‘Power’ Couple: Omari Hardwick and Naturi Naughton
Nicholas Routzen

Any hustler who wants to become a street legend must go legit. But change requires vision and focus. There are consequences to consider and choices to make, and when Omari Hardwick’s James “Ghost” St. Patrick emerges from the shadows on the new Starz drama Power, it’s obvious his stakes are much higher.

“In a word—complex,” Hardwick begins when describing Ghost, a drug dealer turned king-pin intent on cleansing his money as he cashes out. He, too, wants to be his best self as a husband, father and entrepreneur, but not necessarily in that order. If his better half has her way, though, there won’t be any changes. Says Naturi Naughton of the gangster’s wife she portrays: “Tasha would much rather stay on the dark side, where she has more control.”

Or so the character thinks. This lead role, Hardwick’s first on a prime-time series, was a perfect fit, says show creator Courtney Kemp Agboh, who teamed with fellow executive producer (and guest star) Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson to make Power a reality.

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“We needed a fiercely intelligent and creative person who could bring an element of the streets and be believable reading balance sheets and talking business,” she says. “He had to be attractive and exude a sense of composure and self-confidence. Omari has that.”

Hardwick, a Decatur, Georgia, native, earned those qualities by way of life experience and artistic expression: He has been an athlete (football) and is still (and shall forever be) a poet. Over the past decade, he has built an impressive acting résumé, with parts in indie gems like Middle of Nowhere and TV shows such as cable favorite Being Mary Jane. For some, Hardwick’s role on the latter has made him quite a familiar face, but he laughs at that fact: “It’s so funny to be at a place of being humbly received and praised by people who think that I just started working as an actor. I would honestly say I’m in the turtle’s race. My journey is a marathon.”

This article was featured in the July issue of ESSENCE, on stands now.