News

Shooter and Almost Christmas Star Omar Epps Talks Good Times, Guns, and 'the Greater Good'

by | November 11, 2016 | Comments

Omar Epps in Shooter (Dean Buscher/USA Network)

At the beginning of USA’s Shooter, it certainly seems like Omar Epps is the bad guy, especially if you saw the 2007 movie Shooter or read the book Point of Impact. Epps plays Isaac Johnson, a Secret Service agent who recruits his former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe) to help him prevent an assassination attempt on the president. By the end of the first episode, Swagger is framed for taking the killshot. Just what did Johnson get him into?

It’s a big week for Epps too, because his holiday comedy Almost Christmas opens this weekend, with Shooter premiering on USA next week. In the former, Epps plays a romantic leading man to Gabrielle Union at a family holiday gathering.

Whether fans know him as Eric Foreman from House, Quincy McCall from Love & Basketball, or any of the roles he’s played in the last 25 years, no one quite knows what to expect from Epps as Isaac Johnson in Shooter. Swagger will have to find the truth.


Omar Epps and Ryan Phillippe in Shooter (Dean Buscher/USA Network)

Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Is it nice to have a leading man role in Almost Christmas and a villain role in Shooter coming out at the same time?

Omar Epps: It’s awesome. It’s just fun, man. I’m just enjoying the ride. I had a great time doing Almost Christmas, but then we had a really great time doing Shooter. What I liked about it was the storytelling was way more cerebral than the trailer could give off. On the surface, it looks like this action–espionage-y feeling, but the cat-and-mouse game is really a chess game with layers. So I’m excited about that.

RT: Even if people read the book or saw the movie, are there a lot of twists and turns coming for Johnson on Shooter?

Epps: Oh yeah, totally. We kind of start with that same plot, but then we veer off and do our own thing.

RT: There is a lot of jargon to explain to Swagger when they recruit him to help. Is that fairly easy compared to all the medical jargon you had for eight years on House?

Epps: Everything else is easier than the medical stuff I had to do on House. That was like speaking a different language. It felt good to just speak normal military jargon again.


Omar Epps in Shooter (Dean Buscher/USA Network)

RT: You say “normal military jargon.” That can seem like a foreign language too.

Epps: You know what’s funny with the military: It’s really a lot of acronyms. Everything has an abbreviation term. It’s like a quickspeak, but that was fun. I try to bring a level of authenticity to not even just my characters, but whatever their field is. I always want the people who are actually in those fields in real life to feel like, “Oh wow, it’s grounded and authentic.”

RT: That is a good point: that once you know what the abbreviations stand for, it’s easier to say them.

Epps: Yeah, and it informs your intonations.

RT: The Secret Service can’t let you do a ride-along like you could if you were playing a detective, right?

Epps: Yes, that didn’t happen. I did get to speak to a couple of ex–Secret Service guys just to get the little bit of insight that they could give me in terms of that lifestyle.

RT: What were some specific little details they could give you that helped you play Johnson?

Epps: You look at everything as a grid so it’s a very militaristic mindset in that everything is always through a scope. Everything is on a grid like roads, streets, buildings. It’s a different way of looking at your surrounding environment. One of the little subtleties for me was a lot of marriages don’t last because you’re living a life where you’ve got to pick up and be gone for two months and just get the call like that. I’ve never even thought about that, but I tried to bring that type of feeling into the character.


Ryan Phillippe and Omar Epps in Shooter (Dean Buscher/USA Network)

RT: Are guns part of your skill set at this point, having played different agents and cops?

Epps: I wouldn’t say they’re part of my skill set. I’m familiar with some. The guns that we were working with in Shooter, I’ve never seen those before. They were really high-grade pieces of machinery.

RT: As far as skills you’ve learned for roles before, do you still play basketball?

Epps: Here and there. I mostly like to box and do martial arts, things like that, to be physical.

RT: Like the movie, in the first few episodes, Johnson is part of this conspiracy against Swagger. Is there any hope of redemption for him?

