When we first spoke with Omari Hardwick in 2010, the Georgia-born actor was discussing his role in the film For Colored Girls alongside Janet Jackson, as well as a potential season two for the police drama Dark Blue, his history on stage and in poetry circles, and some great looks in films like Kick-Ass and The A-Team.
Upon the release ofFor Colored Girls, Hardwick gained notoriety for his work as the down-low husband, and landed a few more roles in feature films and music videos. While Dark Blue unfortunately was not renewed, the television audience found him again in 2013 as a two-timing husband in BET’s Being Mary Jane with Gabrielle Union.
In our 2010 interview, I asked Omari specifically if he would ever work with music stars like 50 Cent in film, and he explained that he had actually read for Get Rich or Die Trying. Fast forward to 2014, and Hardwick debuted as the leading man in the Starz network series Power, produced by and co-starring none-other than 50 Cent. Now in its second season, Power has made waves with audiences nationwide. Even as the primetime series Empire was picking up mainstream fans, Power devotees were making comparisons all over the place in favor of their coveted cable drama.
In this UrbLife exclusive interview, we catch up with Omari Hardwick to revisit some of our original conversation, learning more about his passion for family and giving back along the way. Read on…
The first time we talked, I asked you about working with music artists in movies, and specifically brought up a few, including 50 Cent, and asked if you’d work in one of his movies, and you said yes. We also put that feature on Thisis50.com, and now you’re actually working with him.
Omari Hardwick: That’s super cool. That’s crazy… In my gut I know that he was someone that I’d already decided when watching Get Rich Or Die Trying that he was a special talent, in that he could have a career in acting and producing. Even if I had skepticism [at the time]on whether he could do a show like Power on premium cable, where you only saw musicians like Mark Wahlberg, who was Marky Mark, doing shows like Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, 50 has joined that elite class, he’s really doing his thing.
At the time, you were doing a lot of film, and now you’re heavier on television. What’s more challenging for you?
OH: Well, it’s funny because I’m in both right now. When I finish this interview and a few others, I’m flying out to finish the press tour for this show that I can get down and say that I was on a network show. After the press tour, I finish this movie that I’ve started on. It’s a big film, and ironically the two leads are leads from two very big shows at the time. You have me from, obviously, Power and you have Nicolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones, and we’re the two leads. The movie is called Shot Caller and it’s about the culture of incarceration. We see in life in terms of non-rehabilitation, that jail is supposed to be about… that it’s just people that commit crimes that are really petty crimes, but end up going to jail – and then of course the real crime is the inmate system.
To answer your question, I would say juggling both at the same time presently is easier than ever because the middle class of TV has become premium cable television. The cameras are very similar, the DPs, cinematographers and directors that were working on twenty to forty million dollar budget films are now directing us. These actors like myself who are really known in film, they’re directing us in television shows, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright included.
It’s a pretty interesting collaboration at this point that we didn’t think about in the past. In the past, the way that’s its gone is when the camera is in front of your face there’s a different element of acting from film. I started at stage, so that’s my base of foundation. Film and TV were instinctively different, but now it’s similar. It’s ironic that you’re asking, because I’m sort of juggling both at this point.
For so many years you’ve grinded it out playing smaller roles. Is it vindication after all that you’ve done and the years you’ve worked to finally get this light as a leading man?
OH: Yeah… I would say. I gotta be honest with myself. Perhaps being an artist, who at the beginning of the day is a poet as well, I would say that I’ve always had an a velcro connection to the struggle. I’m sort of a hodgepodge of an executor. While I’m talking to you, my brother is on the left of me. My older brother’s pride in me has always sort of been parallel with [me]being an executer. I’m a mix of being a scorer and having that poverty mentality of struggle and the need for struggle is the thing my art can sort of jump out at.
I struggled for a long time to embrace stepping into that place of being a leading man who really was that. Whether I’ve ran for it or not, I’ve definitely have shown my ability and range. From playing a down-low homosexual character, which you don’t find a lot with people that look like me playing such roles to playing Free in The Gridiron Gang as a young thug, to playing in The Guardian with Kevin Costner, and a sort of super heroic type of cop in Kick-Ass with Nick Cage; Miracle at St. Anna with Spike Lee as a soldier with Michael Ely, Laz Alonzo, and Omar Benson Miller.
