Interview with Kam Williams
Born in Savannah, Georgia on January 9, 1974, Omari Hardwick was the second of four children blessing the union of Clifford and Joyce Hardwick. The family moved to Decatur where Omari excelled in athletics and established himself as a standout, eventually earning himself a college football scholarship.
Although he had demonstrated a certain flair for the dramatic early in life, it wasn’t until his junior year at the University of Georgia that Omari began his formal training in acting. While there, he joined the Athens Theater Company and eventually starred in a number of plays including August Wilson’s “Fences.”
Soon after graduation, a knee injury cut short his plans for a pro football career. Omari then decided to focus on acting full-time and headed to New York City to hone his skills on the stage before making the move to Los Angeles. After years of perseverance, Omari finally landed a breakout role when Spike Lee cast him as Dante’ in Sucker Free City.
Omari’s showbiz career has benefitted from a steady rise ever since, with the versatile thespian exhibiting an enviable acting range in such films as Miracle at St. Anna, Next Day Air, The Gridiron Gang, The Guardian and Beauty Shop. And among his upcoming offerings are The A-Team, For Colored Girls, Bolden and I Will Follow. Meanwhile, he’s also appeared on TV shows like “CSI: Miami,” “Crossing Jordan” and “Saved,” and he currently co-stars opposite Dylan McDermott on TNT’s gritty, cop series “Dark Blue.”
Here, Omari talks about his controversial new movie, Kick-Ass, the adaptation of the Marvel Comics series which opened up in the #1 spot at the box office.
Kam Williams: Hey, Omari, nice to meet you, and thanks for the time.
Omari Hardwick: Same here.
KW: What interested you in doing Kick-Ass, such a controversial film?
OH: It was the controversy itself which interested me. I already was a fan of [director] Matthew Vaughn from his collaborations with Guy Ritchie on Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. I met with him early on in the process and appreciated his creative vision. My interest definitely revolved around how an 11 year-old girl would be a superhero and potentially train my character in the sequel. So, of course, I salivated at the opportunity. It was definitely a bold pick, but I had a lot of fun working with a young genius in [co-star] Chloe Moretz. Plus, she’s from Georgia, I’m from Georgia, so everything lined up.
KW: What was your main challenge in doing this film, the action sequences?
OH: I wouldn’t say it was the physicality, having come to acting from the world of sports. The main challenge was just the scheduling, really, because my TV show, “Dark Blue” was taking off at the same time, and this was being shot in London for the most part, and then also in Toronto. There was a lot of travel involved and scheduling conflicts, but I had to do it, so I figured a way to get it done.
KW: Were you surprised when the picture was #1 at the box office? I loved it, and said in my review that it’s the best comic book adaptation since The Dark Knight. It’s also the best blockbuster I’ve seen this year so far.
OH: Man, that’s very humbling for me to hear you say that, Kam. I knew that it would do well, but I didn’t expect this kind of initial reaction. It’s definitely the Pulp Fiction of its day, only with kids.
KW: Laz Lyles was wondering whether you had any preconceived notions about what Kick-Ass would be like, and if going into a project with ideas about it tends to prepare you or hinder you?
OH: That’s a great question. I’d have to say it’s a little bit of both. For this kind of film, there was enough vagueness in the script that it left me a little baffled about where I’d fit in and what I’d mean to the film. There were some challenges for me in trying to figure out how to play this guy because, honestly, my character was the only one that was quote-unquote “real.” The rest were sort of fantastical. The major challenge was in figuring out, how do I maintain Marcus’ subtlety and realness while supporting the superhero theme of the movie? But of course I jumped in full steam ahead.
KW: Larry Greenberg says that you have an amazing acting range, and he wants to know how you go back and forth from shooting a non-stop action film like this to the TV show and then to making For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide without getting whiplash.
OH: I appreciate the compliment. It’s very humbling to hear someone recognize the range that I have, but the whiplash definitely happens. Travel in between work helps, and maybe getting away after a project’s done.
