‘Underground’s’ Aldis Hodge Reveals Burden of ‘Mental Slavery’

TCA 2016: “Not everybody believed they were worthy of being free,” star of WGN America’s Underground Railroad drama says

Aldis Hodge, the star of WGN America’s Underground Railroad drama “Underground,” said that an often discounted aspect of slavery was the mental toll it took.

“Mental slavery is the real cage,” Hodge said during a Television Critics Association panel. “It’s amazing the mental strength, the mental capacity one can achieve once you realize this is either life or death … The fact is not everybody believed they were worthy of being free.”

Hodge, who plays a slave named Noah who leads his fellow slaves in an escape from a Southern plantation, also revealed what surprised him the most about slaves who did choose to escape.

“The thing that surprised me the most was that they accomplished it,” he said. “I remember when we were on one of the plantations, we saw that the tree line was seven miles away. So from the plantation to get to the forest they had to run seven miles to even find shelter to hide.”

Christopher Meloni, who plays a Southern landowner named August, said that the paranoia a runaway slave required in order to survive was “unnerving.”

“Who can you trust?” Meloni said. “From this cloistered world from whence you were probably born into and all of a sudden you go out into the strangeness, who the hell do you trust?”

“Underground” will premiere on WGN America on March 9.