Omari Hardwick Interview: Spell

Spell, arriving in theaters on October 30, tells the story of a man whose plane crashes in Appalachia and lands him in the midst of a mysterious Hoodoo practitioner’s land. Anchored by Omari Hardwick and Loretta Devine, it’s a thriller full of powerful magic and even more powerful performances for the Halloween season.

Hardwick chatted with Screen Rant about the challenges of taking on such a difficult role, both on a mental and physical level, and what he learned about Hoodoo spirituality in the process.

This role seems to be a 180 degree turn from your star-making role in Power. What were some of the challenges and intrigue that inspired you to take this role?

Omari Hardwick: First of all, thanks for having me, bro. The first challenge for me, using that word that you use, was meeting the director post-Power, like, right after Power. The movie is the third job after Power, but I met him right after Power in a FaceTime conversation about this movie. He did say he didn’t know when we would shoot it if I said yes to it. He did tell me that he knew a lot about Power, and that we had met prior at some kind of event that was Power-related, ironically.

But in the midst of having heard so much from other people about their opinions about my work, not just in terms of Ghost but of other roles, he still came out believing that there was more to me. That I could be way more colors than have been seen prior. That’s a challenge. Especially when you’re coming from the heavy, 30-headed monster called Ghost. That’s like, wow, that’s really dope. I’ve never been a stranger to challenge. I tend to always be attracted to girls that are extremely challenging; that’s not an easy person to be attracted to, because you’re constantly having to look in your own mirror and go, “Okay, I’m not upholding my end of the bargain.”

But I felt the same way when I talked to him. I felt like I definitely have upheld my end of the bargain in terms of Hollywood going, “He’s one of our guys that we don’t mind calling.” But this guy’s telling me he wants me to go even further with it. So, that was the first and foremost gravitational pull for me: this dude challenging me in that way.

Secondly, I knew that I hadn’t been seen in this light before, this space of horror and psychological thriller. Definitely, as a kid. I didn’t necessarily rock with just the horror genre. But if you added the psychological thriller component – we’re talking Silence of the Lambs, The Shining, things like that – I wasn’t supposed to watch The Shining, but I snuck it in. I guess I was old enough to watch Hannibal Lecter, and Anthony Hopkins’ turn as that. I watched it, and it stayed with me forever. Inclusive in that was the chase or the intrigue of the character played by Jodie Foster; her intrigue with that character. So, those things.

Obviously, I knew that this smelled like Misery, and it would be compared to Misery – I read the script. But for me, it was really just this dive back into the world that I had tried to run so far from. We see that Marquis T. Woods is a character who’s trying to outrun his past and the dysfunctional f-ed ub normal reality of what he comes from. We learn that what’s not necessarily abnormal is that a lot of people try to outrun that past; it’s not abnormal. It’s very normal to try to outrun that which you grew up in.

But the thing that made this movie exciting is that the writer [Kurt Wimmer] created such a template where this character cannot outrun it. No matter what he tries to do, he’s handcuffed to his past. That for me was like, “This is good.”

Hoodoo is explored in this film in a way that I hadn’t seen before. It’s a real thing, and it takes it very seriously. What did you learn from that, and what should people expect from the supernatural elements of Hoodoo?

Omari Hardwick: Absolutely. You’re right, first and foremost, because I did know somewhat of it growing up in Georgia. You have bordering places – cities, states; South Carolina being one, Louisiana being another, the city of New Orleans – no stranger to that. I grew up with Haitian friends, grew up with African friends, and so Hoodoo and Voodoo were not foreign to me. I understood that Christianity is often mixed in, particularly because that stuff bellows in the southern regions of our America. So, growing up in Atlanta, Georgia was again – it wasn’t foreign to me.

But what I didn’t know was – as you stated, and having watched Eve’s Bayou, it gave us a touch of it – this goes to another level, and they really dive in. They really do it in a way where you can’t necessarily define it as one particular thing, because it is a hodgepodge of sorts. Dare I say a gumbo, that we also know is created out of that world and out of that southern region. They’ve created a world that is just their own exclusive belief system; their medicinal use of things to aid the citizens at getting better and being healed, but then at also doing whatever they need to do to control that citizen. Many of them believe that they’ve been on Earth for so many years prior, even if you and I see them and perceive them to be a chronological age that is befitting of the way they look. They’ll say, “I’m 150 years old,” and you’re like, “Huh?”

There was a Bible written by our director, Mark Tonderai. He created an almost 200-page Bible and gave it to myself, Loretta, the rest of my cast mates, certain crew members who needed it – and we learned just so much that we hadn’t prior known. I still have it; he gave us the Bible to keep, and it was just unbelievable the research he did, and then what he expected us to also get out of it.

I’ve seen this movie twice, and the second time watching it, you pick up so much. Like, the usage of windows that are in frame.

Omari Hardwick: I’ve only seen it once, but I didn’t think about that. Windows, the coming in and going.

A good part of the film, you’re bedridden. How do you prepare psychologically for that scenario?

Omari Hardwick: It helps to wear yourself out on six and a half years of playing Ghost, nine other characters during that time, a whole bunch of songs being made musically, throw an Army of the dead next to Bautista, who equally is trying to work out with you on the weekends. So, exhaustion might aid that.

But I think it terms of the mental space, all jokes aside, I do feel like it was one of those things that was very challenging for me. In a different way, but maybe in the same way to Mark’s point. If he wanted me to be seen being a level of broken that nobody had seen me prior, or showing a level of vulnerability that no one had seen, I think what he knew was that the script can aid that if you submit to that. Because you’ve been written to be bed-ridden, and if you’ve been written to be that, then at some point you’ve got to lose your head. Or lose your wherewithal and your sanity, even in front of crew members as they walk around going about their day – gaffers working, lighting people working.

Bro, I was having my own conversations while they were moving around me. I was going to very eight-year-old places, crying one minute and then all of a sudden I started laughing hysterically. They were so gifted and so crafted. [Jacques Jouffret], who was our film’s director of photography and is just a brilliant man, he had done work as a camera operator oh Man on Fire. You know how Tony Scott shoots, you saw Man on Fire. There were moments where Jacques and Mark are walking around me, and I’m talking out loud to myself, and they didn’t even turn it look. They just let me be wherever I needed to be.

But being stuck to the bed that long, [Ndumi Mlokoti], this beautiful South African brother – he was my PA, and he would bring me food. He would look at me like, “I think he’s hungry,” and he wouldn’t ask permission. Sometimes he’d go, “You need water,” and other times obviously he’d see my my lips were dry but knew I wanted to maintain the dry lip moment or look. He would just – people picked up. I guess I gave enough of a loving energy for people to know when to approach and when not to, but I was going crazy.

And then on Saturday and Sunday, going back to the hotel and trying to be there for Jae [my wife] and the kids. That was a lot for me. It was super a lot.

More: Arianna Greenblatt Interview for Love and Monsters

Spell is out in theaters on October 30.