KW: Laz says, since you’re going to be in A-Team, she’d like to know what you think of this resurgence of Eighties action films and if there are any you’d like to see the dust blown off of and remade today?
OH: Like anybody who grew up in the Eighties, I cringe at the thought of these movies being remade, because of the corniness and cheesiness of the originals. I hope that in the 21st Century, they’ll be able to eliminate the cheese factor when they redo them. If I could remake any Eighties project, it would be less an action flick than a character-driven drama with a rich story to tell.
KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks, what are your goals as an actor, and where do you want your career to go?
OH: Just to tell the truth in whatever role I do, and not got lost or swallowed up by the scope when I’m in a blockbuster. And I want to avoid being typecast and any obvious comparisons to other actors.
KW: You don’t want to get pigeonholed.
OH: Right. If I can just be thought of as Omari Hardwick who had a really, really solid career, and whose work is appreciated in its own right, I think that would be a great legacy to leave behind.
KW: Irene has a follow-up. What were the factors and who were the people who made you who are?
OH: My mom and pop, and my four grandparents who I’m blessed to still have. As an African American male born with a couple of strikes against you because of your skin color, I think it’s very, very important to have some positive role models around, especially male influences. Fortunately, for me, one was never that far away. I could always just turn to the lefty or to the right, and I had positive grandparents, uncles and coaches. So, I was lucky that I didn’t have to search far for my heroes.
KW: Yeah, when I interviewed LeBron James, who was raised by a single mom, he credited his coach for serving as an important male influence in his life. Did you see his movie?
OH: LeBron actually invited me to the premiere to play in a celebrity game. We talked and found out that we have a lot in common. That dude was going on 45 at 14 years of age. He’s a great guy and ridiculously mature.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
OH: I thought of one the other day, but I can’t remember it now. It had to do with exposing yourself as an actor, and then having to go back into the world as myself.
KW: I recently asked Don Cheadle whether there were any parts of his psyche he had not yet explored on camera. And he responded, “If there’s anything I haven’t revealed yet, it’s probably best kept under wraps.”
OH: Wow! I’m not anywhere near Don’s stature, and haven’t put in that much time yet, so I’d say I have a lot more to share and to reveal. But I think Don Cheadle’s definitely onto something. I would guess that there’s a risk of ending up feeling pained and lonely while walking in a world full of people.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
OH: Yeah, I would say my biggest fear, since experiencing a major tragedy in the family, is that I count my days left on this Earth. I now look at life as fleeting, not a marathon.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
OH: Yeah, although I feel weighty and some inner turmoil at times. But overall, I’d say I’m optimistic, if not happy on a daily basis.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
OH: Watching Kick-Ass!
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
OH: The one I’m working on right now is the biography of James Dean. Prior to that, I read The Alchemist for about the sixth time.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?
OH: I’ve been listening to Usher’s new album, and also some Stevie Wonder. But I like everyone from Bjork to Tupac.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
OH: Salmon with carmelized crushed pecans on top. I like fish a lot, but I’m addicted to apples.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
OH: Someone who’s trying to grow. It’s rare for artists to really stare deeply at themselves in the mirror, literally, because there’s constantly a mirror on you. But figuratively speaking, I’m really into growth, so when I look in the mirror, I see somebody who’s just trying to get better everyday.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
OH: [LOL] Being laughed at by my big brother and his friends. I was wearing Oshkosh B’gosh overalls while riding a duck tricycle very fast down a hill in Nashville. At the time, my father was in law school at Vanderbilt.
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who’s your favorite clothes designer?
OH: That’s a good question, Kam. That’s a good question… I think classic Ralph Lauren is my favorite. It’s timeless.
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
OH: Krispy Kreme donuts.
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
OH: Mother Teresa.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
OH: By staying interested. Their interest alone humbles and flatters me.
KW: What do you want to be remembered for?
OH: For my consistency.
KW: Thanks again, Omari, and I look forward to speaking to you again soon about some of your upcoming projects.
OH: That sounds good, man. Take care of yourself and your family.