Omar Epps talks new film ‘Devil You Know,’ memories of ‘The Program,’ ‘Major League 2’

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Omar Epps (Part 1)

You know him from “The Program,” “Major League 2” and “Love & Basketball.”

Now, Omar Epps stars in the new thriller “The Devil You Know” in theaters.

“My character is the wayward one,” Epps told WTOP. “He’s just gotten his life back together, he’s battling addiction but he’s sober, he’s just got a new job, just opened himself up to a possible romance, then we thought it’d be fun to throw a bomb on top of all that.”

The role boasts a moral complexity that asks audiences, “What would you do?”

“No one really knows,” Epps said. “We’re living life in real time and we can have opinions about this, that or the other, but when it comes to family, there’s sort of an innate thing to protect, but what’s the right thing to do? You don’t know, no matter what your prior believes were. My character is faced with a moral quandary that actually splinters the family.”

Such family themes will be universal for everyone.

“It’s tale of morality, family, brotherhood, redemption, those are all themes that everyone can relate to,” Epps said. “We all know what it feels like to sit around the table, Nana is cooking this, Such and Such is playing cards and, uh oh, Uncle Such and Such just cracked open a bottle, someone’s gonna get in a fight, we all have that commonality.”

Expect to see a cast filled with familiar faces.

“Our cast was great,” Epps said. “It was such a beautiful experience to get to share screen time with the legendary Glynn Turman, Vanessa Bell Calloway and Will Catlett gives a tour-de-force performance. My co-pilot, Michael Ealy, we executive produced this together … and Charles Murray, who wrote and directed the piece, I think is a genius.”

What was it like working with the “Sons of Anarchy” alum?

“Charles is a brilliant creative,” Epps said. “He’s such a great collaborator. He listens, but he has such a clear vision on specific things and he knows how to convey that to a cast in which it would make sense. Shoutout to our D.P., Ludo [Ludovica Isidori], this 5-foot-2 Italian woman who was six months pregnant when we filmed and she was kicking ass!”

We ended our conversation with a rapid-fire rundown of his most famous roles:

Rapid-Fire Roles

Q in ‘Juice’ (1992)

“One word: Amazing.”

Darnell Jefferson in ‘The Program’ (1993)

“That was a fantasy of mine because I actually used to play Pop Warner football and originally that was my original push to be in the NFL, then I got hit real hard and I was like, ‘You know what? I could act like I could be in the NFL!”

Willie Mays Hayes in ‘Major League 2’ (1994)

“That was a daunting experience because Wesley Snipes is one of my acting heroes. David Ward, who wrote ‘The Program,’ was writing that as well. While we were filming ‘The Program’ he asked me one day, ‘Would you like to do this ‘Major League’ thing?’ I was like, ‘That’s Wesley Snipes, I can’t take that on.’ He was like, ‘No, I think it’s gonna open up.'”

Malik Williams in ‘Higher Learning’ (1995)

“John [Singleton] was a brilliant filmmaker. I learned so much from him. … ‘Higher Learning’ stands the test of time and it’s sad that some of the themes are so prevalent now, but to me it’s a tribute to his acumen as a writer, as a filmmaker, as a storyteller.”

Quincy McCall in ‘Love & Basketball’ (2000)

“Gina [Prince-Bythewood], that was her first film. She is a super talented filmmaker. What she constructed as a writer is incredible. It’s one of those fairytale stories that transcends time. … The idea that two people can grow up together, be friends, have a romance, fall out of that, then come back to each other, we all want to explore the love dynamic.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Omar Epps (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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