“The plan is to make some huge moves and some huge cast changes in Season 5,” says Power creator Courtney Kemp as the Starz drama wraps up its fourth season tonight.
With an “anybody like Italian?” quip from Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora), the high octane and revenge-fueled finale finds the volatile drug dealer and the long-battling Ghost (Omari Hardwick) and Kanan (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) now united as a trio to take down the treacherous and murderous Dre (Rotimi Akinosho). The Kemp and Monica Mitchell co-written episode, “You Can’t Fix This” also staggered from the murder of Tasha (Naturi Naughton) and Ghost’s daughter Raina (Donshea Hopkins) in the penultimate episode by Ray Ray (Marcus Callender). After the fatal revenge tonight by Ghost and Tasha’s wayward son Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.), Power is poised for next season with a street smart mother preparing to protect her children one more time and Ghost’s ex-lover and federal prosecutor Angela Valdes (Lela Loren) conflicted again, to put it mildly.
Little wonder that executive producer Kemp calls this latest cycle of Power “the most complete season we’ve done.”
Already into production on Season 5, Kemp reveals more of her take on the season that just ended, where she sees the NYC-based show going next and hints at how much more juice Power has. At an average of 8.7 million viewers an episode on a multitude of platforms this season, the EP also discussed with me her reactions to the big viewership the series is getting this year on the premium cabler’s app as well as the leak of the final three episodes of this season earlier this summer.
ETI: So we ended where it all began in some sense, with Ghost, Tommy and Kanan reunited and seeking revenge. Is Season 5 going to be about seeking resolution as well as going to war?
KEMP: It’s an interesting thing because it’s actually kind of a strange bedfellows moment. Ghost, Tommy, and Kanan are having a reunion, and as we like to call it, a family reunion. So as family reunions go, just to say it, it’s always still the same thing with family. All those relationships shift and have different resentments, and old hurts, and old wounds, and all those things are still kind of all working underneath the surface. So, right now, we’ve got these three guys with three distinct agendas all united under the idea of killing Dre.
ETI: It took a lot of time, both behind bars and not, a lot of betrayal and comeuppance to get to this finale, plus a pretty big body count with the deaths such as Julio’s (J.R. Ramirez) thanks to Dre and the killing of Raina by corrupt cop Ray Ray with a bullet intended for Tariq?
KEMP: Well, part of what happened as we planned Season 4, was that the theme of consequences, which was kind of what was running through Season 3 and the theme of redemption that was running through Season 4, those things were underscored by this tragedy having to do with Ghost going inside at the beginning of this season.
Really the whole season is about this one thing — Ghost getting arrested and being on trial. That makes everyone react, and everybody circles the wagon. Once Ghost gets out, family becomes redefined, and you see that especially with the Tariq character, who kind of picks Kanan, for most of the season as his family, as his father, and as his kind of spiritual — I wouldn’t say guru —but ideal. So going that direction we thought was really interesting and then bringing everyone back together in episode 10 after the tragedy of the death of Raina.
ETI: With that, the trio back together, Tariq’s killing of Ray Ray, Lela hunting down the shooter and Tasha setting up to take the fall, plus the nine previous episodes that lurched us here, what’s your take on Season 4?
KEMP: I think this is our best season in a lot of ways.
ETI: Isn’t that what a showrunner says every year?
KEMP: Maybe — but its because I think it was the most complete season we’ve done. I thought Season 3 was very strong. I thought we did a really good job there. But this season, I think we took a lot more risks, and I think we provided, in some ways, less pure pleasure for the audience than we have in former seasons. There was a lot less time to enjoy Power as pure entertainment. We kind of did a lot more pulling you around, forcing you to have certain feelings. We played with the emotions of the audience a little bit more. I think we did that in a really successful way this year.
ETI: At this stage in your career and after four seasons, going into five, running Power, is that more interesting to you?
KEMP: Let me say, I think the show itself is growing in the same way that Ghost is growing, so it’s not always the most comfortable show to watch. But why should it be? I mean, I remember watching episodes of The Sopranos and being filled with dread knowing what was coming or anticipating what was coming. I don’t think that that’s always a bad thing. I think sometimes the audience needs a little catharsis held away from them.
ETI: So, with the catharsis catheter held off until next year, where are you with Season 5 and where is this multiple set of showdowns going?
KEMP: It’s actually interesting because we just turned in the first episode of Season 5. Right now, we’re looking at it as a direct pickup, and it begins in a place of Angela trying to figure out, hey, what the hell happened here? Then from that perspective, then it’s all about Tasha trying to kind of keep Tariq out of trouble.
It’s also Ghost, Tommy, and Kanan, obviously, being united in the direction I already spoke of, and then Tariq, now having to pay the price for what has happened. You know, a lot of the people last week were like, I can’t believe you killed Raina. Well, the reason we made that choice, in no small part, was that Tariq’s journey had to include grave consequences, and if he were the one who died, he would not have had to face them.
ETI: After the two-season pick-up you got for Power in July last year, this year’s finale and the colliding direction of Season 5, the question is if there is a lot power left in Power — or are you thinking of pulling the plug?
