‘Power’ star Omari Hardwick: “Horror hadn’t really been touched by people that look like me”

'Spell' is this Halloween's must-see movie – we sat down with the psychological horror's leading man

Omari Hardwick might be best known for playing drug-dealing businessman James St. Patrick (aka Ghost) on hit show Power, but he’s been working hard for years. Before starring in Kick-Ass, Sorry To Bother You, Miracle at St. Anna and Zack Snyder’s upcoming zombie-heist flick Army Of The Dead, he was a poet and talented player on the University of Georgia college football team. He was so good that he almost went pro but after missing out on the NFL draft, turned his full attention to acting.

His latest film, the Mark Tonderai-directed Spell, sees him step into the horror genre for the first time. “Someone told me the other day that I wear it well,” Hardwick says of his role in the scary movie. He plays Marquis T. Woods – a man who crash lands his plane in the middle of nowhere. When he wakes up, Marquis finds himself in the attic of a traditional Hoodoo practitioner, where his family is nowhere to be seen.

We caught up with Hardwick via Zoom to find out more – and to hear what it’s like being the main man on one of TV’s biggest shows.

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Hi Omari, you’re best known for playing Ghost in the hit TV show ‘Power’ – how often do you get called Ghost in real life?

“Probably like 15 times a week.”

‘Power’ fans seem like they can be intense – have things ever got out of hand with them?

“Yeah, absolutely. Being a street kid who was educated, you get challenged sometimes. But I like to move around sometimes where I don’t have to call the security guard because I might feel like going to [the shops] on my own and not being an abnormal human being. When I’m not with my kids, fans know I’ll give them a thousand pictures. Then when I’m with my kids, they respect it and leave me to it.”

Omari Hardwick in Power
(L-R) Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Joseph Sikora and Omari Hardwick in ‘Power’. Credit: Paul Schiraldi/Alamy

’Spell’ is your first horror movie – what attracted you to the role?

“The psychological thriller component is what drew me in more than the horror part of it. I had never known that genre. This film just had a different story to it.”

Did the fact it’s based in Appalachia have anything to do with your decision, being you’re from the South?

“Yeah, I think it did, maybe just peripherally. I can’t say directly, but in terms of having knowledge of the area and the culture, that helped. I thought it would be a great thing to shoot in the South, so when they told me it wouldn’t I felt a little way about it. But I had already been to South Africa and loved it, so when I learned we’d be shooting in Cape Town I was ready to go.”

The film features a traditional Hoodoo practitioner – are you a believer in the supernatural?

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“I’m not necessarily a believer in it as a title. Sometimes a title alone can paint someone into a corner, you know? But if you took the title off it, there’s no way I can’t believe in supernatural reality. I can’t be arrogant enough to think that we’re the only inhabitants of this great big globe. There’s absolutely no way.”

Omari Hardwick
Omari Hardwick in ‘Spell’. Credit: Paramount Pictures

Is it true acclaimed filmmaker Tyler Perry had a hand in you getting the role?

“Tyler Perry went to Paramount and told them he thought I was the right person for the role. They all knew me already, but he was like, ‘I really do think he’s the one for you and you guys should absolutely consider it.’”

The cast is predominantly made up of Black actors – was it always written with this in mind?

“It was absolutely written with a Black cast in mind. Kurt [Wimmer], our writer who knows Louisiana culture extremely well – specifically New Orleans – did his detailed research. Mark Tonderai came to it understanding that Kurt had written it with a Black storyline and that this was a genre that hadn’t really been touched by people that look like me. So not only did they want to make it really special, they wanted to make sure they recruited the right cast.”

Historically, horror hasn’t been a genre often associated with Black filmmaking – why do you think that is?

“I think it’s because nobody has seen us be afraid. I don’t think white executive men thought that we could look afraid; usually we’re the ones that people are afraid of. So I think it’s the fact that no one has thought, ‘Oh, wait, why can’t they be afraid?’”

Army Of The Dead
Omari Hardwick with the cast of Zack Snyder’s ‘Army Of The Dead’. Credit: Netflix.

Do you think Jordan Peele and the success of ‘Get Out’ had a lot to do with this changing?

“I think so. But it’s also because of people like [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige. I’m often asked what the major catalyst is for forward movement within the US – and sometimes I’m lonely in this thought and sometimes people fully agree with me. But as many people who are aware that [late Civil Rights leader] John Lewis was what he was, it’s often forgotten that there were white people right there next to him. Freedom fighters were not just coloured. So when you think about that, the Kevin Feiges of the world matter as much as Chadwick [Boseman] nailing King T’Challa, because at 11 he was saying, ‘Why can’t we have a Black superhero?’ And then all of a sudden this 11-year-old white kid grows up and makes it exist, or aids in it existing. So to me, Peele definitely helped, but equally somewhere there’s some exec who I have to give a nod to.”

As well as starring in ‘Spell’, you also appear on the soundtrack – what kind of music do you make?

“My music is such a hodgepodge of styles that I call it gumbo. And my people are from Savannah, Georgia, and the greatest dish to come out of Savannah is gumbo. But bigger than that, I came up with the name while working with [US producer] Robert Glasper after driving home from a studio session. When I pulled up at the house, I stayed in the car for a while and prayed. Then it came to me. G-U-M-B-O. God Used Music to Build Omari – gumbo!”

‘Spell’ is available to download or rent now on all major platforms

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