ATLANTA (AP) — When actor Omari Hardwick read the script for the Starz drama series "Power," he initially wanted to pass on playing the lead character.
Hardwick liked the show's 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 recently told The Associated Press. "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" has become one of Starz's most popular shows, averaging nearly 3 million viewers last season, according to Nielsen. The series returns for its fourth season Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT 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 minoring in drama before he eventually went on to have roles in BET's "Being Mary Jane," ''Next Day Air," ''For Colored Girls" and Ava DuVernay's "Middle of Nowhere."
He is also using his star appeal to help out black filmmakers. He teamed up with Codeblack Entertainment and Gentleman Jack for "The Real to Reel" short film contest that gives African-American filmmakers the opportunity to show their work to industry experts.
"This is an opportunity for me to have moments of conversation to equally listen to the passion and dreams of young filmmakers," Hardwick said. "For me, I went from showering at the YMCA in L.A., eating chicken sandwiches and ramen noodles if lucky, and going from couch to couch. I'm a real story. I know the struggle. So it was incumbent for me to pay this forward to those who want to tell stories."
"Real to Reel" host Anthony Rose said Hardwick's relatable commentary inspired attendees to push forward in their careers.
"When he walks through the crowd, the ladies are screaming. But when he sits down and starts talking, you could hear a pin drop, because he's dropping so many jewels," Rose said. "His insight was deep and relevant. He touched a lot of people just by being real."
Hardwick is expected to release his album "Later Decatur" in August featuring Raphael Saadiq, Method Man, Fabolous, Robert Glasper, Nas and T.I. The Georgia native said his wife encouraged him to start recording music after he finished filming the third season of "Power."
"It's a crazy lineup," said Hardwick. "I don't think none of them would have recorded with me if it wasn't for me playing Ghost on 'Power.' But they did. For me, music was a cathartic way to free me from the nut of Ghost. After working on set for 'Power' for 14 hours, it allowed me to pour my sanity and insanity into the music."
Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at twitter.com/MrLandrum31 .