KEMP: That’s up to STARZ, but you know, I think I would like to make some really big moves. The plan is to make some huge moves and some huge cast changes in Season 5, for sure. So the show, at the very least, is going to transform into something slightly different as we go forward.
ETI: A big death is in the offering for Season 5?
KEMP: Look, no one’s been safe on our show for quite some time, but obviously, the main characters have had longer lives. We are reaching the end of this journey, so the main characters are less safe than they have ever been before.
So, of course, it can get worse, because no one’s been caught for anything yet. You know, there’s always another way that things can go badly on Power, but then also there might be some great joy and some great success. People might come out ahead. I don’t know. Maybe two of our characters are going to fall back in love. Who knows?
ETI: And, with that tease, how about you, are you thinking of handing over the showrunning reigns after Season 5?
KEMP: I would love to hand Power over fully, but I think if we’re not going to do too many more seasons, it’s probably best for me to stay on and finish what I started.
ETI: On that topic of changing landscapes this year saw HBO hit with a big hack, and it also saw you guys and Starz hit with the leak of the final three episodes of Season 4. How did that affect you, and how do you think it affected the show?
KEMP: I was devastated — absolutely devastated, and really struggled with those feelings. Watching all these people who are fans of the show tweet, spoilers or put up images from the last three episodes, it was like having your house broken into, for me. Then having your TV stolen, and then going over to your neighbor’s house the next day and seeing him watch your TV.
ETI: But despite the leak, the show’s numbers went up some weeks…
KEMP: OK, but I don’t think that people understand really how much it’s a violation, how really hurtful it is. You know, with how much work we put into these episodes to only have them stolen, I mean, it was really quite devastating. I just want people to know too that we designed these seasons very carefully and that we really love and appreciate our fans — we really do. And we want them to be seen the way they were intended to be seen.
ETI: On the flip side, you guys had some amazing numbers in newish realms. Yes, you were down from the linear view of last year, but your premiere just blew the wig off the STARZ app. Why do you think that that’s where Power‘s viewers are now?
KEMP: I think it’s because of the age of our audience. Our audience is very young overall, and they are watching the episodes on the app. They don’t necessarily have a linear set-top box. They don’t even necessarily have cable service or pay for premium cable. So the STARZ app has been a great way for us to achieve penetration in audiences that wouldn’t necessarily normally have those things.
Also, you know, within the communities that the show is most successful in, a lot of times, only one or two people in the family had a STARZ subscription. So our first couple of years, everyone was going over to a friend’s or something on Saturday nights and people were having what we were calling “Power parties.” Unfortunately, we were only able to count those households as two people, but people were having 20 to 25 people over to their house to watch the show. We were missing all of that headcount.
Now when people are watching it on the app, we’re actually starting to get a much more realistic idea of how many people really are watching this show. We’re starting to be able to see, like, what a phenomenon it’s actually become. So it’s been quite a journey. The linear numbers are never going to catch up, though, because that’s not this show now. I actually think by next year this time, our linear numbers will no longer be relevant
ETI: What has been extremely relevant this season is the spotlight on Tariq, his larger presence on the show and the way characters and plots have come to orbit around him in a galaxy that was dominated by his father. To that, there has been a strong fan reaction, sometime quite critical of the choices and action you had Tariq making?
KEMP: Yes, it’s been interesting watching the intense fan reaction to this Tariq story, but I think they sometimes overlook that Tariq is an adolescent, and he’s trying to make a way in the world. Look at his role models. There’s his father Ghost, who is a liar, and a drug dealer, and a murderer. His mom, who is a money laundering, and, well, she’s not a murderer, but she’s definitely, I think what they would call back in the day, a drug mule. Then we have his Uncle Tommy, who’s his godfather. Now, just think about this. Your godfather is Tommy Egan, who is a psycho, murdering, torturing drug dealer who actually…
ETI: And that’s on his good days…
KEMP: That’s on his good days. That means he’s in a good mood, right? Your role models include your Auntie LaKeisha, who is really materialistic, although she’s become somewhat of a heroine from our audience, and then you go to the secondary role models who are Dre, who’s the biggest liar on the show. You’ve got Kanan, I mean, he’s Kanan, need I say more? These are the adults in Tariq’s world.
ETI: He’s set-up isn’t he?
KEMP: Well, when people are surprised that Tariq acts in a ridiculous way, I say, how could he not? His behavior and the idea of becoming a man under these circumstances, who would make different choices than these? There’s nowhere for him to go, and I think one thing that people often forget about Tariq is that Ghost and Tasha made a decision not to explain what they really are to him or to his sister and that now has consequences.
So he’s not street smart. He doesn’t know the risks. He doesn’t know the consequences. He doesn’t have any kind of reality check because they thought he was going to be Theo Huxtable. Well, he’s not. He’s not Theo Huxtable because they’re not Cliff and Clair. They’re not a lawyer and a doctor. They’re a drug dealer and a woman who knows her way around a gun and knows how to clean drug money.
ETI: That’s Power.
KEMP: Exactly. So don’t be too shocked where it goes.
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