In walks Omari Hardwick, a complex creative excited to talk about his love for music and poetry. Our conversation would soon reveal that the actor we were introduced to as Ghost is also a writer, a musician, and a man who has spent much of his life feeling misunderstood.
He stopped by the iOne Digital offices on Thursday, May 10, to chop it up with HipHopWired about his new Poetics podcast. During our chat, Omari let us in on how he got his start in poetry and lightly mentioned that friendly moment with Beyoncé at the 2019 NAACP Image Awards. He talked about his and got into how playing Ghost for seven months per year on Power has affected him.
On What Led Omari To Express Himself Through Poetry
“It kind of just is…a poet just is,” he said. “I think you just wake up one day and, before the pen hits the paper, you’re kind of looking at life poetically… I think it was already there. 11 was the first poem written – it was to a girl. That’s all I remember,” he said of the first time he picked up a pen.
While a girl inspired him, he was also heavily influenced by the music he was surrounded by, as he notes the base of many of his favorite MCs (Tupac, Rakim, Common, Big Daddy Kane, and more) is actually poetry.
“It was definitely a girl at first, but it’s all of that music that was in the house,” he said of his upbringing. “Motown was playing. Hip-Hop was competing with Motown. Then I hear Wynton Marsalis and there was no vocalization, it was only instrumentation. The poems would come to me while I was hearing jazz and piano and so, I guess the poetry was there. I was reading Langston Hughes…. Then I learned that my pops was a poet. He’s an attorney by trade, but mom revealed all of these poems once I started to really write. I was probably now 20 years of age, writing in college, playing college football at the University of Georgia, and doing theatre within about a year from that moment. Moms brought me a whole volume of this sh*t he had written. I even learned that I wrote like him. I guess it’s genetic.”
On How He’s Able To Set Aside The Darkness That Comes With Playing Ghost
When it’s mentioned that Michael B. Jordan had a difficult time playing Killmonger in Black Panther, Omari reveals Jordan has been his “little brother” for “twenty-something” years. Though he wasn’t aware Jordan went to therapy after the role, he says his brother is a sweet “child at heart” and so he sees how playing Killmonger, a very dark character, could have disrupted his happiness. With that said, he adds…
“Playing Ghost has been a concurrent therapy session. Ghost is every single Sunday for six seasons – 10 Killmongers. Mike did his thing with Killmonger! But, I’ve been playing Killmonger for six seasons every single week for about 7 months per year.”
So what helped? One summer, his wife Jennifer suggested that instead of spending the summer shooting a movie, he do music… “I think if anything helped, it probably would be the fact that I started recording music – ’cause I was really getting it out, as opposed to writing poems.”
“I was really struggling. Ghost was really beating my *ss,” he confessed.
On Negativity Being So Heavily Promoted On Social Media
“Social media has definitely revealed to me too many people’s thoughts of negativity. I wish I didn’t know people were so negative. Hate is sold,” Omari commented.
On Feeling Misunderstood
“I’ve definitely always felt like I could not describe myself to most people. I still feel that way and I get very frustrated… I get lonely a lot in communication because I don’t think a lot of people can keep up with where I’m going,” he admitted, adding “I was never really bad at communicating or being articulate. What was hard for me was expressing all of the things inside of me.”
“Nina Simone was huge for me – understand me now,” he said, quoting the late legend’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” lyrics. “That sh*t was huge for me. When I first heard that song, I think my writing went different, me as a man I grew differently. She’s one of my favorite artists of all time and, I think, one of the great poets of all time. That was always a tough thing for me – to be misunderstood and to [find] people that spoke my language.”
Omari told us that back in the day, he would ride his bike to poetry venues and stop at the bus stop, where he often had amazing conversations with homeless people. “I learned not to judge a book by its cover,” he said of his search to find those who understand him.
On Men Not Growing Up And Finding It Difficult To Communicate And Be Vulnerable
“We’ve lost so many men that Omari embracing a friend, or giving a friend a kiss, became a story. It’s one of those things that social media hasn’t really aided. I don’t know why the eye contact has faded… indecision, not knowing how to ask a girl out. I don’t know why it’s faded.”
On Adjusting To Hollywood
“I never wanted people to not feel comfortable next to me, so celebrity is weird for me. I’m still adjusting with it and to it,” he explained.
Check out Omari Hardwick’s new Poetics podcast here. He interviews a different Hip-Hop guest for every episode and each guest submits their own poem to be discussed and dissected. It’s all about vulnerability.
Photos: @photosbynae, Getty