The premise of Starz’s breakout show Power seems familiar: a boy from a poor neighborhood in Queens rises through the drug dealings ranks to become the boss of a crime empire and the nuanced power struggle of the New York underworld comes to light through betrayal, secrets and scandals. In this case, however, the script is flipped in an interesting way. James St. Patrick (AKA Ghost), played by Omari Hardwick, might be the boss in the drug world, but he doesn’t really want to rule the streets. His greatest desire is to make the legal part of his lavish double life his only reality, ruling the Meatpacking District as a legitimate business owner.
Hardwick is also a multi-hyphenate, but of a very different kind. On the surface, he’s perfect for the role of Ghost because he looks great in a suit and can handle a fight scene or two—he is a former college football player, after all—but his prowess isn’t strictly physical. While on a hiatus from filming Power, he has been pouring his soul into an extension of the more emotional side of himself: an album that blurs the lines between singing, poetry and rap. “If you smash the athlete together with the poet, maybe that’s the actor,” says Hardwick. It’s an idea that’s evident in his complex portrayal of Ghost.
For the Starz higher-ups, he was an obvious choice for the role from the start. “He was one of the first people we wanted for the role, and I personally got on the phone with him to talk to him about playing Ghost,” says Executive Producer Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent. “I knew he was going to be the best actor for this role. He brings so much depth to Ghost’s character.” Executive Producer Mark Canton echoes this sentiment, saying, “He’s a talented actor with an extremely diverse range; he really has the chops to make both James St. Patrick and Ghost come alive.”
Hardwick knows a soulful and poetic album won’t attract the same level of attention as a big-budget film—even if he is collaborating with the likes of Josiah Bell, Estelle and Earth Wind and Fire. He’s not concerned about that. He does it because it comes naturally, and “to step away from a guy like Ghost,” Hardwick says. Recently, there’s been no shortage of inspiration for his writing.
“Prince passed away: poem. Phife Dawg, the hip-hop head, passed away: poem. Tupac’s mom passed away: poem. Muhammad Ali passed away: poem,” says Hardwick. “So I’ve been really challenging myself to do one per week; all these people keep passing away who I admired.”
Creatively, Hardwick is never without motivation. Next, he’ll be producing and acting in a biopic about legendary spoken word artist Gil Scott-Heron. But his introspective nature provides an interesting dynamic as his fame grows.
“That part of life, I was never necessarily prepared for, because I’m too logical and in my mind you gotta kind of know me before you act that crazy,” says Hardwick. “Sometimes guys at an airport just wink at me and point. I don’t know if it’s about Ghost, but it is so humbling to have anybody recognize something that you do.”