Exclusive Interview: Sparkle’s Omari Hardwick
Directed by Salim Akil, Sparkle tells the story of three sisters who form a successful singing group and then face the pitfalls of fame and fortune.
Among the star-studded cast composed of such names as Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Whitney Houston, you will find the very talented and seemingly always busy Omari Hardwick who took some time out of his schedule to chat with Film Equals about his character in the movie and much much more.
Check out what he had to say below and don’t miss him in Sparkle which comes out in theaters today Friday August 17 2012.
You’ve had a busy year so far, a lot of projects coming out at the same time. That must be gratifying?
Omari Hardwick: Yeah, definitely. It’s interesting because what’s most gratifying is that for me it doesn’t even feel like it’s been typical, what I would define…I guess because of my work ethic I enjoy it to the point where there is not only the work that will come out, but within the year that’s coming out I’m almost incapable of this interview today because I’m on set somewhere working now.
So, I just like working, man. It’s been cool though. I’ve needed to focus on family a little bit more and so it’s fine for me having movies that are set to be released while still having some movies around the corner and being able to juggle the family better than I’ve been able to do in the past.
So, it’s all good. I’m excited with the release of ‘Sparkle’ and ‘Middle of Nowhere’ and some other films that I did that were indie films that’ll come out soon as well. I’m ready to be one of the busiest actors that you can’t get a hold of.
You play Levi in ‘Sparkle.’ What can you tell us about him?
Omari Hardwick: Levi is a cool kid who’s the better of mid to latter twenties. But there’s a kid inside of him, which is why I say a cool kid, because he’s optimistic and fun loving and ambitious and he just wants to go to Detroit and make a wave from Kansas City where he was in the military.
His cousin is played by Derek Luke and that character is Stix. He takes off to Detroit first. Derek’s character then joins, but he learns the street life and the world that’s being offered in Detroit, and what he finds out is that it’s the music world. It’s the ’60’s and it’s the brink of Motown. So, he really is trying to get in where he can fit in and he doesn’t necessarily know where he fits in.
He doesn’t necessarily bring a skill that Stix as his pending, or potential manager to the girl group brings, but what he does believe he can bring is this charm and likability and all of that Carmen Ejogo’s character of Sister. We see that he does win a date. He wins a couple of dates. You see a relationship budding. He’s excited. He’s throwing his hands in the air and then all of that crashes when she turns her attention to the likes of Satin, a character played by Michael Epps.
So, when she turns her attention to Satin, Levi turns his attention to some of the darker sides of life and other sides of the track, so to speak. He definitely has an arc. We find him one way in the beginning and he ends up a little bit changed by the conclusion of the movie.
Is that change and evolution of the character within the movie something that attracted you to the role?
Omari Hardwick: Absolutely. The change and the evolution of not only him as a character, but also I think it’s fun to play a character who feels a certain way about someone who he should feel the same way about the entire time, and I don’t mean Carmen’s character. What guy in life hasn’t changed their feelings about a girl? But Derek’s character, Stix, is my cousin, and so I was attracted to the opportunity to show the reality that even blood and family members and I think that’s cool when a movie really goes there.
So, it goes there with dysfunction and a cliché manner with family members that don’t get along and then what then happens after they don’t get along even with something like ‘Boyz in the Hood.’ If you take Morris Chestnut’s character and you take Ice Cube’s character, many people forgot that they were actually brothers in that movie and they have a different feeling about each other and there’s a jealousy from Ice Cube’s character, if you remember the movie.
But in this movie, the jealousy goes to a different level. It’s a different level when you think about it, when you and the audience soon see where I then go opposite Derek Luke’s character. It’s a place that movies don’t typically allow a cousin to go. We’re truly cousins and I go to a place where you might go, ‘Are they cousins?’ So, I was attracted to the script that Mara Akil wrote immediately, when I saw that that happens. Whether this studio allows this to be carried out is one thing, but I was attracted to the work that involves, when someone of blood has to actually come off like they were strangers. So, that was different for me. I thought that was a really cool twist within the character.
You’re also in ‘The Middle of Nowhere’ which got fantastic reviews in the Los Angeles Film Festival. What can you say about that character?
Omari Hardwick: This was a really interesting character because, not to sound cliché, but what made him really interesting was the fact that he was a grown man in many ways. I played sports in my life and I had attempted to play at the professional level, and I think often about the professional athletes that come across as men because of the fact that their money is long, their sedans are long and the houses that they go home to are long, but immaturity is short, if I can use that metaphor. It’s short.
Their sight about how to make tomorrow last is also short. It’s about quick money. With the athlete it’s not necessarily about quick money because they’re in it to win it for the long haul, but the things that they have, the objects that they possess become things that we in our minds delusionally make that of maturity, meaning that they’re grown. I thought it was an interesting character because this cat is that grown in terms of the things that he has and possesses. He’s got the picturesque wife even and they’re a beautiful couple and it all looks perfect and they’re this young black family that could live any neighborhood by way of what they have, the operative word being what they have.
The problem is his outlook on how to make tomorrow last and his maturity is very short. Because of that he makes choices based on thinking that keeping her love should be done by making these choices. Those backfire on him and we find that he’s locked up, incarcerated. He gets a four year bid. He gets a six year bid. The movie takes place over a four year span where the vantage point is that of the female character. She’s the heroine in the movie and she’s perfectly written by Ava DuVernay who directed the movie as well.
