Prune: We began seeing you in projects almost twenty years ago now. Talk to us about your career and where it began.
Omar: It's crazy. I was just talking to somebody last night - one of the advantages of having a long career is that the sushi restaurant I went to last night was closed, and the sushi chef recognized me and let me come in, despite being mid cleaning up. He made me sushi and told me about the days when he used to watch 8 Mile, 18 years ago. It's been a blessing, it's been so great. This is what I sought out, to have a long full career. Hopefully, we're not even halfway through.
Prune: What do you think it takes for an actor to have that longevity in such a tough industry where you often see people in and out.
Omar: I think it takes range, or extreme luck, and persistence mixed with resilience. This industry will beat you up. You have to be able to handle a lot of 'no' and savor all of the wins, regardless of what those wins may be for you. They don't have to be box office or traditional 'success' - whatever it might be that recharges you and refreshes you are a performer, and keeps you feeling creative. Soul, if you will. You need to celebrate that, and draw on it in the difficult times, because as you know, it's not an easy industry. I have been blessed to be active, working, and have been embraced for so long.
Prune: Back in 2002, we saw you in 8 Mile. Talk to us about working alongside Eminem, as well as some of the major talents that were in that film.
Omar: I went back and watched it the other day, actually. It was playing on TV and I had a free afternoon. It holds up, and I am really happy about that. That movie changed my life, without a doubt. I remember hearing that I obtained the role, when sleeping on my mom's floor, and wow, that changed everything. I first heard "Hi, My Name Is" on a mixtape as a junior in college, and to then in turn go and work with him [Marshall Mathers], and everyone else in the movie too, it was such a launchpad for talent. Look at the people in that movie, man. A lot of us are still in the game.
Prune: You've essentially answered our next question, but we'll ask anyways. Was 8 Mile a turning point in your career [it sounds like it was]?
Omar: Yes, of course it was. Not only for the magnitude of success for the film, it never hurts to be in a generationally popular film, but it also was the experience of the work. We were on set with a lot of different personality types, and an infinite amount of incredibly talented people. The director, Curtis Hanson, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, people like Curtis are the ones who help you form your career. To work with him at any stage of your career, let alone the formative years of your career, these people make you. They learn how to spread the talent around. In a film like 8 Mile, it's critical for the supporting actors support the star, and they let us do exactly that. Everyone has their moments to shine in that film, and those moments propel you to the next level in your career. It was a great experience for me to work alongside this talent. Someone like Mekhi [Phifer] who was willing to share his knowledge of the industry, and help me keep my mind focused on what was possible. It was a crazy, life changing experience.
Prune: In present time, we see you as Charles on HBO's Ballers. Talk to me about the current season, and what moments have and will stick out.
Omar: I am really happy with what the writers gave me to do on the show this year. In general, they've trusted me with some of the more heavy material. Charles is someone that is funny, but that you deeply care about. This season, you'll see the stress of corporate life really take its toll on Charles. He has to find balance and find his way. He has a newborn baby, work, and a lot of stuff going down all at once. People will be surprised to see more and more people come to their own along the storyline. He is living it up with his queen, that is played so brilliantly by Jazmyn Simon. Again, I have been blessed to be a part of something that is really so massive, it is a cultural zeitgeist, a uniter.
Prune: Talk to us about working with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - how much fun is that?
Omar: When you can actually get in and see him, he is the greatest guy to be around. That dude is in demand. He has taken the mantle from the late James Brown as the hardest working man in show business. He does it all. I don't know when he has time to sleep. He's extremely easy to work with, and makes you feel like he is your teammate, as opposed to being the number one. He never flexes his power, and that is a very admirable trait. In the position he's in, he has the option to treat people however he wants to.
Prune: Ballers has some of the most sought-after athletes in the world as guests and regulars. Have you ever had an internal starstruck moment with any of those talents that have been on the show?
Omar: I had to do a scene with one of mine, and that was Larry Csonka. Larry Csonka is one of the greatest NFL players of all time, and to have those couple of moments where we were working with each other. That was pretty awesome. We've had some really great guys on this show. I've had friends on the show, and this year it doesn't start. You can see this year we have OBJ, we have Alvin Kamara, some great people. A lot of wow factor.
Prune: Do you have any other projects coming for the end of 2019 or early 2020?
Omar: I am doing The Unicorn for CBS, and it is a half hour single camera comedy. It has a great cast, and we all become friends with a man who has recently lost his wife. Now he is left to raise his two daughters and pick the pieces up. The show is about the friends and family that you chose, and how we all deal with loss and grief. Sometimes, the best way to do that is to laugh, but the best way to do it for sure is with the help of the people who love and care for you most. It premiered September 26th, and puts me in the rare position of being on multiple shows simultaneously. It's a really cool feeling, and a goal as an actor. I'm also voicing one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Nickelodeon. Life is good man, I'm blessed.
Prune: That is what we like to hear. Now, if we were to make a movie about your life, who would you want to play you.
Omar: Wow, random. I'll go ahead and say Barack Obama. He is a funny guy, has a good grasp on comedy and drama, given his previous background. This can be his debut role. Wow, let's do it. First step, gain some weight.
Prune: Hey, let's make it happen. And, who would you say, inspires you in this industry?
Omar: In the industry, I had a lot of people I watched and admired before I myself got involved in the industry. One that sticks out is James Earl Jones. Since I was a kid, I loved him. He did the voice of Darth Vader, as well so many other incredible things, and I love how he represents the giant black men in the world. I've always known, I too would be a giant black man [laughs]. There are so many different people that I look up to for so many different reasons. Whether it be talent, or charitable reasons, people in my family. There is no shortage of positive inspiration in my life. It's great to have those markers in your life.
Prune: And, our final question of the day. What show are you binge watching right now that you do not star in.
Omar: Snowfall. Snowfall on FX is absolutely fantastic. It's about the US government getting involved in the drug trade to finance some amoral wars. They have some things in this show that you will only know about if you grew up in LA in the 80s. It's crazy and a great historical lesson.
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