Omari Hardwick shares his Hollywood ‘power’ in his hometown

With the fourth season of "Power," the hit drama on cabler Starz in which he stars as transitioning drug dealer and family man James "Ghost" St. Patrick, premiering on June 25, Omari Hardwick is crunched for time. Not so much so, however, to skip out on an opportunity to share his Hollywood wisdom in the city in which he grew up. That opportunity came courtesy of Gentleman Jack's Real to Reel Contest.

A partnership with Codeblack Entertainment and Hardwick, during the spring, Real to Reel accepted online submissions from black filmmakers, giving one of them an opportunity to win $10,000 and a VIP trip to Miami Beach to screen their short film. In the meantime, Gentleman Jack, a brand of whiskey, sponsored screenings of four pre-selected, non-competition films in seven cities, including New York May 20, Atlanta June 4 and Miami June 15, the only cities in which Hardwick also appeared. Atlanta, as he anticipated, was very special.

Flanked by film hopefuls, fans, as well as close family and friends on a Sunday night, the Decatur native felt at home upstairs at Negril Village, the upscale Atlanta offshoot of the New York City flagship. During an exclusive conversation at the W Atlanta Downtown an hour prior, Hardwick recalled asking his mother as early as 4 years old about acting classes. Back then, Hollywood was a faraway concept and moving to it was required, but his mother let him know he would be staying put. “’Omari, we’re not leaving Atlanta. If you want Hollywood, this is where it’s going to be,’ which is so ironic because now Atlanta has become a Hollywood,” he shared.

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Sports, however, became the primary calling card for Hardwick, who, to this day, maintains an athletic build. At Marist, he excelled at basketball, baseball and football. He earned a football scholarship at the University of Georgia with such familiar names as Champ Bailey, Hines Ward and Kirby Smart, but acting was always in the back of his mind.

“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.”

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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.”