“I enjoyed sports and I was always competitive and aggressive and so sports sort of just took over. But there was always this side of me even by high school where I was like ‘Yeah, but theater is dope. It’s cool. It’s different,’” he insisted. “So it was always there. I think the two competed. I think the artist bug and athletic bug competed at the same time, but I think the artist bug won out in terms of at least putting food on the table.”
At Negril, during his conversation with filmmaker Anthony T. Rose, host of the Real to Reel film series, Hardwick shared that his Hollywood success story has been one of struggle. Prior to finding stardom with “Power,” Hardwick flirted with it in the TNT series “Saved” and “Dark Blue,” as Janet Jackson’s husband in Tyler Perry’s film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s Broadway choreopoem “For Colored Girls,” as Derek in Ava DuVernay’s award-winning Sundance film “Middle of Nowhere” and as the unfaithful husband Andre Daniels on BET’s “Being Mary Jane.”
“Ghost opened up a lot of avenues for me,” he acknowledged back at the W Atlanta Downtown. And being able to boost up others like him who want to be in the industry is chief among them.
“I’m real big on allowing the opportunity for folks that want to be behind the camera, that want to be in front of the camera, that want to push the pen in terms of writing the story that we tell on camera. I’m extremely big on allowing them the landscape, the platform, the vehicle to get those stories out,” he said at Negril, explaining why he joined Gentleman Jack’s Real to Reel initiative.
The Hollywood dream isn’t without its pitfalls, he warned. “Just because Hollywood has found its canals here and is making money off of us, you still got to go to the class of yourself to figure out how to make money off of it because (they) will use you all day and you won’t get nothing from it,” he cautioned. “So you got to really figure out who you are and where you are going before we can really talk about how to make an indelible mark within this industry. It’s a very fickle industry.”
Here’s a look at season 4 of “Power”:
When an aspiring actress asked him whether he turned down roles early in his career, he addressed Hollywood’s long history of stereotypical roles for black actors, touching on everything from the criticism Halle Berry received for her role in “Monster’s Ball” that resulted in her historic best actress Oscar win to the lack of choices many black actors before him faced.
“Stepin Fetchit. We talk about him but there were things he couldn’t say no to,” Hardwick schooled. “I would be remiss if I didn’t say we stood on the backs of many of those people so that I can say no.”
He also kept it real with her. “As a young black woman who doesn’t even have the opportunities that young black men have, your question is very poignant,” he told her. “You just have to be careful.”
In parting, Hardwick concluded that there was only one real way to deal with Hollywood: “Focus on the art and try to tell great stories.”