Epps: Absolutely, because Isaac is not a bad guy. He’s a guy who believes in the system and the further up the ladder he went, simultaneously the deeper down the rabbit hole he went. You always hear that saying, “doing it for the greater good.” The greater good is sort of a relative term. His code of ethics and morals is tested and he gets to the position that he’s in by doing something that he thinks is for the greater good that turns up to twist on him. That redeemable factor is very prevalent by the end of the season for him.

RT: What are some juicy episodes of Shooter fans should watch for?

Epps: I think, hey, should watch the whole thing. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are a couple of episodes where we go backwards in time, and you get to see how my character and Ryan’s character were in the military. Isaac at one time was the captain of the Marine Sniper Unit, which is pretty badass within itself. I think at that point, the audience needs to really get what their dynamic is before moving forward.

RT: Does that give you a chance to play two different relationships with Swagger, then and now?

Epps: A little bit. It’s interesting because on the surface it might seem as though they had a friendship, but you see it was more of a working relationship. That’s what happens during the course of the season. They discover their relationship, a different part of it.


Omar Epps, Gabrielle Union in Almost Christmas (Universal)

RT: On the lighter side, Almost Christmas is your return to comedy in over a decade. Had you been looking for a comedy?

Epps: I actually have. This kind of fell right into my life. I had such a great time working on this project. The energy that you see spilling off the screen in Almost Christmas was exactly how we were on set. Everyone just had a genuinely great time.

RT: Was that scene with Gabrielle Union stuck in the window like a big screwball comedy moment?

Epps: That was actually my first day on set so we just dove in. Gab and I are friends, so we just had fun with it. It wasn’t a situation where these two characters come together and they’re like wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. There’s an innocence to it that we got to play with, so that was fun to do.

RT: Did you ever see House as a comedy? Because it was the funniest show on television.

Epps: I never saw it as a comedy, but all the comedic moments, I got. I thought the comedy in House was brilliant.

RT: Are you writing a script too?

Epps: I have a few screenplays that I’ve written. I’ve got a couple of television projects that I’ve written. I’m trying to hit on all cylinders. Everything is in full motion right now.

RT: Right now you’re on Shooter, but are you developing things you would act in?

Epps: Not all of them but a couple of them are, yes, definitely. I don’t want to talk about anything in development, but I do have a project at Lifetime that I wrote that we’re trying to put together. It’s a romantic comedy.

