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Aldis Hodge hopes viewers learn from ‘City on a Hill’ and its corrupt justice system

The “Straight Outta Compton” actor plays a straight-arrow prosecutor in the Showtime series.

Aldis Hodge
Aldis Hodge (pictured recently in Chicago) is know for his roles in “Straight Outta Compton” and TV’s “Leverage” and “Underground.”
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Though his new series “City on a Hill” takes place in the 1990s, Aldis Hodge hopes it will help start a progressive conversation for today’s society.

The 10-episode series airs Sundays on Showtime and is set in Boston. Hodge plays Decourcy Ward, an assistant district attorney from Brooklyn whose goal is to take down corrupt police. He meets with a crooked FBI agent, played by Kevin Bacon, to create an unlikely pact: Together, they will track down armored-truck robbers in a case that will, in the end, have an impact on Boston’s criminal justice system.

The show was created by Boston native Chuck MacLean and its executive producers include Matt Damon, also from Boston, and Ben Affleck.

Racism, sexism and corruption among police are major themes. “The show is set in 1992 and the only thing that has changed, as far as relevance, is the technology, but as far as subject matter, all of that is still going on very prevalently today,” Hodge said during a recent visit to Chicago. “We’re speaking from the past into the future, we’re speaking of stock reality of what’s really happening.”

The series is inspired by true stories including a 1996 event known as The Boston Miracle. That’s when homicides rates dropped 63% in the city due to a focus on the prevention of gun violence within illegal trafficking and gang conflict.

Hodge described “City on a Hill” as “raw” and said it allows viewers to see people’s flaws and how they try to deal with life.

“The show deals with not only the crime but the development of crime and the duality of people, the good and the bad within all of us,” Hodge said. “It goes from the guy who goes and robs an armored car but has to go home and feed these kids to the guy you trust who wears the badge and then goes home to make a drug deal.”

Aldis Hodge (left) plays an assistant district attorney paired with a dirty FBI agent (Kevin Bacon) in “City on a Hill.”
Showtime

The main story is the people and what motivates them to do their job.

“Jackie Rhodes, played by Kevin Bacon, is not an FBI agent because he wants to shut down crime — he’s an FBI agent because he is crime,” Hodge said. “Decourcy Ward is working within a system that people think is broken, but it’s not, and he realizes the system is orchestrated, to a degree, against him.

“Crime is sort of the second tier to what the show is, it’s about survivors and the extent of which they’ll go to survive.”

Hodge, 32, been playing different roles for 30 years and was a “Sesame Street” regular as a child. He is known for his TV work on “Underground” and “Leverage” as well as his big-screen work as MC Ren in “Straight Outta Compton” and Will in “What Men Want.”

Hodge also stars in two upcoming movies this year, “Brian Banks,” which comes out in August, and “Clemency,” in December, both involving themes addressed in “City on a Hill.”

“All of these movies and shows are targeted towards flaws within the judicial system, holes that need to be fixed,” Hodge said. “I’m really proud of how serendipitous this year is turning out to be.”