Freehold, Brooklyn: Hardwick walks with the ease of a man who has nothing to hide. He’s wearing a light denim shirt with unbuttoned cuffs with a red t-shirt peeking from underneath. As he eases himself to sit on the slightly overgrown grass, he doesn’t seem to care about staining his crisp white jeans. Instead, he leans back with a smile.
His essence is drastically opposite to that of the sharp, tense, dressed to the nines James “Ghost” St. Patrick who he portrays on Power.
He describes himself as a temperamental football player, meets poet, songwriter and musician.
“I’ve always been a guy that thought: I’ve got to use all these colors,” he said. “I think it’s a wasted life if you’re not tapping into at least two of the gifts God gave you. I just didn’t know how to deal with the celebrity part that came with it.”
Unlike his series counterpart, Hardwick ran from the spotlight obscured under the cover of a helmet. Acting became a backdrop amongst his athletic and poetic talents.
“ I think Omari was still the growing actor. Growing into that place of celebrity that is very difficult for me, which is why I moved my family to Denver, Colorado. The celebrity is really difficult for an artsy, fartsy guy who happens to fit a physicality.”
He quotes his wife saying, “she met a poet who just happened to be able to act.” But, he’s not a fan of the moniker.
“Acting is not a good thing as an actor — cause you look like you’re acting,” he said.
He speaks passionately of the art mentioning numerous films, actors, and directors inspiring his own performance. He doesn’t want to be an actor. He wants to be an artist. And he is.
Rather than acting in the role of Ghost, he says it was more of him leading the character— who he describes as an entrepreneur with “a multitude of colors.”
“I think people believe that Ghost made Omari but that’s not the case,” he said. “We’re both focused individuals but his focus is a very entrepreneurial, capitalistic, focal point that is not befitting of an artist.”
James St. Patrick, Hardwick’s character on the hit show Power, is extremely analytical and usually 15 steps ahead of ahead of his enemies. Life is a game of chess and he’s very good at it. He’ll face kings, queens, and pawns to get what he wants by any means necessary, while simultaneously adjusting a tie against his perfectly tailored suit. A suit he uses as armor to cover his flaws.
He’s a street kid turned kingpin, transforming himself into an entrepreneur while continuing to tie his past keeps the life he wants on a constant string.
“The biggest ghost for Ghost is Ghost,” Hardwick said. And it seems the more moves Ghost makes, whether good or bad, the more viewers cheer him on.
“I don’t think there’s any other character that I’ve ever played in my career who has become a celebrity,” he said. “There was one episode where Ghost killed like seven people. And we still root for the guy.”
That is the goal. Hardwick feels it’s his responsibility to make the audience so empathetic toward him to the point that even at his most vicious level, Ghost is celebrated. But after multiple seasons, something’s got to give.
In Season 4, Hardwick asked the series’ head writer, Courtney A. Kemp, for punishment.
“I flat out asked,” he said, “Can he be put in a basement of sorts? Maybe a basement that he and Tommy used to hide out in when they were living in Southside Jamaica, before they were getting into penthouses and lofts in Manhattan. Somewhere that he could hide out and reconfigure some things. What she created was even better: him being locked up. How’s that for punishment?”
He wanted Ghost to feel the gravity of his murderous and unyielding game of chess. From the start in Season 1, Kemp let it be known that there should be no assumption that the main character will continuously be exempt from getting checked.
“You gotta take this punishment,” he said.
During his time in prison, Ghost feared not getting back to his children. In the Season 4 finale, Ghost’s daughter Raina, played by Donshea Hopkins, became a pawn in someone else’s fatal game.
“When the character was released from prison, somebody at home is cheering saying, ‘There’s hope for Ghost!’ What I liked about Season 4 is we didn’t really end it with ‘hopefully.’”
Still, Hardwick has trouble watching that scene. The shocking scene where the constant light throughout the entire series was snubbed out, while trying to protect the family.
In Season 5, after Raina’s death, Ghost is more figuratively in prison than he ever was physically. In previous seasons, the thought of his daughter realizing his truth often dictated his actions. In Season 5, this barrier is gone.
Hardwick says the most prominent characteristic of Ghost will be his vulnerability. He played the part as fearfully as possible. This season’s Ghost will be the most afraid and darkest Ghost audiences have ever seen.
“I [as Ghost] blamed everybody else because what father wouldn’t blame everybody else. I tried to play him so afraid that it would be hard to not feel bad for him. The only place I could go is places that I knew Darkness to exist.”
Hardwick likens the series to a Shakespearean drama with an urban backdrop.
“Great shows had bits of Shakespeare but who was better than Shakespeare? He knew drama and he knew dark comedy. Hopefully we’re considered one of the great 20 best dramatic shows of all time. That did have enough Shakespeare in it, which I think all the great shows do.”
Love, loss, egotism, jealousy, loyalty, lust, hatred run throughout the series. Power may seem to be about having power but in actuality it’s about the obsessive chase of power and the possible loss once having it.
Hardwick has high hopes for the future and legacy of the series, despite possible redlining during awards season. He believes the artistics vagabonds involved in the creation of Power will always be able to hang their hat on it.
“There’s been this plastic covering over Power and it’s alright. It almost became more iconic. It’s timeless. If we’re shadowed or covered a bit or if there’s a big ghost over Power then fuck it.”
POWER airs Sunday on STARZ and his film, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU opens this Friday, July 6th in select theater