Omari Hardwick returns next month in Starz’s Power. He discusses how this was the show for him and what it’s like to work with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.
You started off in athletics.
I did. I didn’t start off in it in the sense that it was connected to acting professionally. I was a college football player and then worked out for the NFL on the development squad for the Chargers. Then I got cut. I am sporty and that’s still in me, but I was this weird, artsy athlete. It was in my junior year at the University of Georgia that I went hard.
I had an interest in high school, but I was a 4-sport athlete playing football, baseball, basketball, and track. I was moonlighting track during baseball season. I was heavily into it. When I got cut from the league, I thought about going into broadcast or working on Headline News and working for a sports network, but I went for acting. I thought if I’m going to do it, I’m going to go for broke.
Here we are talking about Power. How did it happen?
I was trying to figure out my career and the stagnation. There was a gravitas towards the artistic side in any character that I read. I was on a show before. I was OK being number two on the call sheet. With the responsibility of being number one, I was shying away from that. We were on the brink of trying to figure that out, whether it was my own issue and if I had a dark cloud over me or whether it wasn’t my time yet. Plus, it was the industry.
On the day of the meeting for Power. I read it and thought, “Nah.” I was also doing a Trayvon Martin PSA, and my pitbull was being put to sleep. I had all these great personalities speaking on this PSA, and I wasn’t in the right space. I thought it could be really ostentatious or it could be really bad. We went on a family vacation after I said no. After landing, my wife asked about the meeting. My manager called and said the powers that be didn’t take no for it. I had the meeting and within ten minutes, I knew I was on board. I went through the whole audition process. I worked for it. Curtis and I had a two-hour conversation, and here we are. I was on board once I talked to Courtney Kemp. Curtis was the cherry on the top.
There were so many highlights across the seasons. Let’s talk about the showdown between Ghost and Kanan in Season 2.
I’ve never been asked that. Curtis was in method, and he never knew he was in method. It’s a talent that’s found in the best of method actors. If you think of method actors, you think of Robert DeNiro or Daniel Day-Lewis and countless others. I mix and match it, I never try to go full method because I think you miss life. You miss smelling the roses on the side. There might be a great conversation in the makeup trailer that you could use for work. If you’re too method, you’ll shut that conversation off.
Curtis and I are like brothers. He wasn’t talking to me a lot. I could decipher he was shying away because Kanan was not supposed to be in any kind of accordance. So, by the time that showdown came that you mention, he was so primed and focused. I’d never seen him so focused like that before. We are both very physical actors, and we didn’t want anyone to do the stunts. We did our own stunts, and I came away with a little tear in my left knee. By the time we were done we were so worn out, it was a 12-hour day. I had the surgery two months later. He was crazy focused, and I think he has been with his work as an actor. I was proud of that scene.
It was quite a finale that season. What’s going to happen next with him?
It’s always appreciative for it to be seen as a journey. I really busted my ass in terms of bringing the most complicated, convoluted, interesting character that we’ve seen on TV since Tony Soprano. I don’t shy away from the level of competition with myself. Ghost is trying to figure out more complicated more twists and turns. He’s still a lion. When you look at his mane so to speak, you feel the roar. The problem is he’s found himself at such crossroads, and it’s so difficult unless he breaks down to the low of lows and admits to the darkness that he’s lived in and been a part of. It’s going to be difficult to find a way out of that darkness. It will be interesting going forward to see how much rage, anger, and humility he found. Even playing him, I keep him so far away from me, I think about him in the third person because he’s an interesting instrument to play. There are parts as Omari that I can relate to, but there are parts I can’t. He’s a great character to play.
How have you grown over the seasons?
I would say, an actor’s not doing their job if they’re not learning equally from the character as much as the character is learning from the actor. Courtney said it best, “Omari is at a place in his life where the celebrity and what comes with it, not just someone who is good at acting, but someone has become famous at it, is parallel to where Ghost is in terms of finding himself to be a famous entity within New York.”
There’s a variety of sorts of people and genres of work they do. Then you have this drug dealer because, let’s face it, he distributes illegal drugs. He’s a dreamer, and it made me realize how much of a dreamer I was. How much of a businessman I was. Not just this kid from Atlanta, but someone who had this business savvy way about himself. I didn’t know that about myself before playing Ghost.
I think Courtney is right. My desire to tuck away from the fanfare as someone who could move to Denver and not be judged. I ran from it at times because I knew celebrity was coming, and I felt if you let celebrity beat you up, you have nothing left on the outside when it comes to art.
I look at Ghost, he taught me that he’s still someone who has a loner nature to himself a lot like Omari. He doesn’t mind people, but he doesn’t mind having his own time. He tells Tasha, “If you saw me differently, we could go retire on a boat somewhere.” Because she’s taken the complexion a mistress takes, things are different. At the end of the day, I don’t know how I’d survive without my art. I also equally would love to get on a boat and live next door to George Clooney and call it a day on Lake Como.
I could do that.
We could do this interview next door to each other.
Power Season 4 returns June 25 on Starz. Watch the explosive trailer below: