Omar Miller is the real MVP. From sharing the big screen in rap battles alongside Eminem in 8 Mile to making his directional debut in 2007’s Gordon Glass to owning his stellar role as art thief Walter Simmons in CSI: Miami, Miller’s career is filled with more characters than Twitter.
In addition to his acting chops, Miller is also a die-hard sports fan. Take a quick scroll through his timeline and you’ll find him subbing in for NBA commentator. Luckily for him, he also has an HBO hit on his hands called Ballers (which premiered on June 21) The dramedy gives an inside look with a light-hearted twist of what playing the game of life is like when athletes are no longer on the field.
Here, Miller talks shop with VIBE about his Ballers character, working The Rock and his thoughts on life after sports.—Richy Rosario
VIBE: Congratulations on the new role. Tell me about your character.
Omar Miller: I play Charles Greane, an ex-world champion, Super Bowl-winning offensive lineman, who is now trying to find his way after football. It’s proven to be very difficult because he is having a hard time adjusting to civilian life.
You’ve been in other football-related films like The Express. How do you feel about that transition from the field to real life? What makes it hard?
What makes it hard is [getting] to the level of playing in the NFL, which is pretty much what you spend your entire life focused on. It makes it very difficult for you to focus on something else once that’s taken away. We see guys that transition out of sports really young. They are retiring before 30, and that’s a long time to return and make the money stretch while finding your interest.
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One of the things we explore on the show is that these guys have to really work to make them interested in being their best selves. There is also an element of a potential post-traumatic stress syndrome with these guys because they are going through some serious ups and downs. They are modern day gladiators playing in front of hundreds and thousands of people—millions if you include the television broadcast—and they are being judged, praised and broken down. There is a lot that goes on with these dudes.
Are viewers going to see some of those issues played out on Ballers?
For sure. It’s a dramedy so the primary focus is having fun and everybody laughing and having a good time. The show did a good job of touching on certain real-life and serious elements, from concussions to infidelity to drug abuse. There is a lot of truth being said in jest. There are multiple angles to this thing.
Especially things that happen when you’re in the limelight.
Yeah, absolutely, but a lot of these guys did not choose that. It’s not like being an actor. A lot of these guys just played the sport because they actually loved it, but what comes along with that is being a public figure. When you are a public figure. your entire life is living under the potential scrutiny of the public, which is hard. It’s a lot easier for everybody to sit back and judge and say what they would do then it is for these people to actually go get it in their own lives because this is what is put in front of their face all the time. People who live their life out in public is a hard choice and [they] don’t recover from that but it’s also fun because there’s perks to it. Just like everything else in life, it’s give and take. At the end of the day, it’s a job. We [also] touch on how you go from being a little boy, playing the game for passion and love, then it becomes a business.
How was it acting alongside Dwayne Johnson?
Could not have been cooler. That dude is the best. He is invited to my house for dinner anytime. He is a really humble dude, just a real person with no pretense. And he never plays that star card he could play any time he wanted to. And it’s really cool because he really understands the concept. In his situation, he is a team leader and I think what you’ll see in this program is him as an actor, not just a movie star. Not just as a guy who is out to save the world and save the day. You see him as a flawed, vulnerable dude, who is also funny. I think the show is going to do a lot for his talents because he is a real talented guy.
Who else were you excited to work with?
I also got to work with [Pittsburgh Steeler] Antonio Brown and [free agent] Steven Jackson. They are super charismatic. It’s great too because it made me think of several teams that I’ve been on and locker rooms that I’ve been in. People who don’t play sports at a higher level have no idea, but athletes are some of the funniest people on the planet. These guys are really footloose and fancy free.
Tune into Ballers on HBO every Sunday night at 10pm.
Photo Credit: Manfred Baumann