The Power universe just got a whole lot more gutter with the origin story of one of the series’ most infamous characters in Kanan Stark. “I think people will have a lot of understanding for why he had that beautiful heart underneath, that heart where he really loved Tariq. People will now stop asking why didn’t he just shoot Tariq in the back of the police car,” said Courtney Kemp executive producer and Power series creator when asked what fans will learn of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s character of the past six years.
Kemp spoke to VIBE via Zoom, where both cast and crew shared more on the second series to come from the original program, which started in June 2014. To Kemp’s delight, the gritty fictional world continues to expand, however, it was not in her initial plans. “I did not anticipate all of this,” she said. “I was trying to be a mom, and a wife at that time, and try to figure out just where my feet were going to land running a television show for the first time.” She continued, “I was really learning as I was going.”
After the sixth and final season of the original series ended in February 2020, Power Book II: Ghost debuted, in September of the same year, and on the same timeline. Power Book III: Raising Kanan, up now, will be followed by the announced shows Power Book IV: Force and Power Book V: Influence.
Fans who tuned in to Power described Kanan to VIBE as “relentless,” “manipulative,” and “self-centered,” among other not so positive terms. All can be seen as truth for a man who murdered his own son, cousin, and a handful of others. Played by Jackson, the fictional character hustled his way through life, the prison system, and the streets, while complicated relationships with friends and family turned adversaries impacted his every move. Power Book III: Raising Kanan dives into the title character’s upbringing, uncovering the motives behind the man. The series is unlike the spinoff Power Book II: Ghost. Being a prequel, the events all happen before the original Power storyline began, allowing viewers both new and old the ability to follow along.
Kanan’s story, albeit complex, exposes the harsher realities of street life and attempts to portray honest circumstances. The first two episodes reveal his stripes were earned, but not always desired. Kanan evolves into the murderous drug dealer who went down in a gun battle with police, from a naïve headstrong teenager who felt forced to make quick decisions with lifelong impact.
“It’s a different experience because you have a character that everyone is familiar with, and you have a story that people are familiar with as well,” said executive producer and showrunner Sascha Penn about creating Raising Kanan.
“The challenge when you’re doing a prequel, an origin story, is to make sure that the character that you are creating feels organically connected and linked to the character people are familiar with…You have this existing character that you get to deconstruct and rebuild in really interesting ways.
MeKai Curtis who brings young Kanan to life was excited to add the role to his growing resume. “I was a fan of Power, so that was exciting. Auditioning, I didn’t know I was auditioning Raising Kanan, I just [thought] it was Power and I got to be on it,” he shared on what attracted him to the role.
He added “I think it was the storyline, this coming-of-age drama, and this family dynamic of a son, a 15-year-old boy trying to find his identity in life and in his family, wanting to be there for him. It’s also a story of environment and influence and how that affects you. That kind of resonated with me because these are stories that need to be told. These are real life stories.”
Raising Kanan is also a testament to his mother, Raquel “Raq” Thomas, portrayed by Patina Miller. Raq’s dual plight as a parent and a pusher, complicate things for her personally and professionally. As a dedicated mother who shows no restraint when it comes to protecting and providing for her son, she is also a fierce street queen, equally willing to do anything necessary to keep her empire intact.
“What I love about this, is it’s just very real. At the end of the day, the show, as much as it is about Kanan, it’s about a single Black woman, mother making her way through this thing. Raq is a person who not only is ambitious and very successful and powerful, but she’s also a loving mother to her son. Her son is her entire world. Now that these two worlds have started to collide a bit more its uncomfortable for her,” says Thomas, a Tony award winning actress.
“Throughout this series you are going to see Raq have to make choices, some she’s not proud of. There are some things that she has to do, but you’ll understand her,” Miller explains. “She’s very human, she’s very messy. She’s very raw.”
Jukebox, an important character in the original series also gets a backstory with Raising Kanan. On Power, the streetwise, abrasive, dirty cop is played by Anika Noni Rose. Her younger self is played by Hailey Kilgore and runs with the guys, hustling to afford the ability to record a demo tape and questioning the emotions that come with a taboo relationship with a girl that both families would reject. Explaining her character’s spirit, Kilgore says, “Juke, she’s such an emotionally deep human being and I knew there was a lot to unbox with her.”
Power Book III: Raising Kanan premiered July 18 on STARZ. Actors London Brown (Ballers), Omar Epps (Juice), and Malcolm Mays (Snowfall), also star in the series, with regular appearances from rapper Joey Bada$$, Toby Sandeman, Quincy Brown, and Antonio Ortiz. Epps describes his character, Detective Malcolm Howard, as “trying to figure out his own personal power.” He follows that by declaring, “and that’s why you gotta watch the first season!”
With so much anticipation for success, Raising Kanan has already been renewed for a second installment. “One season isn’t enough to tell the coming-of-age story of Kanan Stark and his mother, Raq, a fierce and successful woman who is a force of nature,” said Jeffrey Hirsch, President and CEO of STARZ in a provided release. “The anticipation globally for more of the ‘Power’ universe made it clear that the Kanan story needs to continue.”
50 Cent and crew had a blow out premiere event in New York on July 15th to kick off the show’s run. After a lengthy red carpet tour, the music and film mogul had hip-hop artists from yesteryear to today perform with him on the Hammerstein Ballroom stage. The 90s were in effect with legends like EPMD and Big Daddy Kane as well as the current crop of rap stars in NLE Choppa and DaBaby, all rocking the spot. We know that 50 doesn’t play around when it comes to biz, so seeing the world he and Kemp created reach this level of success isn’t at all shocking…it’s powerful.
Watch the official trailer below: