SCREEN TIME: Omari Hardwick

There are no mistakes in life. Some say it’s synchronicity. Others prefer the term “blessings.” The cynical call it “accidents.” However you choose to spin it, these beliefs are how Omari Hardwick snagged his first leading man role in Starz new series, Power. When creator/writer Courtney Kemp Agboh began searching for a star, Hardwick’s photo just happened to be at the top of the thick stack of actor headshots during her presentation. This same occurrence happened weeks later, when the show’s casting director just happened to have Omari’s picture at the top of the pile when presenting casting choices.

Now, after years of struggling during days that go back to living in a car on the streets of Los Angeles, Hardwick has literally found his power in Hollywood with a chance to grab the ball and run toward long held goals.

In this exclusive interview with The Shadow League, Omari Hardwick discusses the downfalls of the struggling artist concept, and how prayer, his father, and synchronicity got him to where he is today.

Raqiyah Mays: So finally, you're starring as the lead. Have you made it?

Omari Hardwick:  I think if me walking down the streets of most cities at this point, at least in the United States, and not being able to walk far without folks asking, if not sort of bogarding, for a picture or autograph. And giving me humble praise for whatever they deem to be praiseworthy in my work, I’m definitely at that point of having made it. I’m not as obscure as I once was. My brother who passed away some years ago, before he died said to me, ‘Enjoy the moments of anonymity.’ It’s interesting that he said that in '06, before he passed on, because we’re eight years after that and I definitely don’t have as much anonymity.

RM: When you hear the term “struggling artist,” a lot of artists tend to wear that as a badge of honor. Is it necessary to be a struggling artist before being truly successful?

OH: I think it’s really interesting, because there are times I felt to get to that point there had to be a lot of struggle. And what I mean is not in a karma way. God would look up to you after you struggled and take care of you and the last shall finish first type of concept. To use a basketball example, since we’re in the playoffs, LeBron is approaching that place where if he wins a third ring, he can be where Tim Duncan is. Even if Tim Duncan doesn’t have the natural star quality which he might not, basketball wise, there is no more star than Tim Duncan. LeBron is more like a Michael Jordan or a Kobe. His star quality was missing only the rings. Now LeBron has the rings and is headed for a third, you can say that God will grant you that when you go through the struggle that you went through when you were with Cleveland where people were booing at you. Or what Michael did with early Chicago before all of a sudden when he won six rings, perhaps eight, if he hadn’t went and played baseball.

For me, I had this addiction to the thought. Not necessarily to struggle, but to the thought that you could not reach what I learned in struggle and poverty and trying to figure out where the next Ramen Noodle meal was coming from, or living in cars, where you could not reach that which I learned [without] going through all of that. I had a really good friend, I’ll never forget he told me, ‘O, you don’t have to maintain that sort of connection or Velcro attachment to the days or years of struggle. All you gotta do is close your eyes and it’s always accessible. You went through it, it’s there. You don’t have to continuously go through it.’ I learned that. And I embrace that. And I agree with it.

RM: When you talk about struggle, where do you find your support?

OH: I think Capricorns by nature are climbers. And I think always sort of as a middle boy I was lost in the juggle, I wasn't the oldest, and the youngest was paid the most attention. My father definitely paid attention to me in a particular way that most boys don't have from their dad, and so that helped. But I think the umbrella over all that was you could give me all the work ethic that you want and put all the zodiac trait you want inside of me, but the entity most responsible for that is none other than God. I just go to a quiet place. I don't know how people get through life without having a relationship with some higher being. You don't have to be this religious guy who’s slinging scripture on every corner, but I definitely think if you're not connected to a higher being, I don't know how I could be where I am now. And on those moments of struggle, if not having a bone to pick with God, you might not be as naturally lit as you would naturally be if things were going better. I've been lucky to pick prior to even those dark moments, people that were really, really good who brought that same light back to me that I used to have that would get me back to where I need. Great friends, great family, people that get you. It's very rare to meet somebody without a lot of words that just gets you. That’s priceless.

RM: Right. Who were those people to you?

OH: Me and my mom joke about it. Especially when you make more than one kid, you have favorites. And she wants to say, ‘no,’ or whatever. That's always funny to me. So for me it was really nice to be in a household where the parent who saw me best was someone in society who typically is not in the house. Typically when someone is missing in the house it's an epidemic of that being the father. He was not only present, but he was actually the one that got me and you can't imagine how much confidence that gives to a kid, when dad's there let alone when he gets you without you even saying anything. At times now he doesn't necessarily get me as much because of life choices, and different things that don't have us seeing eye-to-eye at certain times. But there are other people that replicate that initial thing that I felt. And I'm able to recognize that when I see it in a person that avatar ability to see me. You see it immediately.

RM: It’s funny that in your last film, Things Never Said, you played a character named Curtis Jackson. And now you’re starring in a show Executive Produced by Curtis Jackson.

OM: I think it's obviously ironic, and not coincidental. And I have to have the leap of faith that I'm now playing this guy and pieces of his life and working for him calling him boss as an executive producer of mine, and people joked about me having his name in another movie. I think it's just as much synchronicity as the fact that there were prayers for me, from my better half. She prayed for me for a very long time that I embrace my power. It was a long arduous prayer commitment dedication that she gave over an extended period of months. She said, ‘God, please allow him to embrace his power and his dominion not only over his work but over this industry as a whole.’ And I never even put it together until I booked the job that had the same name as what she was praying for.

RM: Wow. When you were living in your car all those years ago in LA, what kind of car was it?

OH: (Laughing) A Ford Focus. So maybe I was trying to stay as focused as possible, being laughed at by friends.

RM: (Laughing) Oh, more synchronicity. Ok. Do you have other things lined up after Power

OM: I have a film called Reach Me that I did. It’s an ensemble piece with Kyra Sedgwick, Tom Berenger, Danny Aiello, David O’Hara, Terry Crews. Just a really beautiful time, great cast. I play a character who is a hitman who tries to keep his friend off him, played by David O’Hara, who keeps pushing this book down his throat. And a bunch of different characters come into contact with this book about flying right, and I do them wrong, and it brings us all together at the end. It comes out in September, if not October. There are some other jobs we’re trying to see whether I can fit in during this off season, but it’s hard because this character [Ghost] is so complex. I need to be as vanished as Bryan Cranston was for every single year he brought Walter White to Breaking Bad. And my great friend Michael K. Williams brought Omar in The Wire. James Gandolfini definitely in the first three years, didn’t have a lot of time to dig into [anything but] Tony Soprano. Some of these characters are so layered you gotta commit all your time to them. So for now, I’m focused on that. If we could squeeze some in between, it would be all cherry on top. But I’m just satisfied with where Power is at this point.

Power Debuts June 7 on Starz.

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