Decatur native Omar Dorsey spent much of his teen years in Little Five Points, buying stylish hats at Stefan’s Vintage Clothing and Rag-o-Rama and wolfing down burgers at the Vortex and pizza at Savage Pizza.
“I would love my kids to live here,” said Dorsey, who now lives in Los Angeles. “This is my home.”
Over the past 15 years, Dorsey has been gradually building his acting resume with parts in films such as “Road Trip,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “The Blind Side” and “Django Unchained.” He is now in the new Fox show “Rake” starring Greg Kinnear as a brilliantly rakish lawyer with serious gambling and women issues.
He plays Kinnear’s bookie “muscle,” enabler and friend. In the opening scenes of the pilot, which airs at 9 p.m. January 23 after “American Idol,” he has to rough Kinnear up a bit as a warning to pay back $60,000 in gambling debts to his boss.
Dorsey returns to Atlanta every so often to visit his parents and catch up with friends. He and I spent an hour at Aurora Coffee earlier this week talking about his career. Here are some highlights:
– The original pilot for “Rake” was kind of dark. So Fox shot a new one that is a bit lighter and frothier. And they expanded Dorsey’s role to more than just a bookie. “I’m not just the guy handling the money,” he said. “But I’m always floating around. You never know when I’ll pop up. I have to protect him from himself, from my boss. I’m an underworld type of figure. I try to help him out, give him life lessons from my own screwed up life.”
– He played a cantankerous ex athlete in the final season of “Eastbound & Down” on HBO this past fall who tried to match wits with Kenny Powers, Danny McBride’s absurdly self-centered character, on a ridiculous sports talk show. “It was so over the top,” he said. “We were in front of a live audience. We made each other laugh all day long. Danny is so good. He’s really brilliant.”
– Dorsey went to different high schools in Decatur but graduated from the DeKalb School of the Arts in 1994. He loved hanging in Little Five Points. “I thought, ‘Look at all these weirdos! This is where I belong!’ ” He did plays at 7 Stages Theatre. Now, he said, gazing outside the coffee shop, he misses seeing trees without leaves and actual seasons.
– After getting small roles in “Drumline” and “Road Trip,” he took his family to Los Angeles around 2000. He said it was tough going early on though he did get a few good commercial spots with DHL, Chevrolet and Zocor with former Falcons coach Dan Reeves. The Zocor ad, he said, ran for three years, which helped pay the bills. In the mid-2000s, he nabbed roles on CBS’s “Yes, Dear” and a TV movie, then in 2009 got a part in “The Blind Side” (which actually kept him from doing a part as a Mike Tyson henchman in “The Hangover”).
– In 2010, Dorsey tried out for “The Walking Dead” to play the role of T-Dog, which went to his old high school friend IronE Singleton. He recalls encouraging Singleton to take the role. He also is friends with Chad Coleman, (Tyreese) who is now on “The Walking Dead.”
-He fell in love with Quentin Tarantino after seeing “Pulp Fiction” at the Cinefest theater at Georgia State University, where he studied film. He recalled being in such awe, he stayed in the theater and watched it again. In fact, he returned and saw it several more times. (He originally wanted to be a director.). So for him to be able to be in a Quentin film 18 years later on “Django Unchained” was an honor, he said. On top of that, he got to hang with Samuel L. Jackson, another hero of his. Plus, he spent some time with Leo DeCaprio. “”I was in heaven on that set. All those Academy Awards!” he exclaimed. “It was better than any schooling I’ve ever had.”
– His role as Chicken Charlie in “Django Unchained” required him to change his look for months on end, including prosthetic bad teeth. “I had to wear this awful haircut for six months,” he said. “I felt ugly.”
– His favorite Academy Award-nominated best film of 2013? “Wolf of Wall Street,” although he admits “12 Years a Slave” is favored. “It was a great film but it was very hard to watch. All that crying, all that depression, on my goodness!”
– He divorced his first wife, who now lives in Boston, but remarried not too long ago to Conisha. Four years ago, he and fellow actor Dorian Missick held a party to meet women. And they lucked out: both met their future wives at the same party!
“Rake,” 9 p.m. Fox, starting January 23, 2014