you have to do long speeches when you're on camera, it's even more nerve-racking.

"But other than that I take on every challenge head first and this one is going to be a fun adventure and I hope that at the end of the day I do well enough to engross the audience like they've been engrossed with the previous shows."

Hodge talked about how the new team will be different from those on NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles. "Shane has a very specific formula and it works for their audience. So as far as the wit and the humor of the show and the seriousness of the show, I feel it's the same, but the characters are very, very different.

"And I think that's what most shows today are built around, the characters. Yes, they need a good story, but as actors we have to come in there and we have to bring our own flavor. We have to accentuate the words that have been given to us.

"So though he might keep the same humor and drama, the whole cast – Scott Grimes, Kim Raver, Gillian Alexey, John Corbett – we've basically taken on our own identities. We are a mobile unit, we don't stay in one office or we're not on the field every so often. We're on the field 24/7, with each other 24/7, so that dynamic is a lot different than being able going to work and then leave your partner to go off do whatever he needs to do. We are a family, essentially. So I think the dynamics of that type of relationship is going to definitely enhance and be different what the previous shows were."

Being mobile, the new team will see a lot of location changes. "As of right now, the scenes that I've shot, we definitely move around a lot. We do have a base studio that we work out of, a base set, but I think they want to really stay true to the concept that this is a mobile team and they do not stay in one place very long. When we talk about visuals and being able to see these people in different places every week, I think it will definitely add to the excitement and the intensity of the action, and the wit of the comedy, as far as the show is concerned."

[quote]My perspective in taking on this new journey of mine is to just stay levelheaded and stay humble.[/quote]
Other than moving around, the production aspects will be very similar, even if the final products look different. "The looks of all the shows are actually pretty different. It's a great crew, period. So as far as the work environment is concerned, it's the same. Everyone is there and they're happy to be working. Everyone has been very cordial and welcoming to the new cast and the new production.

"It's actually been a pretty easy job. It's been fun; it's been a lot of laughing and goofing off. When "action" is yelled we snap into it and we get serious, but I think the idea to us is to have fun, not take it too seriously, and enjoy the work. A lot of people get into this mindset that this job is a job and they make this their entire life. And everybody in the cast has so many different other things. Scott Grimes and John Corbett are into music, and the girls, they do their thing too. We have outside perspectives about our lives that we bring into our work environment and it makes for an interesting group, interesting dynamics."

Hodge has a favorite scene, which he filmed with Corbett. "My very first scene was with John. One, I was nervous because it is my first scene on the new show, and two, I am a fan of John and I think he's a great actor. And working with him and the director and with Shane being in the background watching over, it was kind of nerve-wracking, but it felt good to perform again. It felt great to joke around, be light hearted.

"John is a charismatic guy, people see him on Sex and the City and a bunch of other things and they see his demeanor - that is John. He's just that sexy, charismatic, "I'm a ladies man but I'm very intelligent" type of guy. So working with him that first day was a very good moment for me, because it was the moment when I realized, if we do this right, we could be just as successful as the other shows."

Edwin HodgeAnyone who watches the NCIS series knows that the characters often have to use weapons. The Red Team is no different, and Hodge had to train for that, even though he's had previous experience. "I've had previous weapons training, so it wasn't too much for me, but Gillian and Kim, they definitely needed it. They actually had a lot of fun doing it. We spent about an hour and a half going through holding your weapon, the clips, how do you change out your clips and magazines and things of that nature. Movement, how do you move with your partner around corners, where do you place the gun? Different things, a lot of technical things.

"You have to carry a gun and say lines and still remember every action you have to do. But it was cool, we're working with mostly handguns, glocks, and those are actually my favorite guns to use. So I think as far as weapons training and weapons performance, we'll be fine. We have some of the top guys helping us out here."

Even though Kai gets a weapon, at least so far, Hodge has not had to deal with stunts. "My character is not really, in the beginning, I don't think you're going to see him do too much action. It was explained to me that every once in a while you might be surprised by what he does, but you never really see too much action from him. He is the tech guy, he is the least of the violent people because he comes from violence, so I think for him, he's trying to stay away from there. But at certain points throughout the duration of the show you'll see him get a little gangster."

Hodge is sure that the producers and network know where they are going with NCIS: Red, but they have not told the cast. "I'm sure they have that figured out, but they have not told us. By the way they talk about the show, I think they have a very direct and clear path in which they want to take the show.

"But I'd rather not know; I'd rather be surprised anyway. The production and the studio, they have high hopes; they're very excited about the work that has been done and the work we hopefully will continue to do. Whichever direction we go, I'm sure it will be one that will be that conducive to the success of the franchise."

