Exclusive: Omari Hardwick Talks ‘Shot Caller’ and ‘Power/ Game of Thrones’ Hacking

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Exclusive: Omari Hardwick Talks ‘Shot Caller’ and ‘Power and Game of Thrones’ Hacking
Posted by Wilson Morales

August 25, 2017

Currently in select theaters and On Demand is the hard-grippring thriller ‘Shot Caller,’ written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Felon, Snitched).

The cast consists of a number of faces you’ve seen on the big and small screen, including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Emory Cohen, Jeffrey Donovan, Evan Jones, Benjamin Bratt, and Holt McCallany.

SHOT CALLER follows the harrowing, often heart-rending journey of successful businessman Jacob Harlon (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who is transformed into Money, a stoic, ruthless prison gangster after a DUI sends him down the rabbit hole of the American prison system.

As he navigates the brutality of his new home, adapting to its violent codes of ethics and rites of passage that will ensure his survival, he slowly loses his previous identity and his relationship to his former life, including his wife and son. The grip of his new family, the prison gang, extends beyond the prison walls. Upon his release, chased by the law enforcement, threatened by his incarcerated “protectors,” Money must orchestrate one last dangerous crime. All is not what it seems. The ruthless process of fulfilling his obligations also becomes his path to sacrifice, retribution and self-definition.

For Hardwick, whose best known for his current role as Ghost on Starz’s hit series Power, this is one of the many projects he’s did during his break from the show. In this film, he plays a parole officer assigned to watch over Jacob. Ironically, Hardwick’s Power airs opposite Coster-Waldau’s Game of Thrones and both shows were hacked during this summer in which early episodes were leaked online.

Hardwick recently spoke with Blackfilm.com about his role in the film and the hacking of both of shows.

What attracted you to the project?

Omari Hardwick: Immediately upon reading the script, I knew the genre was something that I was attracted to; and not necessarily the genre in terms a hard thriller but in terms of specificity – the culture of incarceration and America. While I can’t speak about the jail systems around the world but in our system, those that go in aren’t necessarily that bad. I have worked in the prison system in terms of outreach while I was living cars and trying to be an actor. I was showering at the YMCA and I was working with juvenile kids for a very long time using poetry to help a lot of these kids to figure out their craft. I try to get the kids to not hate their world having been incarcerated as teenagers.

It was also seeing the names of these great actors that Ric was casting and seeing what they could bring to the table in terms of the character that they were cast to play. From Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jon Bernthal, Benjamin Bratt, and Holt McCallany, all of these guys I thought a lot about in terms of actors and my praise of their work. With this movie, I felt we had an opportunity to tell a really incredible story that is more of an activist story of the prison system and not being what it needs to be. With me being an activist, that alone attracted me to the project. In terms of the writing, Ric Roman Waugh had done Felon and Snitch, so he’s no stranger in terms of telling this story of prison and I think no one does it better. I’ll put my hat on that. No one does it better.

Can you talk about the character you play, Kutcher? As the films starts, he takes a shot in the chest and survives while doing his job.

Omari Hardwick: I would say that prior to him taking that hit, he’s already a guy that had 2 PTSDs and is still suffering from that. Including myself, many people in life are suffering from PTSD through our environmental mishaps; and for me, the family members that have been taken from me even by murder (my brother). My father was shot six times but he survived but I lost a brother to murder and I lost a son at childbirth. There were certain things that this character was reminding me of when it comes traumatic stress. My character was at another level and suffering from that. Paramedics, Firefighters and other occupations suffer this and football players with CTE. Before we see that character on screen, he’s already suffering.

As an actor, I decided to make Kutcher a wolf. I wanted to make him a hunter. I grew my beard out. I gained 15 pounds which was my football weight. He’s a no frills, tough cat with an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). But if we had to sneak into his house, which we didn’t get to, you would see that he’s really an ordinary human being and vulnerable. Ironically, Jacob (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is changing into Money and becoming less vulnerable and harden to the place of not wanting to return to his family and I think Kutcher regrets that he didn’t even make a family. He’s been chasing criminals for so long and trying to keep them on the straight and now, that Benjamin Bratt’s character has to keep him together after he’s been shot and hurt.

With Power and other projects, including this one, what goes into saying yes to the roles you take?

Omari Hardwick: Different characters. There are so many colors inside of me. Knowing one’s self is so important. I have grandfathers who are 90 years of age and they would say that “A man is dead when he stops growing,” and I add in the word “Learning” inside those words. It’s about continuing to learn who you are, and for me, the journey and not necessarily hitting like my little brother Michael B. Jordan, or getting the type of show like Baller that my other little brother and Denzel and Pauletta’s son, John David Washington, was able to get. My career has been arduous and a lot of journalists that are fans of Omari are true fans of Omari’s journey. The profile has been earned through blood, sweat and tears; and I think it comes with knowing that I have a whole bunch of colors inside of me.

I’m a complexed dude and the older I get I learn how complexed. If that’s reflective of me looking at scripts and knowing that financially I’m secured so I can say no to projects. The biggest power play in life is saying no. I’m able to say yes to projects that others turned their nose at. I tend to say, “Why not?” I’ve everything from the homosexual confused husband of Janet Jackson in ‘For Colored Girls,’ to a young thug Ghost-in-the-making but not with the heart of Ghost in ‘Gridiron Gang.’ I played the inmate in ‘Middle of Nowhere,’ and now I play a parole office in this film.

I came off doing three movies this summer and I also did an album this year so I’m trying to flush all the colors out in any avenue that God has given me to flush them out at and music is one of those. Character is what stands out to me in terms of being different. I’m looking for the right comedy. Kevin Hart and I have been talking about doing a great comedy for a long time, but it has to be the right one.

Can you comment on how both your day job, which is Power, and Nikolaj’s day job, which is Game of Thrones, have been hacked?

Omari Hardwick: I think we all live in a space sometimes of reality and fantastical proportions, where there is a big dream or reality where we live in power play consistently; and there is a place where they think no one is paying attention to them, and they are in a power play as to who’s got it, who’s at the commands, who’s not, who’s secured, and not. At the bottom base level of both those shows, there is a fight for power that we all are watching with Game of Thrones and then on the present level struggles for the same thing that we see in Power. Both shows are about the loss of Power and the struggle to get it back, and when we, as in anyone who watches either show, go home and sit next to our loved one (wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend, relative) we fight for some control or power. We act like we don’t, but we’re insecurely addicted and those shows speak to it in very different ways but with the same point.

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