The ‘Power’ of Omari Hardwick

Omari Hardwick has catapulted to star status in his hit Starz show, “Power.” But it’s a role the multi-talented actor almost passed on.

When Hardwick – who had supporting roles in “Being Mary Jane,” “Middle of Nowhere” and a host of other movies – first read the script for the show, he liked the premise, but he was satisfied at the time with taking a backseat to any leading role. His wife, however, encouraged him to go for it.

“I really had a problem with being the man,” Hardwick said. “I’m past it now, but that was my insecurity. I ran from that. I was cool with being No. 3 on the call sheet or No. 2. I’m too competitive to be No. 7, but I was always cool with being the man next to the man.

“My wife told me the only way for my platform to get bigger is embrace certain things like …the sex symbol thing. I wasn’t nurtured to think of myself in that way, but I embraced it enough.”

On “Power,” Hardwick plays the character of James “Ghost” St. Patrick, a New York nightclub owner who is trying to escape the double life of a drug kingpin while dating a federal prosecutor as a married man. He accepted the role after meeting with show creator Courtney Kemp Agboh, saying it’s one of the best career decisions he’s ever made.

“There aren’t a lot of people out there like this guy,” Hardwick said of his character. “He wears on me like the heaviest mink coat your grandmama ever wore. There’s a lot of Omari in Ghost and a lot of Ghost in Omari.”

“Power,” which is also produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, has become one of Starz’s most popular shows, averaging nearly 3 million viewers last season, according to Nielsen. The series just returned for its fourth season with what Hardwick calls a “very dark season. I was living in a jail.”

Joseph Sikora, who co-stars as Tommy, said Hardwick “flourished” in the role from the start.

“He definitely considers himself to be the quarterback, and takes that position very seriously,” Sikora said. “I think he is very comfortable in a position of control and that puts people around him at ease.”

Hardwick said his role in Power helped him overcome his insecurities. He played football at the University of Georgia (he minored in drama) and sports has always been a primary calling card (to this day, he maintains an athletic build.) But acting was always in the back of his mind.

“I enjoyed sports and I was always competitive and aggressive and so sports sort of just took over. But there was always this side of me even by high school where I was like ‘Yeah, but theater is dope. It’s cool. It’s different,’ ” he insisted. “So it was always there. I think the two competed. I think the artist bug and athletic bug competed at the same time, but I think the artist bug won out in terms of at least putting food on the table.”