Omar Epps Hopes to Battle ‘Pandemic’ of Absent Fathers in America with Documentary

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Actor Omar Epps hopes an upcoming documentary he produced can help call attention to what he describes as the “pandemic” of fatherless families in America.

Daddy Don’t Go — about four young men struggling to be the best fathers they can be — will premiere on video platform Vimeo on Father’s Day in an effort to “activate” fathers across the country.

“I think the traditional family structure has been eviscerated, certainly within impoverished communities,” the 42-year-old former House star told the Los Angeles Times in an interview. “There’s one thing to be someone’s biological father. But there’s another thing to actually actively father a child and take the reigns of that responsibility.”

According to a synopsis, the film took two years to shoot and centers on four disadvantaged fathers in New York City as they “struggle to beat the odds and defy the deadbeat dad stereotype.”

Epps, who is now a father of three, says the project was special because as a child he didn’t know his own father.

“It’s basically following their journeys as active fathers and it’s pretty powerful … I didn’t grow up with [my father].” he said. “That’s another reason why I felt passionate about this story. I didn’t know my father growing up, and that was that.”

The former Resurrection star believes the film’s Father’s Day release is timely given that “fatherhood has been under attack.”

“It’s sort of a pandemic, certainly in impoverished areas,” he said. “I think that this film will shed light that these guys aren’t smarter than your viewers, necessarily. They’re super blue-collar guys in turbulent circumstances, but they’re all actively fathering their children.”

Approximately 65 percent of black children in America today live without a father in the home. Additionally, the absence of a father in the home has been proven to be one of the main predictors of poverty. About 30 percent of Hispanic children and roughly 20 percent of white children live in homes without their biological father.

While he doesn’t have a policy solution for this societal dilemma, Epps hopes his new film can at least draw attention to the subject.

“I’m not focusing on traditional or non-traditional families — just family itself, and the notion of children fighting through, and especially the men, to raise their kids,” he said. “I don’t know what would fix that. There are societal things that come into play, economic things, legal things, so it’s not one thing. But I think it starts with the individual.”

Having children, the actor says, changed his life for the better.

“It’s part of the fabric of who I am as a human being on this earth,” he said. “You know, to help guide young human beings from before they walk and now my daughter Aiyanna is going to be a senior in high school this year, so it’s been an amazing journey. Being a father is one of the pillars of who I am as a person.”

Daddy Don’t Go is available for pre-order, and premieres Sunday.


Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson