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“It’s something that allows me to step outside of the box that people know me in” – Aldis Hodge talks new film Marmalade

6 min read

, the latest crime drama of the month, delves into a tale where appearances are deceiving. As the plot unravels on screen, viewers are treated to a captivating blend of comedy and stellar performances. Baron (Joe Keery) narrates a captivating story of a romantic bank heist and his daring escape plan to reunite with his beloved Marmalade (Camila Morrone). 

Chatting with FILMHOUNDS, actor , who brilliantly portrays the character of Otis, Baron's cellmate, shares insights into his experience on set and the preparation that went into bringing his character to life. 

This film looked like a lot of fun to work on. How did you first come across the script? 

Our director, Keir [O'Donnell] reached out maybe a year or two before we started production. Got the script, I read it. I thought it was fun. And basically, we were attached early until everything came together and the rest of the cast got together. But we were there for a little while before we started shooting, and we believed in the project and wanted to see it all the way through.  

What particularly drew you to the film and this character? I think it's quite an interesting one, in the sense that you're playing a character that's playing a character. 

That was the draw. I remember when I first started reading the script, I had just finished doing a project where I was in prison. I was like, “I don't want to go right back. But I'm good. We're good.” But then I saw who Otis was. That's when the fun factor kicked in, because I was like, “Oh, yeah, I can have a lot of fun with this in the front end”. After all, the bait and switch of it all is huge fun for me. I enjoy that. As we're talking, I'm sitting here in Louisiana on my next season for Leverage, so that's kind of a bait and switch. And I think it's just great fun for the audience. Because when I read it, I said, “Okay, this one is humorous, I haven't seen a movie like this in a while”. I's something that allows me to step outside of the box that people know me in.

What sort of prep went into the role? Did you draw any inspiration from any existing characters? I know that you said you've gone from working essentially in a prison to another one. 

While he's in prison, Otis is trying a bit too hard to be this caricature. So Keir and I talked about how far we wanted to push it, and what accent we wanted to put on because he's not fully set in and he's still trying to find his moments. I like the fact that even the rest of the team kind of calls him out on it a little bit. It was really about setting the tone, how far we want to push it, and where it's still funny. It's still in the pocket of what the film is and meshes with everything else that's happening. Still, we want to push as far as we can and play as much as we can with it because it was a great template for that. 

Did you get any room to, as you say, play with the character? Do you get to improvise at all within those scenes? 

I'm not going to say what lines but Kier let me have that, but he had already written a great, funny script. Coming from my background of stand-up, I used to start shows with straight-up improv – all I would do was a whole 30 or 40 minute-set set just improv. So I got that habit young and being able to hit a film like this, where you just get to dial it in a little bit here and there, sprinkle a little over there, that's where that creative collaboration happens. And working with a director like Keir, he gives you that freedom and you just kind of off to the races. 

Keir has a lot of experience as an actor. Does that help in the process at all for you working with someone who knows what it's like to be in your position, rather than behind the camera all the time? 

I think it does because it just makes for a smoother transition when it comes to communicating needs because you understand how actors are and what the process is. There's an easier translation sometimes when we're trying to find something or figure something out. Mostly it comes to interpretation like when we are in the space of playing like okay, we got the scene but we want to push it, pull this and we want to try to dig this out. There's a second-hand understanding that you just kind of get so well, maybe it's just because Keir is a good director.

There was a lot of room for comedy here. Do you prefer it when there's comedy involved in a film, given your stand-up background? 

I prefer good films. I prefer smart scripts. And for a film like this, where comedy is laced in there, and trying to find the notes and the beats to hit, I prefer the challenge of that, because we had a good time with it for sure. And the comedy is what attracted me to this. But anytime it comes to a film, I just want the base foundation to be quality. And I felt like that was there for this film. 

And how do you feel working with limited sets? For those first few scenes, you are confined to one room. Do you find that it's quite difficult to be able to express yourself within the confines of the character when you are in such a small space? 

No, I think that any actor when they approach a role, they have to also understand the world of the character. So if that is the world that you're working in, it's not. It may be confined physically, but it's not confined mentally, because you almost need it to be more suffocating in the space to understand where you're at, understand the confines, really live in it and get in it. So for me, I prefer if we can get as factual as possible with our sets and our spaces because it just helps push the world and push out the performance. I don't want to alter or hinder the world for personal comfort in any capacity, because then that takes away the raw nature of what we're doing and where we're doing it. 

You didn't get to work with Camila Morrone in the film, which is a shame. But how was it working with Joe Keery? 

Joe is great. I think he's a bright kid, a bright, rising star there. He's got a great attitude for it and came to work ready, and prepared. And when it came to just having fun going back and forth and finding the moments in the scenes, we had a good time with that. And honestly, after watching the movie – there was no way for me to have a scene with Camila – but I do wish that we did because she was really fantastic. I thought she was really quite charismatic, and the way she and Joe bounce off of each other I think was awesome. So yeah, missed opportunity. But now we'll get another one. 

Maybe next time! What was the tone and atmosphere like on set? 

It was very fun. We shot in Minneapolis, I think it was like spring. The weather was beautiful, it's a beautiful town. I was out there with my wife and my daughter, and we explored and we honestly just really enjoyed it, it was really relaxing. And the set was just easy. With Joe, Camilla and our other cast, everybody was good. Everybody came to the set with great attitudes, so it was nice. 

Marmalade is coming to cinemas and on demand on February 9.