The ‘Power’ of Omari Hardwick

 It may seem like Omari Hardwick has gone from being just “a familiar face” that you’ve seen in a couple of movies to THEE man that you want to work with overnight. But things aren’t always what they appear to be. 

“I’m here to set the record straight,” says the 41-year-old actor about his departure from BET’s hit series, “Being Mary Jane.” That’s just one of many topics we converse about during our 15 minute talk. 

The Georgia native hustles hard for each role he lands big or small. And he wants you to know that the man that you see today is a result of a team effort led by God, his family and his mistakes. Check out what the former NFL star had to say during his exclusive interview with JET on life, lessons and power.

JET: Before you got into acting, you played in the NFL. What made you leave behind sports for the big screen?

Omari Hardwick: Well my entry into the NFL was not that of my contemporaries who I’m still really close to. You know Hines Ward and all of those guys who played college ball with me?I got injured in college and so my workout for the league was actually as a free agent. I didn’t get drafted, but I got a shot with the San Diego Chargers. Upon getting there and ironically, a lot like John David Washington, Denzel and Pauletta’s son, who just sort of said goodbye to the NFL, I was in the same position– [the] developmental squad. And after a season that was it. I still love and miss it, [but] football just sort of became one of those things where it was apparent to me that God was telling me that that artsy side of my athletic self was gonna be where I left my mark in life.

JET: Word. You’ve gone from being that guy that people “kind of” remember by face to being THE MAN that people want to work with. What was the turning point for your career?

Omari Hardwick: I was actually talking to my pops today about this. I remember my deceased uncle saying right before he died, “Enjoy these moments of anonymity because they won’t last.” And I look back at it and I told my father today that it’s really different. You know [things like] coming through the airport. At one point, it was just my demographic of fans. People who looked like me. And now it’s not like that at all and my dad chuckled and he said, “Oh no, you don’t have a demographic following. You’ve crossed over.” So that’s kinda when I knew. When it wasn’t just people who looked like me who were stopping me.

JET: Let’s talk about POWER. You made what I imagine was a tough decision to not return to Being Mary Jane to fully focus on the show and that shows a deep level of commitment. How did you land the role?

Omari Hardwick: Well thank you for saying that because you know there’s people out there who are mad at me for leaving. They really liked the work on Being Mary Jane. But I appreciate you recognizing that I needed to focus on [Power] because I was equally focused on Being Mary Jane. Mara Brock Akil, the extremely talented writer and creator who has been my friend for 11-something years and her husband Salim, who is a mentor of mine, had just had me in the movie Sparkle. So when we signed on to do Being Mary Jane, it was never for  the entire season. I started feeling suffocated because I wasn’t brand new to this journey of acting at that point. I needed something more and I felt my career was at that weird sort of place. I wanted more complexity of character. I just talked to Mara and Salim and they said I could bow out at episode 7 of the 8 and the world didn’t know that. But I am here to set the record straight. I was only set for 5 to 7 episodes so when I finished the contract, this memo for me to meet with some people about Power came. I realized that the prayer in my household that was being praying over me was that of embracing my power. That I embrace my power, my dominion over this industry. And I did recognize that down to the name, it was connected to the show that was asking me to be part of. I [met] with the creator [Courtney Kemp Agboh]. This incredible talent that I didn’t know about, shamefully. And that was it. She sold not only the show, but she sold herself as someone that I needed to be a part of life-wise. There are moments that you realize that working with certain people is not necessarily about the job, but about where you feel like you can go in the future by working with them.

JET: What motivates you? Who can we credit for the man that we see today?

Omari Hardwick: First off, I would say credit my mistakes. Those moments where I didn’t like the man that I was. The moments that I don’t regret, but perhaps I do regret some of it and the reality is that you wouldn’t be talking to me on the phone if I didn’t have those things happen. Then I would say my grandfathers and my father and my uncles. We know far too often the story of brown boys not necessarily being raised by the same gender and so that has stood out to me. Their voices, the passion [they showed], the tempers, the mood swings, the joys, the ability to be [childlike], I got to see that. In grandfathers that were funny and charming and dressed well and spoke well. I had really cool, strong men in my family and I had friends around me who didn’t have the same thing so I was always well aware that I would be lesser if I fell anything short of that.

Want more Omari? Catch him in “Power’s” Season 2 premiere on Starz Saturday June 6 at 9PM EST.