Omari Hardwick has successfully made the transition from the football field to the silver screen. The Georgia native continues to score big with films like “Next Day Air” and “For Colored Girls.”
BET.com caught up with the Southern gentleman, who was promoting his latest project—playing leading man in director and writer Ava DuVernay’s independent film “I Will Follow,” which is in theaters this Friday. Here, he discusses tips for a healthy relationship, the backlash he received for portraying a gay man and how he feels about Tyler Perry haters.
Ava DuVernay is one of the most talented up-and-coming writers and directors today. How was it working with her?
She was great! I have worked with some really good people and great actors like Kevin Costner, Laz Alonso and Kimberly Elise. But when you can work with a person at the birth of their career, it’s a really nice thing to say. You can be the DeNiro to their Scorsese. I don’t know if I am DeNiro and I don’t know if she is Scorsese, but I know that when I was working with Spike Lee that I was a baby to a world that he had already created, whereas he and Denzel Washington came up together. It feels nice that I can be such a part of Ava’s “coming into.” I am very humbled to be a part of the beginning for her.
Your character in this film, Troy, is more restrained than your other roles. Is Troy the closest to who you are when the cameras are not rolling?
When the cameras are off, a lot of the real Omari is Troy. Maybe the older I get I am becoming closer to Troy, transforming into the more reserved, simpler man that just wants a cool life—especially now that Hollywood is becoming such a dominant life. Maybe that also speaks to the fact that certain roles can’t be done until you are a certain age or at a certain stage in your life.
As your relationship with Salli Richardson-Whitfield’s character, Maye, played out on screen, it was apparent that you two would not have a "Hollywood ending." In your opinion, what are the real-life must-haves for a successful relationship?
Obviously, God has to be there first and foremost—you have to pray together. Secondly, I would say communication and humor. Also, an attempt at least to maintain somewhat of the physical health, along with the spiritual health, that was there when the two of you met. Forget that you met years ago—act like you just met yesterday!
You were living every man’s dream being cast as Janet Jackson’s husband in Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls." But have you experienced any backlash for playing a closeted gay man?
My assumption of your question is that you are asking about negative backlash in terms of questions of me being gay. If that is your question, then I have not seen any of that. The backlash that I have seen is being labeled a homophobic monster! The questions have been “Why not be fully gay? Why be half? That’s not cool!” That’s crazy! It’s a script and I just played a character.
Recently Idris Elba and Malcolm D. Lee, director of “The Best Man,” made some biting comments about Tyler Perry. What are your thoughts on the criticisms he's received from Black directors and actors?
First and foremost, we are still in America, and everyone is entitled to their own opinions. If Matt Damon can come out and make a comment about our president after supporting our president in terms of the campaign, then I think we are stupid if we think we are not going to hear comments made by the Malcolm Lees of this world—who has asked to work with me, and I would love to work with him or his cousin, Spike Lee, who I have worked with. So, I think it comes with the territory. Tyler has to know that there are certain things that he is going to do that people are not going to be satisfied with. There are things that Tyler should be championed for that other directors, Malcolm Lee included, have not necessarily been able to do. I think that a lot of what they point their fingers at is his artistic moves versus business moves. So I think they have to let him do his thing versus criticizing him about he not being their thing. Tyler is taking a lot of backlash for the stuff he cannot do. You have to give each other time as Black directors and filmmakers.
Tell us why the BET audience should go see “I Will Follow.”
I think the reason you should watch is that something so poetic and so simple [and] beautifully done can be exciting, intriguing and engaging. It is more than a drama-filled, throwing-hair-all-over-the-place type of movie. It is a story of pain, love, loss of love and loss of a loved one.
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