Exclusive: ‘Power’ Creator Courtney Kemp Says Charlie Murphy “Was A Fascinating Person”

Movies & TV

When it was announced the Starz-scripted drama Power would return for a fourth and fifth season, writer, creator and show runner Courtney A. Kemp knew she had to up the ante. After an explosive third season, which resulted in the deaths of – spoiler alert – Holly, Enrique Lobos, Gregory Knox and the head of the Saldado nation Carlos Ruiz, it wouldn’t hurt that while propelling the show’s memorable characters further into the world of pushing powdered substances, a few new characters – unscrupulous or not – be added to the mix.

Back in February, it was announced Larenz Tate landed a recurring role as Jamaica, Queens city councilman, Rashad Tate, and just a month prior news of Charlie Murphy’s addition to the cast as prison guard Marshall Williams was made public. Unfortunately, on April 12, tragedy struck when the beloved Brooklynite died from complications stemming from Leukemia.

VIBE caught up with Kemp to discuss working with the 57-year-old, whom she described as patient and present, and revealed what he imparted on her during their short time together.

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VIBE: Why did you cast Charlie Murphy for Season Four of Power?
Courtney A. Kemp: For a lot of reasons, but first off Charlie is incredibly talented, was incredibly talented I should say, and the thing with most comedians is comedy comes out of intensity and honesty, so we knew that he would have that in his performance. Then we found out he was a fan of the show and when he came in and he talked about the show with such passion. Then it was just a question of talking to him about what we wanted to do [with his character.] The part is a dark part with a lot of humor. We wrote it specifically for him. There’s going to be stuff that will make you laugh out loud from what he says, but it’s the Power universe so it’s not a comedy at all. It’s dark but it’s funny.

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Did Charlie Murphy ad-lib or did he stick to the script?
He stayed on script. He had a couple of improv moments. The show really isn’t improvised. We get the scripts out early enough to the actors so they can come up with stuff, and usually we’ll add those things in the script by the time they actually perform. He didn’t really improv. Maybe he did a little on set but not much.

What was his demeanor like?
He was very quiet and reserved, and always very prepared. Again, I love comedians. I tend to try and cast them on the show when I can. For example, Jim Norton plays Father Michael Callahan on the show, but comics tend to be when not on, pretty quiet. It’s not unusual. It’s not surprising. He was super prepared and just ready to go. He was also game. He had to do some stuff that was physically demanding and he was game for that. He was just a really prepared actor.

You know, comedians are on the road so much that when they’re just getting to act and sit in one place, they’re really grateful and just ready. One day he and I were on set and he sat by the monitor with me while we were setting up shop, and he was just interested in the process. In the time that we sat on set and talked, we really talked about more philosophical things. We talked about family. We talked about faith a little bit. We had some real conversations. He was really quiet and reserved and thoughtful.

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What were some of his admirable characteristics that you noticed?
He was an incredible presence on set. You can’t tell through the television of course, but anyone who saw him live [said] he had incredible presence. You were aware that you were with him in the room and he had a lot of patience. Set is long, it’s very long with a lot of hours. He was very patient and present and those are two words I very rarely use, patient and present.

He also had a great stillness about him. But what I will say he left me with was this: I really liked him, I enjoyed him, I enjoyed talking to him. I was a fan, but a lot of times when you meet someone you’re a fan of or you meet someone you admire you walk away disappointed. I was not. I was actually more impressed by him than I ever dreamed because he was so deeply interesting. He was a really fascinating person so I walked away with gratitude for having known and met him.