HB: One of the main themes of “The Village” is about connection and building family. Is the same way on and off camera, especially with Frankie Faison and Lorraine Toussaint, who play your parents?
JH: What you see on the show mirrors the relationships we have with one another in real life. I’ve learned so much from Frankie. Lorraine is so nurturing, Dominic Chianese gives me so many jewels, Warren Christie is such a leader, Michaela McManus is the heart to everything and Grace Van Dien is a warrior. That, and Moran Atias is going to give you her best. And Ben Ahlers, who is a new addition, is a great dude.
This is such a tight knot group, which with a TV cast isn’t always the case, but for us, this was pretty organic.
HB: Look, Ben has a lot going on on this show. He is juggling a lot! What do you think are his best characteristics and his worse faults?
JH: Oh, one of his best qualities is that he is willing to empathize with others and see the world not just through his own experiences and perception, but of others. Which I believe is a wonderful thing, but that can also be a curse.
Ben, I think is definitely not over his past, which also motivates some of the current things he is doing, but at the same time he is a good dude who empathizes with a lot of folks. Also, his healing process is taking a while. It’s a journey for him.
HB: You co-wrote and co-directed the indie film “Blueprint,” which is about the affects of police brutality in Chicago. Now you play a police officer on “The Village.” As a Black man living in America, did you have any initial reservations of playing this role? If so, how did you overcome them?
JH: I spoke to a friend of mine who is a Black male police officer about this, because I did have reservations. But he told me that it’s our job to change to narrative. He said that he needed to be the change in his community, his area. It’s like why people go into politics. And I know that it’s not that simple, but I look at Ben in that same way.
He wants to make change in his community too, and no not everyone is like him or empathetic, but he is a man behind the badge that wants to see and create good, and I’m here for that. Thankfully, Mike Daniels and everyone at NBC were also about Ben having layers. Yes, he is a cop, but that’s just his occupation. He also has fears and wants, which were important to me as well.
HB: As “The Village” wraps up its first season, what’s next for you? And what types of roles do you yearn to play?
JH: Obviously, I hope we see what’s happening with a season two, but right now, I am doing a lot of work internally to keep growing as a person. I want to be authentic to myself and I do not want to feel like I’m just making something because of a paycheck. Of course, actors want to constantly, but I want to make sure I’m putting the right material out there.
HB: So The Black Panther sequel maybe? You wanna be in Wakanda?
JH: Uh…yes! That’s a hell of a check! [Laughs]. But for real, I am open to all opportunities. But the goal is to stretch as an artist, explore topics like mental health. I just want to play complicated and layered Black men, representing different facets. He can be the mailman, I don’t care. I just want to take on roles that exist outside of the stereotypes that we’ve seen over the years.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Village airs on NBC Tuesdays at 8/7 Central.