Aldis Hodge is fast emerging as one of Hollywood’s busiest actors. Hot on the heels of an acclaimed run on the series Underground, he’s soon to be seen in the new series City on a Hill, as well as in the feature films What Men Want and Magic Camp. As in-demand as he is, he leapt at the chance when invited to star as the main character – actually, the only flesh and blood character – in the Star Trek: Short Treks installment, "Calypso.” Written by Michael Chabon and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, “Calypso” will debut tonight on CBS All Access. StarTrek.com recently chatted with Hodge, a longtime Trek fan who excitedly gave us a look into his experience making “Calypso.”
How familiar were you with Star Trek before “Calypso” came your way?
I was familiar. I had seen Discovery, the first season. As far as Star Trek, I grew up watching Star Trek with my mom. I was a fan of the movies, the recent movies that they have out. I grew up watching the old-school show. Worf was my favorite character. So, I'm pretty familiar. I wouldn't say I'm a super-hardcore, seasoned Trekkie. I don't know everything about everything about the universe, but I know enough.
What did you think when they came to you with a short Star Trek story?
It's awesome, man. I like the idea of dropping a little something-something for the fans to have in the waiting time between seasons. When it came to me, one of the producers, Akiva (Goldsman), who I'd worked with before on Underground, he reached out to me and said, "Look, man, I'm doing something. We're starting up something new. It's kind of different. I'll let you know more as it goes on, but is this something you'd be interested in?" I said, "Hell yes! It's Star Trek, man. I don't care. Make me an alien. Do something. I'm with it."
Introduce us to Craft and what he's going through in “Calypso.”
Craft. He’s just coming off fighting in a war for a number of years. He's floating in space. Something happened to him. He was attacked. He's almost at a point of death when he is located and saved by the U.S.S. Discovery. He's brought on board, but he doesn't understand what's going on, where he is, how he is. He just wants to get back to what he knows, his reality. Through this experience he realizes that he's the only one on the ship, and the ship itself, the AI has evolved so much to a point where there actually is a very specific personality there that he corresponds with. This AI on the ship is telling him all about this history that has transpired. Now, granted, we are 1000 years in the future from the universe we know, from the Star Trek: Discovery universe.
So, some of what Craft is going through may speak to where Discovery is about to go to. But, his only agenda is to get back home. His interaction with this ship AI, he realizes that this is the first source of human, or humane, interaction he's had in a number of years, the first interaction that's made him feel comfortable. He has to figure out what that means to him. He finally goes with his own gut feelings and emotions, battling between “How do I deal with this, and leave this?” vs. “I want to get back to my family. Where do I go? Do I stay? Where do I find myself?”
There’s a 2001: A Space Odyssey/HAL and David vibe to this short, from the sound of it…
This is such a very different take on a Star Trek story, stories in space even that I've seen. This is its own thing, man, because I know for just Star Trek in general, it's very new. Where it could go is insane because we don't know. There are so many unanswered questions that it poses that it's going to change how people think of things when they get back to watching Discovery. When they think about the ship, when they think about the crew members and what they're going through, I think it's going to change the questions they ask. So, I can't really compare it to anything at this point.
How did the shoot go, particularly the acting solo part of it?
It was actually pretty cool, a very comfortable set. We shot up in Toronto, so our director, who was also one of the producers, his name's Olatunde Osunsanmi. Olatunde, great guy, he has great vision. He definitely knows what he's doing. I had a great time working with him. But there's definitely a sense of responsibility to the audience because I am just by myself. I hope that this thing is good and people enjoy it. I don't want to let the Star Trek audience down. But Olatunde, he never made me feel like that, nor did the crew, man. Everybody felt like this was well shot, well played, and well chosen. I was happy to be a part of it.
How impressed were you by the Discovery sets?
It is insane. They built a city within a soundstage. It's awesome. I was running around like a little kid. Man, you go in there, you're like, "Oh, this is the real ship. This is the bridge, and I'm in the Captain's chair! Let me get my picture!" It was fantastic. They did a really great job with the sets, and I was surprised to see how much of it was actually built versus being green screened. There's a lot of that that's practical. It's just really there, and you press buttons, things light up. For me, it was awesome. As a kid growing up, watching that stuff, you're like, "I'm actually here.”
If the opportunity arose for you to play Craft again, how open to it would you be?
Absolutely. No question, I'm in there. I'm there. We’ve got to figure out what the war was. Now, I have no answer to this, but I want to know, and I want to know from the fans, after they see it, what do they think the war was? Who was the war with? Because we're familiar with the war the Klingons have with them right now. Who could this war have been with? Did that Klingon War extend? Do they dominate the universe for a millennium? Who was Craft fighting with? That's what I want to know.
"Calypso" continues the rollout of Star Trek: Short Treks, four standalone stories building toward the early 2019 return of Star Trek: Discovery. Each short will run approximately 10-15 minutes and will be an opportunity for fans to dive deeper into key themes and characters – including Tilly (Mary Wiseman), Saru (Doug Jones), Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson, who directs his segment as well) and Hodge's new "Calypso" character, Craft -- that fit into Discovery and the expanding Star Trek universe.