But honestly, at this moment of maybe carrying all of those roles that I’ve portrayed, different elements of the character part of me, or the desire to be number two or three on the call sheet – because nobody would really have to pay attention to me, or if they did they could look at me and say “that dude is really good.” But the pressure wouldn’t be on me to be that guy. I think they’ve all sort of culminated in this moment where I’m pointed at as the guy, and I’m finally able to embrace it.
So I wouldn’t just say that’s it’s a vindication. I’m absolutely competitive and I’m an ex athlete so once an athlete, always one. There’s that think where you’re sort of like “take that Hollywood” or studios or producers or people who don’t think that I can do what Bradley Cooper can do because I don’t look like him, when in reality Bradley and I are close and he’s always championing that I could have the kind of career that’s seemingly happening.
There’s a vindication in that way, but I gotta look deep in the mirror and admit to myself that at times I was running from this moment, so maybe that held me back a little bit too. My father always said when they ask you what you took so long just tell them you got here as soon as you could – so I’m here and it feels good to be.
In our last interview, we talked a lot about your poetry and the stage work and things that have transitioned you into this career. How does it feel for you to be such a serious artist and be seen as a sex symbol at the same time… having to tow that line between being the hot guy and the talented guy?
OH: It’s interesting. [The cast] was recently on satellite show, and this woman kept diving into that thing that you brought up. She was great, but we were introducing the cast and she kept saying “You gonna take your shirt off?”. I thought “oh my gosh…” I’m not only a serious actor who can’t wait to show my comedic skills at the same time, I’m so not that thing she was calling out. Curtis [50 Cent] was making light of it, it’s all good, it’s fun. God gave all parts of us for a reason; even our aesthetic is there for a reason. I’m not at all admonishing or turning down anything God has given me if it’s embraced by women.
I definitely feel at times I have to remind folks like, “Yo, come on now I’m an actor. I’m a crafted actor. They didn’t find me on the side of the road.” I’m an ex ball player who always wrote since I was a kid who studied acting. The study of acting had to be combined with the knowledge obviously. So it’s true for all of the other solid actors out there, an obvious element of our own that we bring because you can’t teach acting. You either have it or you don’t. Definitely craft it, hone it and learn to bottle it into a cool package.
What do you want people to know most about you as a man and artist at this stage of your life?
OH: As a man, there’s a level of privacy. As a man I’m obviously connected to being a father and being a family man. The social media-clad, addicted, overwrought, voyeuristic landscape that we call our friend in reality in this world, more dominant in America, involves that loss of privacy. The voyeuristic dive into – not what you’re doing, which is appropriately and beautifully asking these questions that are about me as a person – but it’s so many moments that I wish that the world would know how many moments we wish we were treated normally. Not sort of someone always picking at what we’re doing, who we’re with, why we’re with them, where we’re going next or why didn’t you wear or say that thing. It comes with it, so I say I’m cool.
As an artist, just that I don’t want to ever leave a stone unturned and if the stone were given to me by God, and that stone includes that of being a producer one day… which I’m now at that place of producing some really projects soon come you will read about. Or if it’s me directing or it’s me simply being in Fort Lauderdale in Broward County working with these young teen poets that I adore, that I find no other role I ever do as an actor or producer or director could be bigger than the community service that I’ve been able to be involved with in giving back to these young kids that didn’t kinda grow up the way that I did. I really love it.
So I say that as an artist that I fully was an artist. I was into all parts of it, not just the acting. One of the biggest secrets out there is I songwrite. I’ve written with Estelle… Eric Roberson and Goapele, for those that don’t know it. I’m writing with some other people coming up. There’s some Black men that are out there, and even if it’s a 5’10, 180 pound one named Omari Hardwick, that he did more than just this acting thing… or if you’re a woman who finds him flattering, that there’s way more than meets that eye.
Find out more about Omari Hardwick on his official site OmariHardwick.com, and learn about his poetry mentoring program at blueapplepoetry.org
Follow him on Twitter @OmariHardwick, Instagram @OmariHardwickOfficial and on his Facebook page HERE.