Loyalty is a four-letter word in the world of Power, and while many demand it very few exercise it.
Pushing powdered substances is commonplace in the scripted drama, and any brick unaccounted for can be handled with a knife to the back or a bullet to the head. Yet with four seasons in the can and the fifth season on the way, viewers have shown they can be trusted more so than the characters they love. But if you’re a fan of the Starz series, then creator and showrunner Courtney A. Kemp has tested your loyalty by way of the on-screen deaths of some of the most polarizing and beloved characters.
At the close of Season Four, Kemp made it clear no one is safe when Raina St. Patrick (Donshea Hopkins) was killed in an attempt to protect her brother Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.). Killing off a character isn’t foreign for Power fans, but killing a kid let viewers know Ms. Kemp is committed to telling a story, even if it’s a difficult one.
VIBE caught up with Kemp and the show’s executive producer (and resident bad guy) Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson at New York’s Langham Hotel to dissect the method behind everything that’s transpired in this big rich town.
VIBE: Why is telling a story more important than saving a character?
Courtney A. Kemp: Oh..
I ask because these characters come from you in some way, so it’s not easy when you killing them.
Kemp: There are more difficult characters than others. There are more difficult actors to lose. It was really hard for me to lose Lucy Walters. I really loved Lucy Walters who played Holly. J.R. Ramirez [who played Julio] was tough in a different way because he’d been in the show from the very beginning. He was a part of the original conception of things. It’s just difficult, that said the show’s not about the characters, the show’s about power. It’s about actual power and the transference of power from person to person. It’s about the powerlessness that we have as humans over things that happen so in a way, even though I’m the one making the decisions in this world, at the end of the day the reason people like the show is because they don’t know what’s going to happen.
50 Cent: Right, it’s the unexpected things that happen.
The spontaneity of it.
Kemp: I think it’s more important to tell a good story, so if a good story hurts at some point in the middle so be it. Michael didn’t want to kill Fredo, right? But when he did we understood.
50 Cent: He had to.
Kemp: It’s more like that.
You once told me that a lot of these characters are an extension of you, and prior to Dre killing Julio, Kanan was the bad guy. Now Dre is the bad guy. What about Dre do you see in yourself, good and bad.
Kemp: Oh, well it’s different. Dre is a liar.
Yes, he is.
Kemp: I started a different spiritual path in 2007, so I’m different, but I certainly remember I was a person who lied to get out of situations where I’d done something wrong, and I was definitely someone who lied to advance my cause.
That’s very honest.
Kemp: Yeah, I was. I’m not that now, and Curtis and I have conversations all the time. There was a point a couple of years ago when I was having contract negotiations. I literally called Fifty and we had diner at Carbone and said ‘This is everything that’s happening’ because that is how I live now.
I do it that way so I don’t have to remember my lies, but at the time I remember living like that. I remember being like ‘I told this person this. I told this person this’ I have to keep track of what I told them. I remember living like that and what it does is it makes your heart rate a certain way. It makes your physicality a certain way; kind of like tucked in, sneaking. Physically, that’s Rotimi. That comes from the lies that eat you from the inside. The good parts of Dre are he was honest and loyal...
In the beginning.
Courtney A. Kemp: Kanan saves his life and Dre says ‘What do you want me to do?’
50 Cent: And he was willing to do anything.
Right, he was.
50 Cent: And he came through. He actually caught up with Pink Sneakers.
He did. How will Kanan stand out this season because remember, your character killed his son.
50 Cent (Laughs)
Kemp: I mean, why’d you say it like that? (laughs)
It is what it is. Your character killed your son and you tried to take Tariq from Ghost, but now we all see what Dre is capable of. How will Kanan be the big bad wolf this season?
50 Cent: You know what happens? A lot of times when people have tunnel vision. The respect, legacy... the way you see the tagline for the season.
Kemp: Revenge. Respect. Legacy
50 Cent: Yeah, Kanan sees himself the same way. The time period he spent in jail and he comes home he's looking at them [Ghost and Tommy] like these are my little guys. You my little man you’re just in a bigger position. Everybody is someone. That's why Dre is saying ’You better hope Tommy don’t find out you talking to…’
Kanan doesn’t respect the position Tommy’s amassed in the ten years since he went to prison.
50 Cent: Right! He’s like, ‘Get out of here.’ I’m supposed to be afraid of Tommy?
Kemp: You know who that is? That white n***a?
Fifty: They’ve seen me do things before that groomed them into the actual lifestyle that would make them afraid of me. This is how they’re all going to know Kanan’s not a good guy. They saw stuff before they weren’t comfortable enough with doing before they attempted to do it.
This season they see me actually operate under those laws. Usually, the Kanan type would go to jail and would come home and be killed by a new version of himself in the neighborhood.
Very true, Mr. Jackson. I’m being given the one minute, I’m sorry. This is my last question: Who’s more ruthless Pusha-T or Kanan?
Fifty: Pusha-T or Kanan? Umm? Kanan way more ruthless. Pusha-T just said something before the public was aware. [Laughs]