CBS has had much success with NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, and if picked up, NCIS: Red will likely be as huge. Hodge, however, doesn't look at it any differently, though he is excited at the prospect. "I've been doing this for almost 25 years now. As a kid, every job you get you look forward to what's going to happen next, and what you can get out if it, and things of that nature. I learned very, very early that there are big disappointments within this industry.

"So my perspective in taking on this new journey of mine is to just stay levelheaded and stay humble. I know it will be a whirlwind; I know it will be media every other day, interviews here every other day, flying there, but I just want to maintain this level of complacency, this level of composure. So as I go through this journey I'm just going to take it day by day and whatever pops up, pops up, and I'm just going to handle it at that point in time.

Edwin Hodge"But I know it's going to be fun, I know it's going to be chaotic, and I know it will be spontaneous at times. And that's pretty much what we live for in this industry. We get in to perform, yes, that's great, but I think creative people in general can't stop moving, so that's the good thing about being on a show like this. Once you get on, you don't stop moving, literally. So I'm looking forward to being busy, I'll put it that way."

Before getting the part, Hodge had seen NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles. He actually had just watched it the night before the interview. "I watched a couple of episodes just last night - one, for educational reasons, the structure of the show, the flow of the show. But two, they are entertaining shows.

"Mark Harmon, the original, he doesn't disappoint, ever. And NCIS: LA, yesterday, it was pretty cool because it was a storyline based on LL Cool J's character (Sam Hanna) and his involvement with people who were basically on the run from the Taliban. So a lot of the action, a lot of the story that plays out; these are great shows. They average 20, 16 million viewers a week. So it's nice to have a family to support."

It is shows like the NCIS series that Hodge enjoys. "I've always been a fan of those type of shows. NCIS, CSI, shows like that, The Mentalist. Things that incorporate you having to use your mind and think and figure out problems. Those shows have always interested me, going all the way back to JAG. It's been an entertaining series period. So anything of that nature, and the Golf Channel, I'm watching it.

"...I'm not knocking comedies or things of that nature, I love doing comedies to be honest with you. But for me to have a deeper connection to anything in life, it has to make me think. I have to either question myself or be able to questions the actions of others, because that's just how my mind works. I don't have a definite answer unless I have a definite answer. So with these type of shows, it's the same thing. They don't have a definite answer until they have all the evidence that they need and once they have it they can go out and perform and do what they need to do in order to catch the bad guy. So that's why I like shows like NCIS and NCIS: LA."

The actor's favorite show is The Mentalist. "I was a psych major growing up and Simon Baker, his character is absolutely hilarious. He doesn't care; he gets his answers the way he wants to get them. He doesn't care about how other people perceive him, except maybe his partner a little bit, but he'll never say that on the show. That show is still my favorite show and I was fortunate to be able to guest star on it."

Edwin HodgeBesides The Mentalist, Hodge has some other favorite roles he has played. "Every role I've taken on has been fun, and you find the reasoning in why you're doing that role. But the most fun so far was my character in a film I just finished, called The Purge, with Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey. The concept of the film is absolutely ridiculous, and then my character, he goes through a lot emotionally through the entire film. It's non-stop emotion for this guy. When you're introduced to him he's on the run and he pretty much stays on the run the entire film. But the intensity of the character, the involvement with which I had to dive into my personal life and my personal life experiences to bring out that fear and that vulnerability and the overall confidence that this character needed, it made it a very fun role to portray.

"...The Purge will be out May 31 of this year. We got good release date, summertime, and hopefully we'll do well."

Hodge also has a recurring role on Cougar Town as Laurie (Busy Philipps)'s boyfriend, Wade, as well as some other projects coming up. "I'm still appearing on a couple of Cougar Town episodes and thanks to NCIS: Red I am booked and won't be booking anything for a while. I'm actually in the process of shooting another film, but we're on hiatus. It's called One Heart with Mark Blucas and Matthew Lillard and G.W. Bailey; it's actually a pretty nice film as well."

For the future, Hodge doesn't really have a dream role, though there are people he would love to work with. "I've always taken on the idea of diversity and being versatile and the idea of creativity. So when it comes to roles I'm down for anything as long as it presents a decent image or the concept of the film is right.

"As far as working with people, if I can get the chance to work with Jack Nicholson I would love to; Don Cheadle, one of my favorite actors; Denzel, I would love to work with him in a heavy role; Forrest Whitaker, Tom Hanks, who else? I'd actually like to work with Kevin Spacey, odd guy, but I think I'd like to work with him as well. So I have people I'd like to work with but as far a dream role is concerned? Whatever comes my way and I can perform it well, that's what I'll do."

With all the work on the horizon, Hodge thinks about what's important to him: "I love my family and they're great and they've been my biggest supporters."

Until the new series premieres, you can watch Hodge in tonight's all new episode of NCIS: Los Angeles.

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