brooklyn native Omar Epps he attended La Guardia, also known as the “Fame” High School for the Performing Arts, and grew up writing poetry, rapping, and acting. But she had a chip on her shoulder. In high school, she lost the lead role in a production of “Grease.”
“That bothered me the rest of high school. I’m like, ‘Oh… they’re going to see,’” he told her on this week’s “Renaissance Man” show.
That chip kept him in the proverbial gym, training hard to perfect his theatrical jump shot. When he was 17 years old, he landed his first movie role in “Juice” along with some people named samuel l jackson, Tupac Shakur Y Queen Latifah. Director Ernest Dickerson called him at his house and gave him the good news. His mother, a school principal, had a different opinion.
“She says, ‘I wanted you to go to college, to be a lawyer.’ “
I’m sure she changed her mind when he finished filming because she turned that role into a pretty impressive musical concert.
“At that time I was in a [five-man] singing group called Vision, and I was able to get two of them additional roles, like supporting roles, on the set of ‘Juice,’” he told me. At the time, Queen Latifah was affiliated with a group called Simple Pleasure, and she had just recorded a demo with them, which she played in her trailer. “So I’ll be walking through the trailer and, again, the competition…I’m like, ‘Hey, my group will smoke them’…she’s like, ‘What?’ ”
Omar brought his bandmates to the Harlem set and they sang to him a cappella on a stairway. He started crying and said that he wanted to work with them. “The next thing you know, after we’re done with ‘Juice,’ it’s like, ‘Yo, I’m about to go on tour with Ziggy Marley, and I want all of you guys to sing in the background’… It was crazy… I shot ‘juice’. .’ I finished touring with Queen Latifah before the movie came out. Then the movie comes out. You can’t even make this up.
He clearly left that movie with all the real life juice. And someone must have loved him because his character Q played the much younger love interest of Cindy Herron from En Vogue. It was also surreal because she had the girl group poster on her wall at the time.
“They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, you have to kiss her,’ and I’m like, ‘What? I don’t even know how to kiss,’” she said, adding that it was brave of Dickerson to explore the real dynamics of an older woman and a teenage girl.
Of course, Omar starred in TV hits like “ER” and “House” and movies like “The Wood,” “Love & Basketball” and “Higher Learning,” the latter of which tackled sensitive racial and social issues. before his time.
“Regards and rest in peace to [director] John Single. But this brother was on another wavelength of energy and was very aware of the power of images, the power of the words that the characters say. So it was all so intentional, you know? He was still young at the time. I was in my early 20s. So some of that would go through my head, like I had to go relax with him in the crib,” he said, adding that he would ask him a lot of questions.
“And then he would break it down and I was like, OK, I get it.”
She recently took up writing and released a young adult science fiction novel, “Nubia: the awakening”, which is about three teenagers displaced in a futuristic city of New York after a storm destroys their African homeland.
“I am a creative. I just go with the idea,” he said of the book, which he co-wrote with Clarence A. Haynes. But most of all he wanted to tell a story and provide an escape. ‘I remember being a child reading’super sweet sugar‘ by judy blume, and it would take me somewhere for hours. And then I go back to my life and they give me a little more excitement… And I think, that’s what I want to give these kids: an escape.”
As we mentioned, Omar has had on-screen relationships with some of the most beautiful women in show business. But in real life, he’s been married to the equally stunning Keisha Spivey since 2006, which is a lifetime in Hollywood.
“Our little secret is that we eliminate table breaking. And what that did for me personally, I can’t speak for her, but what it did for me was it changed the way we had conflicts… We still butt heads from time to time. We do it in such a respectful way.”
We all know that Omar is supremely talented, but he also knows how to nurture relationships. That counts for something in Hollywood, where he’s still a force. He will soon star opposite Glenn Close in Lee Daniels’ “The Deliverance,” which he said will appeal to fans of “Out” by Jordan Peele.
But she still has some serious names on her co-star wish list.
“I want to work with Wesley Snipes. I want to work with Leonardo DiCaprio,” he said, adding, “There’s a long list, but Denzel is at the top of that list.”
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who rocked the college basketball world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA before becoming a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst on “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and a co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He was an executive producer of “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, he is the author of the best-selling book, “Gotta give the people what they want”, a fashion trendsetter, and co-founder of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.