Omar Epps is the epitome of Hollywood longevity. Decades invested into entertainment, Epps is not only a household name, but a driving force. His new film, Traffik, an exciting action-packed thriller with an all-star cast, including Paula Patton and Laz Alonso, keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.
The movie’s premise? John and Brea, played by Patton, set sail to a romantic weekend getaway for her birthday weekend. Joined by close friends, the group must fight for their life when a dangerous biker gang strives to keep their deadly secrets just that.
The Source caught up with the Brooklyn native as he dished on his new role, the diversity topic in Hollywood and why he respects Ryan Coogler so much.
The Source: Tell us about your character John:
Omar Epps: “I try to build an everyday man; blue collar, humble, hard worker, who loves and respects his woman. Just trying to celebrate her birthday weekend when they’re thrusts into incredible circumstances.”
Can you relate to him in anyway?
“I relate to his passion, conviction, his moral compass, doing the right thing even when it’s tough.”
Any challenges on set or any funny stories?
“Everyday was a challenge- it was a very intense shoot. But we had a lot of fun as the cast and the crew. Deon Taylor is such an infectious, positive dude and it’s all genuine and with him. I’ve known Paula and Laz for years and this was our first time working together and we had a blast even though it was super intense.”
The talk lately has all been about diversity. Everyone’s emotions are high and it’s the trending topic. Six months from now, are we still going to be talking about diversity?
“That’s a good question. In 6 months, you can’t please everybody, there’s always going to be somebody that has something to say. But the scales have been unbalanced for so long that they can’t be fixed in six months. It’s a natural progression. For obvious reasons, it’s been such an uproar because people are tired from there not being diversity- if you look at a film like ours, it’s organic. You have Latino, African American, mixed- it represents in an organic way, it reflects what our society is. It’s not just one or the other.”
Better late than never! But you’re right, it won’t happen overnight, even though Black Panther changed the game.
“Oh yeah “Black Panther” changed the game and that’s what it’s about. It’s about us taking advantage of the opportunities and showing up. What “Black Panther” has done is so amazing because outside of the country, it exceeded the expectations. So in that regard it’s a wake up call for Hollywood- that we travel. I’ve been saying this for years- look at the music business. We travel everywhere. Hip hop is the dominate force. Period. This is us. But again let it be natural; organic stories, organic story telling and people will flock to it.”
Now you’ve been in Hollywood for over two decades, how has Hollywood changed since “Juice?”
“It’s changed and in some way it hasn’t changed. I’m excited for this younger generation because of the way you can connect with people through social media that wasn’t available to us when I was coming up. You had to go through these machines – marketing and PR machines, and when you do it that way everything gets fragmented down. Now, you have people like Kevin Hart where you can have a natural exchange with people and it’s him right there, not someone speaking for him but receive this connectivity. From a business stand point it’s direct to consumer, a massively powerful tool.
Half of the cats that are out right now wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Soundcloud. They put what they want out into the world and people flock to it! Boom, they’re on. And we’re pushing forward. When I look at young directors like Ryan Coogler it just makes my heart smile. This is a guy who went “Fruitvale Station” to “Creed” to “Black Panther.” That trajectory is phenomenal. But you can tell he respects his craft and the history we’ve had to go through, so he knows he’s standing on the shoulders of giants while he’s blazing his own trail. And that’s a beautiful thing. If we can do that across the board; writers, producers, directors and executives, then we can all make some lead way.”
Whose music you listening to right now?
“It depends on the mood. I’m really vibing with Nipsey Hussle album right now- that’s like my go-to for the gym. I been rocking with that since it came out, it gets me motivated. I’m proud of that young brother.”
Traffik is open today in theaters everywhere. Click here for tickets!