Omari Hardwick is adding “star in a thriller film” to his career accomplishments. After six seasons of playing the fan-favorite James “Ghost” St. Patrick on Starz’s hit series Power, he’s reemerging onto the big screen as Marquis T. Woods in Paramount’s new flick, Spell. His character, an accomplished lawyer, takes his family on a trip to his hometown of Appalachia to attend his father’s funeral. After his plane crashes in the midst of a storm, Woods wakes up wounded in a Hoodoo witch’s lair and tries to escape Ms. Eloise (Loretta Devine) torturous “healing” to rescue his family before they are sacrificed in a dark magic ritual.
While sitting down with the movie’s director Mark Tonderai (House at the End of the Street, Hush), it didn’t take much convincing for Hardwick to make a decision around being involved with the project. In fact, it was what Tonderai said about his past onscreen roles that sealed the deal.
“He really, he really lit a fire under me. He said, ‘They’re all great. They’re all good. You’ve done your part. But I don’t know if you’ve really, really shown all that’s in you,'” Hardwick shared with correspondent Jazzie Belle in a sit-down interview with VIBE. “He said, ‘Yeah, you’ve shown so many different colors as an ex-football player, but there’s just this layer to you that when I look at your eyes. I see a guy that can really go to a very, very broken, broken vulnerable place, and we haven’t seen it.’ And I want to take it upon myself to be the director to get that out of you.’ And when he said that, that’s what did it for me.”
In the challenging development of his character, Hardwick admitted he had to dig deep into the unpretty parts of himself to authentically deliver his role and gave the same advice to a younger family member looking to start his career as an actor. “I said, ‘I need you to go back into it, and quietly do it…You’ll keep that coolness going, but you’ll find that swagger, even more, when you get really, really cozy with the stuff you don’t like about you.’
“That’s what had to happen in this movie. I got right with stuff that I was not really cool with over the years…When I got the role, we didn’t know COVID would be here. But now that we’re here, I’m glad that I thought, ‘Okay, Omari, you got to go real broken. You got to go real ugly.’ And so that process was not very easy for me, because unlike [my] 20-year-old cousin, I’m so far from that. I’ve tried to get away from everything ugly about me, but I had to go so deep back into it.”
Watch the full video interview above and see a couple of written highlights below. Spell is now available on premium video-on-demand platforms and screening in select theaters.
On what made him gravitate toward this movie genre:
Definitely the bucket list check-off of trying to get to the point in my career where I can say I’ve done damn near every genre, if not every genre, so this definitely was a check for that. I didn’t want to get down with just horror. I knew that feeling of what every comedian made us laugh about, and saying, “When we look at the scary movie the black people gone in five minutes!” I knew what that felt like and I didn’t necessarily (laughs) want to become that in the world. I think at this point in my career, you know, I don’t think I would have gotten the script where I’d be taken off the board that quick if it was just horror. But when you add the psychological thriller to the horror, then I think it’s the right sort of combination of two for me to say yes to….for me to say yes to.
On lessons learned while working with Loretta Devine:
I would say the constant attention to detail. I think the elder statesman and the elder stateswomen of our industry…they tend to be so detailed-oriented because they had to be. And they didn’t have access to as many things as we do. So I looked at her in a way of, “Am I in method? Yeah, I’m in method.” She was constantly studying, and it kind of makes you go like, “I guess I should study.”
The [one] scene is like, I don’t know, like six hours of just her leaning over and telling me about voodoo and hoodoo and what it all means. And yet, in between takes she’s like grabbing her script. So there were times I would just stare at her like, “Wow, it’s the detail.” But Snoop Dogg once said he wants to be the weakest in a room. And he said, “I’m real strong.” So to know you’re real strong, but yet you want to be the weakest in the room, that’s what it felt like being around Loretta. Like man, I thought I worked hard.
On whether he ever believed in any superstitions:
Being an athlete, for me, it’s like, I believe in, once you win, you can’t change much of what you were wearing when you won. There are definitely moments where I never washed my socks for a long time because we were winning. I believe in that stuff, man. And that’s swampy. You talking football, basketball, I mean, baseball, I played in those, all three of those sports I played, all in high school. So there were moments where definitely you could see teammates stopping by my locker and doing a double-take like, “Damn, O.” There’s definitely that. (laughs)
Interview’s music bed provided by Gus.