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Omari Hardwick explains why playing Ghost on ‘Power’ made it challenging to tackle his role in his new movie ‘A Boy. A Girl. A Dream.’

Omari Hardwick’s new movie, A Boy. A Girl. A Dream., shows the Power actor embodying a character who is much more vulnerable and sensitive than the tough-talking, philandering Ghost.

In the film, Hardwick stars as Cass—a very talented and disillusioned filmmaker who fills the hours with nightclubs, alcohol, and fruitless over-thinking when he’s not spending time with the love of his life, his son. Cass is a sensitive soul who is holding back from fulfilling his dreams.  co-stars as Frida, a lawyer who is suppressing her creative talents as well.

The two randomly meet on a fateful night— the evening of the 2016 presidential election. Viewers are voyeurs to the nuances and raw awkward moments of an impromptu first date that is surprisingly intense and realistic. All of that is couched in the anxiety and dread that we all felt on that November night.

The chemistry between Hardwick and Good is undeniable and the dialogue (which has a fair amount of improvisation) is pitch perfect. Sundance audiences felt the same way. The movie sparked such a buzz that it was picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films and will be released nation-wide on September 7, 2018.

It’s a love story with edge that manages to steer clear of being corny or overly sweet. Part of what makes A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. so compelling is director Qasim Basir’s decision to shoot this as a “oner.” That’s filmmaker speak for shooting one long scene instead of chopping up a film with edits and multiple takes. The movie is over an hour long and was shot in several different locations in L.A. but it was all done in one shot, meaning they had to start all over if anyone fumbled a line and couldn’t recover or if they missed a cue.

That presents quite a challenge for any actor, even a veteran like Hardwick. TheGrio caught up with him during the Cinetopia Film Festival (May 31-June 10) in southeast Michigan. The thespian shared with us how he “cheats” as an actor, how this film ups the ante for Black love stories, and why it was a lot harder than he thought making the transition from Ghost to Cass.

theGrio: What was your first thought when you read the script?
Omari Hardwick: I thought it was ambitious, but I also knew it was in capable hands with Q (Qasim Basir). He’s a real artist who cares about his work. I knew immediately that I wanted to do it. I could see his vision. When I first read the script, I knew we had to have an actress who could rock. Q was like ‘Omari is a quick-thinking poet who a lot of people know as Ghost, but he’s wider than Ghost. There’s a big ol’ brain in there.’ We both knew we needed an actress who could keep up with me. I’m a theater actor who misses stage and I’m a poet. I’m an artist first and an actor second.

theGrio: There’s a clear and honest chemistry between you and Meagan Good on camera. It’s a very believable first date narrative.
OH: I’ve known Meagan since she was 16. It’s never a first date when you have that kind of history with somebody, but for the story Q had created, it’s supposed to be awkward. At first I was worried how those quiet spaces would come across at Sundance or if people would get sick of looking at our faces going through these emotional changes. We broke the fourth wall in a weird way for a voyeuristic viewer to look at what it’s like to think about some shit before you say something. The Sundance audience definitely got it, so I was happy about that.

theGrio: Have you ever done a oner before?
OH: Never done a oner. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve even met anyone who has. There are beautiful love stories that look like us that we think back on.  Like Love Jones for instance. What Lorenz (Tate) and Nia (Long) did in that, what the director did in terms of the look of it, you felt that story. Mahogany is another beautiful love story. And regardless of race, The Notebook was so good because it was real. When Ryan Gosling  says that line about we fight and we make up, that’s what we do, people felt that because they understand that.

Omari Hardwick Qasim Basir
Omari Hardwick and Qasim Basir attend a Hennessy-sponsored reception in their honor to celebrate A Boy. A Girl. A Dream.

The stakes are high in the love stories we like, but those are scripted projects. The actors get to play within script. For this film, Q basically gave us 60 pages of a script and told us to fill in 30 pages. We had to come off page for 30 pages of work, which is about 30 minutes of filming.

theGrio: What was the biggest challenge for you on this project?
OH: The biggest challenge was coming off the level and quantity of work that is required for Ghost and Power.  Had I not been coming out of Power this would not have been as challenging for me because I have a photographic memory. Basically I cheat. I’m very lucky.

But, I went method for that season of Power, so it was more than just about learning new lines. Ghost was incarcerated, so I wasn’t saying a lot, not verbalizing much at all, even to my family at home. I was in a very quiet space for about five months. I was staying in jail sometimes where we shot the scenes. It was tough. Q actually pushed the movie production back a few months so that I could have the space and time I needed to come down from being Ghost. He is the first director I’ve worked with who made me feel like ‘Oh, you’re worthy of a project waiting for you.’

theGrio: What did you take away from this experience? What will stay with you?
OH: Typically a project has about 60-80 people in it like an environment in a sport like football, a sport I used to play as did Q and the producer Datari Turner. Jay Ellis played basketball, so he understands too. Everybody benefits from the cogs doing their job. The 60 people are moving to make the big machine work.

But this was not a normal movie set. It was much smaller and with really tight time constraints. My fear was that people wouldn’t be at the level they needed to be when they couldn’t blend in to a larger group. Q and I have a high standard for the quality we expect from people. We expect people to play their part. These athletes are funny in Hollywood. We eat up a lot of the softness of the industry. I will always take from making this film that sometimes you fall upon people who are A-ok with the way you rock out and they fall into place. Even though this movie was small, a big ass project came out of it that I’m very proud of.

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