The world will soon know that from her window pane she has to show us what it looks like and what it feels like to go love on a man when you physically can’t tackle him and he can’t come home and be that man that women define a man to be. His money is no longer long. What does it matter because he doesn’t have access to it, and they have to basically love each other through a visitation at a table, which is impossible to do. What was most interesting about taking on the character was that I had to find an eight year old kid in this grown man.
I played it very insecurely and very much feeling not worthy of her love. I tried to stay there instead of playing it from a mature and manly standpoint. I tried to, within Omari as a man, play this guy like he was eight years old because he’s a kid who didn’t know what he was doing. He has to suffer the consequences of not knowing what he was doing and the right way to be a man and to keep love, he just completely shits all over it.
When you’re looking for a project is the intricacy of the character playing a factor for you?
Omari Hardwick: It’s going to play a factor for me. I’ve always likened myself as someone who hasn’t lost a bit of that indie cred part of the description. I think most importantly if someone was to go why or how, maybe how would be more of the question, it’s because at the end of the day I think that the actor moniker has come after artist and poet Omari.
I’m an actor, but I’m an artist who happens to be a poet. So, when you think about a songwriter, take John Lennon and Stevie Wonder, their approach to working with another artist, the criteria is going to be very intricate for them to go, ‘Yeah, I’ll work with you,’ because they’re writers. So, for me, if I’m likened to them, I’m confident and I have lived in cars and been very poor and very hungry, so that alone allows me that, yes, there’s a business side of this and I do want to keep putting food on the table, but there’s also a side that knows how to withstand through nothing. You can raise the stakes when you’re looking at projects when intricacies are overlooked by other actors, like, ‘Man, I don’t care about all that stuff.’
For me, I’m going to care about it more because that might serve a legacy or whatever lasting impression that I’m trying to leave on the world of art. It’ll serve me better in the long run than making the money upfront. Often times the money being made upfront is attached to projects that, let’s be quite honest, don’t have the same intricacies that the projects written by those that can’t offer you up a lot of money have. It’s a very big juggle that the artist/actor always has to go through. First the actor who might not necessarily care about being an artist…it’s very different for many people. But for me, yeah, I’m going to look at the ambiguity and the grayness of a character because I’ve just lived a life where it’s more ambiguous and gray to me than black and white.
Do you have any other upcoming projects you can talk about?
Omari Hardwick: There’s a film that preceded ‘Middle of Nowhere’ and it was called ‘Things Never Said.’ That’s an indie as well, directed by Charles Murray, starring Shanola Hampton and Michael Beach as well. We had a really good time on that project. We went out for a couple of film festivals that we’re slated to be showcasing at. It’ll come out, I don’t know exactly theater wise, but definitely at a lot of film festivals. Elimu Nelson is in that as well.
Then there’s a film that I did most recently called ‘The Last Letter.’ That’s a love story/thriller opposite Sharon Leal. My mother is played by Lynn Whitfield. It also has Richard T. Jones, Gary Dourdan and Darrin Henson, Rocsi from ‘106 & Park.’ Rocsi Diaz. That film we just finished and I don’t really know when that’ll be released.
Then, hopefully, this film that’s been sort of looming for a long time now, a film that I’m very excited about and everyone keeps asking me about it, this movie ‘Pure Life.’ I’m attached to it. Vera Farmiga is attached and Elle Fanning, the baby sister of Dakota Fanning is attached as well. I’m eagerly anticipating that. The great director Van Fischer is set to direct. I met with him three years ago about that, and so we’ll see when that gets going.
Hopefully I can put my feet back into the shoes of Marcus from ‘Kick Ass’ in ‘Kick Ass 2.’ I don’t know yet if I am definitively a part of the project. So, I’m not at all going to have it put in print that I am a part of it, but fingers crossed. I definitely will be making a reprise in the follow up to the great film that started out by Matthew Vaughn.
And if you could work with any director or actor, who would that be?
Omari Hardwick: I would love to work with, first and foremost, the writer Charlie Kaufman. I thought ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ was no less than brilliant. I would love to work with Steven Spielberg just so that I could see the way that his Bill Gates mind meets the mind of Albert Einstein. I’d love to work with Ang Lee. I think he’s brilliant. I think his eye is unbelievable. I’ve been very blessed to work with the likes of Spike Lee and the cinematography prowess of Cesar Charlone. I came in at a real high level in terms of the barometer of folks that I’d worked with. Andy Davis who put me in ‘The Guardian.’ So, I’ve worked with some incredible people, but I’d love to work with Ang Lee on anything. I think he’s brilliant.
As an actor I’d love to work with Denzel Washington. I’d love as well to work with Ed Harris who’s probably in my top two favorite actor on this planet. I think it’d be cool to work with Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep.
Then, some of my friends who are close to me that are ironically working perhaps as aggressively as I’m working, but we haven’t worked together yet. Sometimes just those peers that I think are uberly talented that we work with in terms of supporting and helping each other, but haven’t worked with onscreen. That would be the day of toast, when you can work friends that got off the dream bus around the same time that you did.
(Photo credit: Joe DeAngelis)