OCT COVER STORY: OMAR MILLER
COVER STORY: OMAR BENSON MILLER
By Teryl Warren
When Omar Miller walks into a room, people notice. But it’s not simply his larger-than-life presence and to-die-for dimples that warrant the attention. His imposing 6’6” frame is totally eclipsed by his intelligence, charm and ability to engage over everything from documentaries, to social media apps and the current Major League Baseball pennant races.
“I don’t know…the [Washington] Nationals are peaking at the right time,” he replied when I shared my prediction that the Baltimore Orioles are destined to win it all. “We could be looking at ‘Battle of the Beltway.’ Actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing a series between the [Oakland] A’s and the [San Francisco] Giants.”
Spoken like a true Bay Area loyalist. Although I didn’t share his enthusiasm, I did cut him some slack on that because, after all, he did go to school up there.
When most people graduate from college, they’re happy just to get an entry-level job that will cover the bills and free them from a daily Top Ramen diet.
But shortly after walking the stage at San Jose State University in 2002, Omar walked onto a film set with one of the most accomplished directors and one of the biggest stars on the planet.
“8 Mile was my first major film role after college,” he shared. “I got blessed early and it set me off on the right career path getting to work with a director like Curtis Hanson. Curtis was a real master on set and the type of confidence he had in himself and in his actors was unbelievable.”
Omar stoked the flame on his red-hot career, next, by starring opposite A-listers Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere in the romantic comedy Shall We Dance, as well as the Jim Sheridan-helmed 50 Cent biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin’. And in Spike Lee’s poignant WWII drama Miracle at St. Anna, his portrayal of gentle giant Private Sam Train solidified his spot in the hearts of audiences around the globe.
As he shared with us, he’s gleaned valuable lessons from the incredible talents he’s worked with that continue to influence his acting to do this day.
“Jim Sheridan is actually probably one of the best actors in Hollywood,” he laughed. “He would actually act out scenes with us to help us discover what was and should be happening. He’s an incredible innovator. Spike Lee taught me how important it is to hire the right people and to allow those people to do their work. The things I’ve learned from directors like Spike, Jim, Curtis and others still help me because no matter who I’m working with, I recognize what it takes to execute the plan I have in my mind, as a performer, to bring my character and scenes to life.”
After a successful stint as Walter Simmons on the hit forensics series CSI: Miami, Omar is now returning to Miami and tackling his latest role as a football player opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on the HBO dramedy “Ballers.”
The series chronicles the lives of a variety of Miami-based athletes – some of whom are currently playing and, like Omar’s and Dwayne’s characters – some of whom are retired. Themes like friendship, the ways former athletes deal with the realities of their post-game lives and the mentorship responsibilities older players feel to the newbies are just a few of the themes Omar hopes will hit home with viewers.
“It’s interesting to see how my and Dwayne’s characters take the younger characters who can’t seem to steer clear of trouble under their wings, because that’s true in real life,” he said. “The game gets faster the higher you go up. No matter what sport or profession you’re in, you look at the people we call ‘champions’ and see that somewhere along the way, they were taught how to make adjustments and how to focus on their strengths instead of their weaknesses. They were mentored into being successful.”
And as a network known for its groundbreaking and award-winning original programming, Omar’s obvious excitement about the new series seems more prophetic than hopeful.
“HBO isn’t just TV. They’ve mastered the art of compelling entertainment,” he told us. “I think ‘Ballers’ is going to be a lot different from what people will expect. Audiences will get to see just how funny Dwayne is and they’ll be exposed to some behind-the-scenes insights into the world of football that they wouldn’t normally get to see.”
But if you thought Omar was content to rest on his “Baller” laurels, think again. The actor/director has transformed the art of vacationing into work for his new travel series Weekend Fix.
Premiering on Esquire Network on October 29 at 10pm/9 CST, Weekend Fix – a travel and lifestyle series which he created as well as hosts – will take viewers along for the ride with Omar and his buddy fashion designer Andres Izquieta to the country’s greatest cities as they use technology, social media, connections and relationships to create incredibly rich, fast-paced, fun-filled weekends.
Omar’s shorthand description of Weekend Fix is “travel 2.0”
“Technology has completely changed the way people travel,” he said. “For one thing, you can be a lot more spontaneous in a city you’ve never been to. Thanks to apps and social media, you never have to get lost again, you can get recommendations for everything from where to eat, what hotels to stay at, what to do when you get there – everything. In the show, you’ll also see how technology helps us travel more efficiently. We went to 6 cities and had a monster weekend in each one in only 48 hours.”
Now that he’s gotten his weekend fix, Omar promises there’ll be more producing efforts on his professional horizon.
“My brother, Terry Miller, and I are developing more shows, so be on the lookout. I want to contribute to the landscape of unscripted TV in a way that’s not exploitative and is meaningful.”
Early in my career, I had a mentor advise me that, in order for me to be a good writer, I needed to go out and live life – otherwise, I wouldn’t have any interesting stories to tell. If the life he’s living and the mentors he’s studied under are any indication, Omar Miller will be sharing stories with audiences for years and years to come.
I don’t know about you, but I, for one, can’t wait to see them.