Shooter premieres November 15 at 10 p.m. ET on USA

Tag Cloud

Musical MCU indiana jones vampires 24 frames ESPN comic books Sundance sequels RT21 animated halloween A&E Mystery Captain marvel streaming worst movies TCM PaleyFest Sundance Now crime drama National Geographic composers slashers Awards Tour parents Columbia Pictures Mary poppins serial killer American Society of Cinematographers foreign Toys Vudu stop motion classics crossover versus Apple TV+ Comics on TV Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Pop TV Superheroe award winner renewed TV shows spy thriller Women's History Month cops nfl christmas movies Quiz The CW DGA Academy Awards TV anthology cars Christmas Rock Esquire game of thrones fresh 2018 kids sitcom Netflix Christmas movies series Family australia remakes Pet Sematary Winners black dragons Syfy YA Shondaland reviews Crunchyroll The Walking Dead indie Super Bowl screenings Sci-Fi Character Guide tv talk zero dark thirty romantic comedy justice league war dramedy The Academy Elton John Spectrum Originals archives Premiere Dates Nominations Schedule TruTV 2017 comics Lifetime Christmas movies WGN stand-up comedy Hallmark Christmas movies Tubi Lifetime TV Land batman YouTube Red 2020 Certified Fresh Cosplay 007 documentary Valentine's Day Nickelodeon venice Rocky zombie Oscars sag awards latino Universal Red Carpet Anna Paquin CBS All Access CMT OneApp Horror Polls and Games Video Games TIFF Tumblr Acorn TV fast and furious TLC revenge Country mission: impossible USA Watching Series biography Mindy Kaling ID SundanceTV romance festival Adult Swim Emmys witnail PlayStation Election Kids & Family Ghostbusters LGBT San Diego Comic-Con RT History Brie Larson universal monsters cancelled TV series PBS all-time Extras Mary Tyler Moore Grammys strong female leads Summer dark true crime television scary movies Television Academy 99% dc Disney streaming service First Reviews Comedy Central adventure book Warner Bros. franchise cats TCA 2017 worst Netflix BET BET Awards Year in Review ITV psychological thriller TBS crime thriller spanish language Funimation supernatural toy story miniseries anime Binge Guide Film Festival talk show movie Calendar Awards TCA Awards name the review medical drama comiccon OWN reboot films canceled TV shows WarnerMedia obituary concert Trailer rotten Lucasfilm YouTube YouTube Premium diversity Hallmark Black Mirror theme song Heroines The Purge doctor who TCA Shudder independent singing competition VH1 Fox News cooking Apple TV Plus boxoffice discovery Comedy CW Seed robots VOD Tomatazos Trophy Talk 4/20 emmy awards CBS unscripted GLAAD Travel Channel IFC Dark Horse Comics comedies Masterpiece HBO Crackle boxing Chernobyl toronto Music cartoon Marathons adaptation Comic Book DC Universe Pop spanish scorecard transformers Apple AMC Turner Classic Movies teaser Pixar Television Critics Association casting Rom-Com 71st Emmy Awards Photos Sneak Peek binge FX on Hulu Marvel Studios natural history Nat Geo ratings IFC Films Paramount Network cults Action 45 X-Men FXX Classic Film Discovery Channel FX Creative Arts Emmys Fox Searchlight Turner historical drama science fiction news green book Countdown travel superhero laika deadpool french spinoff Film dogs NYCC harry potter politics Hulu Box Office 2019 documentaries El Rey social media Superheroes Logo Amazon Prime Mary Poppins Returns Chilling Adventures of Sabrina richard e. Grant free movies Star Trek video on demand period drama Biopics disaster Emmy Nominations Spring TV MTV Endgame mutant zombies political drama cancelled television joker FOX Food Network crime Ellie Kemper cancelled President See It Skip It Animation Arrowverse rt archives Fall TV video comic 20th Century Fox hollywood blockbuster canceled Lionsgate Cannes DirecTV werewolf TCA Winter 2020 Fantasy Song of Ice and Fire Black History Month Britbox facebook game show BBC One Interview thriller 2016 aliens Western Mudbound finale ABC mockumentary spain japanese ABC Family GoT blaxploitation Teen Spike halloween tv hist 2015 BBC sequel Martial Arts italian spider-man football TNT quibi south america Alien LGBTQ child's play golden globes sports Disney Paramount cancelled TV shows Best and Worst TV renewals Showtime elevated horror critics Writers Guild of America a nightmare on elm street CNN psycho DC streaming service Disney+ Disney Plus criterion ghosts Starz Pirates rotten movies we love Amazon Prime Video The Arrangement Marvel what to watch Freeform Star Wars Cartoon Network nbcuniversal technology best E! Amazon Studios asian-american Musicals Rocketman Avengers Set visit History Holidays DC Comics james bond Trivia USA Network SDCC Thanksgiving Reality Competition HBO Max Ovation die hard Marvel Television SXSW E3 Infographic APB Epix 72 Emmy Awards Disney Plus 21st Century Fox The Witch HBO Go nature NBC jamie lee curtis festivals Tarantino Holiday A24 cinemax Walt Disney Pictures directors VICE New York Comic Con docudrama Hear Us Out based on movie satire Stephen King Bravo Winter TV Podcast Baby Yoda GIFs MSNBC dceu Pride Month breaking bad Drama space twilight First Look screen actors guild Opinion movies Reality stoner children's TV hispanic Amazon Disney Channel Sony Pictures police drama BAFTA Peacock BBC America Sundance TV chucky