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Omar Epps: The Brother In "Brother"

By Deardra Shuler
July, 2001

Omar Hashim Epps recently flew into New York from Los Angeles in support of his latest film, a Sony Picture promotion, entitled "Brother" which is expected to be released to the general public on July 20th. "Brother" is produced and directed by Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano. The Brother project is the director's first release in the United States. The film depicts the life of a Japanese mobster who is a member of the Yakuza, a Japanese word that means society's misfits. The Yakuza is a Japanese crime organization. The movie highlights the brotherhood of the yakuza clan, an organization that tough guy Yamamoto (Beat Takeshi) is forced to leave in Tokyo. He travels to Los Angeles in search of his brother, Ken (portrayed by Claude Maki) in the hopes of establishing a new identity in America. It doesn't take long before Yamamoto continues the pattern of violence in LA that he knew in Tokyo. Initially the mobster has a violent encounter with Denny (Epps) who is involved in petty drug dealing alongside Yamamoto's brother, who looks more like a hip hopper than a gangster. Yamamoto and Denny eventually form a loyal bond. Under Yamamoto's influence these small time drug dealers transform into businessmen enjoying the spoils of their violent activities until they make one fatal mistake that changes their lives forever. "The essential premise of the film is the fraternity of the Brotherhood," explains Epps. "It's about the loyalty and sacrifice involved in being a member of the Yazuka. This film deals with the old Yakuza that is concerned with tradition and respect for hierarchy. It will be interesting to see how American urban culture takes to this film as they see it from the view point of the Japanese culture. There is violence in it but it's the same type of violence often seen in U.S. urban culture," claims the actor.

Epps is a Brooklynite (Flatbush, Bed Sty, East New York) born and raised. Beget, July 20, 1973, to a single parent home, Epps began his career at a young age writing songs and poetry; later forming the musical group now known as "Society X". "My music is warrior music. At least that is the way I describe it," explains Epps. "In New York people know me in the music scene.

I have been around the scene for many years but abroad people have yet to know me musically. They know me primarily as an actor. Recently I have been working on a project with Priority Records and hope to have it out in early 2002 but it isn't even titled yet. I still have some finishing touches to put on it although it is essentially done."
Omar and his younger sister, Aisha, who is presently attending school, were both raised by his mother Bonnie. His mother continues to work in the school system as an educator. Omar attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts in New York where he honed his considerable talents.

At age 17, Omar starred in his first motion picture "Juice" alongside the now deceased rapper/actor Tupac Shakur, which turned out to be a huge hit. He includes among his films "Mod Squad", "Scream II," "The Breakfast of Champions," " In Too Deep," " The Program," " Major League II," " On Love & Basketball," a film he appeared in with current girlfriend Sanaa Lathan and the John Singleton film, "Higher Learning."

"I can't remember exactly, but I think I have done about 15 films so far, and in each one I think I have left a piece of myself. At least I cannot yet say I have a particular favorite because I am still striving toward my best. I am not looking to be a shooting star. I am pacing my career and thus far am satisfied with the course it is taking," claims Omar. "I was attracted to acting as early as my school plays. Acting just came naturally to me and I followed it up at the High School of Performing Arts," recalls Epps. "Originally, I wanted to become a football player because I played sports when I was younger, then one day I got hit real hard and I decided that maybe it would be better to act like one rather than be one," chuckled Epps.
Of late, Omar completed a film called "Conviction" for ShowTime, which will be out next year. It is based on a book called, "Convicted In The Womb" written by Carl Upchurch which chronicles the author's life. Dana Delaney and Charles "Roc" Dutton also star in it.

The actor's television efforts include The Cosby Show and his role as Dr. Grant on ER. Epps has also tried his hand as a director/producer having directed music videos for Heather B and Special Ed.
"Writing and producing is ultimately what I want to do more of. I see myself building a multi media conglomerate. Bringing in actors, writers, and the whole gamut. I plan on starting from scratch and building a machine. I have written some screen plays. In fact I have a few in development. I am taking my time so that I do quality work. I have a company called BKNY Productions."

Occasionally when time allows Epps will direct his attention to young people who want to get into the business. " I sometimes talk with kids who want to know about the business and even to those that don't. My goal is to lead by example. I encourage kids to give themselves a shot in life. When I was growing up, people used to come to my class, and talk to us or at us, but I let kids dictate the conversation themselves when speaking with them because kids are very aware these days."

"As time passes I notice that I am gaining more respect and my opinion is being listened to by the powers that be. I am mapping out my life step-by-step. My plan is to build my company into something that allows me to do many phases of the business and will illustrate the diversity of my talents. I'm still growing and it is my dream to one day be able to do it all."

Omar who often travels between New York and Los Angeles spends a lot of time on the West Coast. "I am back and forth pretty much between coasts. The quality of life is better in LA than in New York because you get more value for your dollar there than in New York. I love the beaches and the oranges on the trees. It's just beautiful living out there. On a typical day, I will get up, workout, work on my music and fill my day with my projects," remarks Epps.
"I wish all my fans 'One Love' and hope they will be looking out for my musical group Society X, when our music hits record stores next year," said Omar. "And of course, I hope they support my film, "Brother," when it's released into theatres on July 20th."

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