With 11 film roles since “American Sniper” in 2014 as well as a major role in Crackle’s new drama “The Oath,” Cory Hardrict obviously has found his calling. He can thank his mother for that.
As a child growing up in Chicago Heights, Hardrict had been doing print modeling and film work as an extra. But the acting bug didn’t bite him until he was 13, when his mom made him audition for Oprah Winfrey’s 1993 TV movie “There Are No Children Here.”
“I got into acting because I was going to get in trouble and get a spanking if I didn’t go to the open call to be an extra in Oprah’s movie,” he said, laughing. “I didn’t want to go. … My mom took me and my brother down there — waiting with a thousand other kids — and they picked us both.
You won’t find the role on his IMDB resume, but Hardrict was so taken by the experience of being on set and location in Chicago he was smitten.
“Seeing cameras and actors and seeing Oprah from afar — I didn’t even meet her,” he said. “I was just like, ‘Wow, this is cool. … I want to do this for the rest of my life.’ ”
That experience led him to the drama program at Bloom Trail High School as well as small speaking roles in TV series such as “ER.” If he wasn’t watching the Chicago Bulls, he was acting.
“That was like a party coming home to watch the Bulls, and to see [Michael] Jordan and Scottie Pippen. That was everything to me growing up,” he said.
By the time he was 19 or 20 — he can’t remember exactly — he thought he was ready for Hollywood. “I told my stepdad at the time that I was going to L.A. to visit, but I had a one-way ticket, and I didn’t have plans to come back,” he said. He moved to Inglewood, California, without formal acting training or a job.
“It was a long rough patch for the first three, four, five years,” he remembered. “Just odd jobs, doing whatever I could. Every week was like, ‘This might be the last day here.’ [It took] a lot of prayer, a lot of faith.”
Hard work and faith paid off, though. Hardrict, who has a son and is expecting another child with his actress wife Tia Mowery, has a solid film career and a plum new role in “The Oath.”
He plays Cole Hammond, a Los Angeles police officer and member of a corrupt police gang that currently is run by his brother, Steve Hammond (Ryan Kwanten). Their father, Tom Hammond (Sean Bean), used to run the gang before he was sent to prison.
Katrina Law and J.J. Soria play two other members of the gang, called the Ravens. Arlen Escarpeta and Elisabeth Röhm play FBI agents investigating the gang.
The drama, executive produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and his G-Unit Film and Television, currently is streaming on Sony TV’s Crackle service. Joe Halpin created and wrote the series based on what he saw in his 18 years as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy.
The 10-episode first season opens with the Ravens pulling off a bank heist — not something law-abiding citizens would expect from offices sworn to protect and serve. Like many of his fellow cast members, Hardrict had no idea police gangs existed and he was grateful to have Halpin around when he had questions about how they operate.
“I knew it was personal [for Joe], and authentic,” he said. “I just knew that it would be something special.”
Cole’s loyalties will be tested later in the season when his father is released from prison and clashes with his brother about the direction of the gang and how Steve deals with both the FBI and a rival police gang.
Whose side will he take?
“Oh, you want spoilers here?” Hardrict asked, laughing. “I’ll just say that sometimes you have to sacrifice a family member. Cole doesn’t know who to trust. He’s torn between father and brother. The great thing about the show is that’s a part of real life, and that’s what people will understand when they see it.”
For more from Curt Wagner, visit http://tvshowpatrol.com/