‘City on a Hill’ star Aldis Hodge: Show’s racist ‘ugliness’ is vital

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City on a Hill | Sunday, 9 p.m., Showtime

“City on a Hill” features a contentious pairing: crooked, racist FBI agent Jackie Rohr (Kevin Bacon) and corruption-busting black assistant district attorney DeCourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge). They team up to track down a gang of armored-truck robbers in 1990s Boston. But don’t expect to see the overused white-savior trope favored by Hollywood, in which a character of color is saved by a suddenly-woke bigot. “They need each other to a degree, but DeCourcy is not looking for anyone to save him and Jackie’s not looking for anyone to save,” said Hodge. “They are two titans boxing in a ring. Jackie is using DeCourcy for an agenda and DeCourcy is using Jackie equally.”

Hodge, 32, and co-star Bacon, 60, recently spoke to The Post about racism, their characters and how they connect with them in separate interviews as they wrapped filming on Season 1 of the series.

How would you describe your role?
Hodge: Ward is a highly principled man who’s got to hold onto as much of himself as possible. He believes he’s more good than bad. But that’s his journey: challenging how bad he’s going to get for what he believes in.
Bacon: Jackie’s someone who should be starting to put his foot on the brake and yet he literally has his foot on the gas pedal. He has a tired, antiquated idea of what law enforcement is. He should probably retire, and stop the drugs and drinking and every piece of his lifestyle. He’s running from his fear of death and being irrelevant.

What do you bring to your character?
Hodge: My personal experience of having grown up dealing with racism, which I thought I could add in terms of how DeCourcy deals with it. I wanted to show that we, as a black culture, have learned and adapted to dealing with it in various ways. It all points to our survival as people.
Bacon: Well, everything that comes out of Jackie’s mouth is offensive. My job is to walk in his shoes. There’s a lot of actors who would hesitate to play a part like that because it could negatively affect how people see them as personalities.

There is a lot of strongly racist and anti-gay language. How jarring is it to hear and say those words?
Hodge: It’s jarring every single time. I don’t care what set we’re on, I don’t care if people go, “Oh, it’s fake.” It’s not fake. Unless you live the black experience, you don’t understand the effect of “porch monkey” or the N-word or whatever term is being used as a weapon. So as an artist, you always want to see honesty, you [also] want to show the ugliness. It’s absolutely necessary because this is what people go through today. We cannot hide from it.
Bacon: I don’t like it. I don’t like it. But the casual nature with which the character throws it out there is so terrifying. It’s much more dangerous to pretend that these kinds of characters don’t exist in our society.

Which man will affect the other more?
Hodge: I can’t say, but there are so many pivotal moments this season where Jackie and DeCourcy realize they are not too far from one another. At some point, they kinda seem like they’re just cut from the same cloth. Different patterns, but cut from the same cloth.
Bacon: It’s one of those things that goes back and forth. We’re in the middle of [filming] the 10th episode and all that stuff you see in the pilot — that game-playing, intellectual jockeying, power struggle and even the physical relationship we have — continues. It is kind of the backbone of the show.

— Eric Hegedüs


And here’s what else to watch this week:

Grand Hotel | Monday, 10 p.m., ABC

Series premiere. Santiago Mendoza (Demián Bichir) owns a family-run hotel in Miami. His glamorous wife, Gigi (Roselyn Sánchez), and their children enjoy the spoils of success. Scandals, debt and explosive secrets lurk beneath the picture-perfect exterior.

Songland | Tuesday, 10 p.m., NBC

The Jonas Brothers come on the show to hear unknown songwriters pitch original material. Three of the most successful writer-producers in music — Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean and Shane McAnally — coach the contestants to adapt their songs to fit the Jonas Brothers’ style. Will the winning song be called “Sophie” or “Priyanka”?

Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas
Kevin, Joe and Nick JonasTrae Patton/NBC

Big Little Lies | Sunday, 9 p.m., HBO

Renata (Laura Dern) freaks out when Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) is arrested by the FBI. Ed (Adam Scott) confronts Madeline (Reese Wither spoon) about her secrets. With Meryl Streep.

Reef Break |
Thursday, 10 p.m., ABC

Series premiere. When former thief Cat Chambers (Poppy Montgomery) returns home to the Pacific island paradise known as The Reef, she finds herself embroiled in the middle of a kidnapping.

Endeavour on Masterpiece | Sunday, 9 p.m., PBS

Season premiere. The murder of a schoolgirl brings Endeavour (Shaun Evans, left) back to Oxford. When he refuses to believe that the prime suspect is guilty, Endeavour must uncover the truth and rescue a victim before it’s too late. Co-starring Roger Allam.

Yellowstone | Wednesday, 10 p.m., Paramount

Season premiere. Kayce (Luke Grimes) settles into his role at the ranch. A damaging article spells trouble for John (Kevin Costner). Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) pitches his new plan to the tribal council

Euphoria | Sunday, 10 p.m., HBO

Series premiere. Strung-out teen Rue (Zendaya) returns from rehab. She scores some drugs and goes to a party where everyone is either high, drunk or having sex in the pool. Rue leaves with the new girl in town, Jules (Hunter Schafer) and gets ready for that obligatory HBO lesbian sex scene.

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