“Traffik” marks big screen return for leading man Epps

By Andrew Shearer

The release of “Traffik” this weekend doesn’t just mark the return of everyman Omar Epps to the kind of big screen leading roles that defined his early career. It’s also another entry in an impressive list of credits that has found him working with talented new filmmakers in a compelling variety of projects. Though director Deon Taylor could be considered a veteran of the horror genre at this point, “Traffik” is only his second to reach national theatres (following 2016′s experimental hybrid, “Meet The Blacks”), and the choice of Epps as the boyfriend of a journalist (Paula Patton, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”) terrorized by backwoods criminals was one no doubt informed by Epps’ outstanding resume.

For those who may be more familiar with Epps as a television star from his role as Dr. Eric Foreman in the long-running medical drama, “House,” here’s a short list of highlights from his work in feature films:

JUICE (1992)

Epps and hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur had their first respective starring roles in this debut thriller from director Ernest Dickerson, who was then primarily known as Spike Lee’s cinematographer. Epps plays teenage Q, who finds himself pressured by friend Bishop (Shakur) to commit a robbery with violent consequences.

HIGHER LEARNING (1995)

Director John Singleton followed up his breakout 1991 hit “Boyz n the Hood” with the lighter “Poetic Justice” in 1993 but came back swinging with this racially-charged college drama that features Epps as Malik, a track star who runs afoul of stern Professor Phipps (Laurence Fishburne) and a campus gang of white supremacists.

THE WOOD (1999)

Epps managed to step outside of being cast as students and athletes with this coming of age comedy that begins with a missing groom (Taye Diggs) and goes back and forth through time to show the youthful antics of his best friends Mike (Epps) and Slim (Richard T. Jones). It was also the first movie by “Dope” director Rick Famuyiwa.

LOVE & BASKETBALL (2000)

Taking place over the span of 13 years, this debut feature from director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Secret Life of Bees”) casts Epps opposite Sanaa Lathan (“Best Man Holiday”) as a pair of aspiring professional basketball players who have known one another since childhood and explores the evolution of their relationship over time.

AGAINST THE ROPES (2004)

Veteran television actor Charles S. Dutton stepped behind the camera for the first time for this fictional sports drama starring Meg Ryan (“When Harry Met Sally”) as a boxing manager who takes on rising middleweight champion Luther Shaw (Epps) only to get carried away with media attention as Shaw wins fight after fight.

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