INTERVIEW: Omari Hardwick Walks Softly and Carries a Big Saw in Army of the Dead
The Power star talks Zack Snyder, zombies, and survival.
Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead features an international cast of characters that come together to pull off an elaborate casino heist in post-apocalyptic zombie Las Vegas. And like many zombie films before it, Army of the Dead takes the time to establish its band of warriors. As Scott Ward (David Bautista) assembles his crew, one of the first people he calls on is veteran mercenary and zombie hunter Vanderohe, played by Omari Hardwick.
Hardwick spent six seasons playing drug dealer/nightclub owner James “Ghost” St. Patrick on the hit Starz series Power, and has also appeared in Kick-Ass, Sorry to Bother You, and Being Mary Jane. He is also a poet, rapper, and producer, and will star in the Netflix thriller series Pieces of Her, alongside Toni Collette. We talked to Hardwick about working with Zack Snyder, his on-screen bromance with Matthias Schweighöfer, who plays Dieter, and more.
TMS: What was it like working with Zack Snyder?
Omari Hardwick: Zack’s about the maturation, equally of himself and his kids and his family and his life, and that which he calls his journey as a man, and it was nice to be next to an equal poet. He might not write poetry in a way that Omari does, but he definitely writes poetry within his brain. He’s a big music guy, he makes things with music when he’s writing, and when you’re in it as an actor you hear that music being played out when he yells action. Even if it’s not really there. He’s a pretty amazingly gifted cat.
TMS: I really enjoyed how, despite this being a big, special effects-driven movie, he took the time to weave in so many beautiful character moments.
OH: He’s definitely about the maturation process, and that includes allowing for characters to mature in front of our very own eyes. You know, how much can you do that in 2 hours and 30 minutes is definitely qualified, but he still figures out a way. He inserts the social commentary, and inserts his heart in everything. I definitely agree with a post where someone wrote, ‘Zack Snyder directs with his heart’ and I thought ‘Wow, that’s it’. And if you can take the big H and the big E in the word ‘heart’, and make it HIM and keep the little ART and make it HE ART… that’s him. With Zack, it’s never about the explosive moments, it’s about, ‘let’s learn something while we’re at it.’
TMS: That must be so satisfying as an actor, to be able to dig deep into your character.
OH: Oh man, it was so incredibly fulfilling because, as an actor, you want an actor’s piece always, and obviously in the genre of zombie world, definitely we’ve seen those actors who can say ‘Hey, this was an actor’s piece’. You know, Dawn of the Dead being one, with the social commentary which was inserted beautifully by Zack Snyder, and of course you watch The Walking Dead, what a great show, where there’s nothing but character development, so within this genre space you absolutely can hang your hat as an actor on there being an opportunity to get down in the actor’s space and get your hands dirty, which we all go to acting class to be able to do.
TMS: I really enjoyed Vanderohe and Dieter’s bromance throughout the film. Was that already in the script? How did you develop that bond with Matthias?
OH: There has not necessarily ever been the bromance of sorts, at the proportion that we see or the size we see for these guys, Dieter and Vanderohe, and that was a beautiful thing. That responsibility given by Scott Ward (David Bautista) who gives this mission to this entire team he recruits … but then he gives another mission to Vanderohe, his buddy, his brother, saying ‘You got to babysit this guy.’ Like, are you kidding me? We gonna fight zombies and I gotta babysit that guy? So that’s all we saw on the page when Zack and team wrote, then Zack let us expound upon that and really build on that, and we found this great relationship as men, myself and Matthias, but equally as actors playing these characters.
And once we were at action on day one, that sort of just fed itself. We were able to talk back at the hotel and have dinner together after we wrapped, talk about each other’s lives, what life was like for him when the wall came down in Germany, and that took me right to that visual space, so there’s this moment where you feel as the actor playing this character Vanderohe, that you’ve traveled the journey with this guy who looks like Dieter named Matthias, you learn about Matthias’ actual life so now you can insert that in your work every day when you see this person who obviously carried the same face, so sometimes we would try crazy stuff, and Zack might go ‘bring it down a bit’, and other times he’d go ‘Yes, I like that, keep that’, so he let us really jump off his page and what he had curated with these guys, and we’re definitely proud of what we created.
Army of the Dead premieres Friday on Netflix.
(image: Clay Enos/Netflix)
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