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“My goal was just to provide great entertainment, and I hope I have,” declares Power creator Courtney Kemp as the Starz series came to an end tonight after six highly charged and high stakes seasons. “You know, I think there are people who are disappointed that Ghost is dead, but I promised that from the beginning,” the showrunner added. “I said he would be dead or in jail. I don’t think I lied, you know?”
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After playing with perspective on who shot Omari Hardwicks’ Ghost (AKA James St. Patrick) since its midseason return on January 5, the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson executive produced NYC set show finally revealed who pulled the trigger. Never one to shy away from the tropes of Greek myths and the motifs of a certain Bill Shakespeare, the Kemp and Gabriela Uribe written series finale unmasked Ghost’s son Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.) as the shooter. Furthering the furies, it was Tariq’s mother and Ghost’s ex-wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton) taking the rap for her gangster-in-the-making son and the drug dealer turned almost Empire State Lt. Governor’s heir.
Now, with the Mary J. Blige-led Power Book II: Ghost about to debut later this year and three other spinoffs, including a prequel based on 50 Cent’s now deceased Kanan character, coming, Kemp hasn’t exactly had a moment to rest on her laurels.
However, the EP took the time to talk with me about tonight’s finale, how that ending came together and how Power Book III: Raising Kanan, the politics of Power Book IV: Influence and the West Coast set and Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) focused Power Book V: Force will roll out. Savvy but honest, Kemp also unveiled how much of herself was in tonight’s series finale and being a mother.
DEADLINE: I wanted to start off by asking you, how does it feel now that it’s all done and it’s out there and you’ve told your story, the story that I know that you, for so long, felt that the industry ignored and others ignored, but the viewers always grabbed onto and held to like it was family?
KEMP: You know, it’s funny. Like, I’ve been through now so many iterations of this ending because we stopped shooting in June. Then we had the 610 mini-finale in the fall, and then now this again. It feels to me like Power has not ended, and then I’m back in my old office working on the spinoffs and we’re shooting Book II. So, you know, 50 said #PowerNeverEnds, and it really has felt that way.
DEADLINE: There are so many links between the first episode, Not Exactly How We Planned, and this one, which is called Exactly How We Planned, not the least of which is you writing it and Anthony Hemingway directing. But it also it feels like there are elements of Shakespeare and, at least for these last five episodes, Rashomon, in this for you, in many ways…
KEMP: Well, you know, my goal was never to reinvent the wheel. I mean, there are reasons why certain things are classic, right?
DEADLINE: True enough.
KEMP: My goal was just to provide great entertainment, and I hope I have. You know, I think there are people who are disappointed that Ghost is dead, but I promised that from the beginning. I said he would be dead or in jail. I don’t think I lied, you know? And then the other thing is, is he really? Because his legacy lives on in his son and in his youngest daughter doesn’t it. We may yet see that those things and there are stories to be told there, as well.
DEADLINE: Speaking of stories to be told, now you’ve got not just one Power spinoff officially on the books but four, is this it or are there even more being planned right now?
KEMP: This is it for now — but I’ve always wanted to do one with Elisa Marie Proctor and Yasmine St. Patrick when they grow up — sort of a Birds of Prey assassin duo thing.
DEADLINE: OK, now I know you’ve said over and over that Ghost is truly dead, but is there a prequel in the offering or a role for a younger Ghost in the Kanan prequel spinoff?
KEMP: Not for now… but things can change.
DEADLINE: In terms of change, clearly Tariq’s story is far from done and a college dorm is not where we are going to see the last of Michael Rainey Jr. So, as the creator of the show, but also as the writer of this last episode, why you chose to have the son kill the father and why does Tasha ultimately make the sacrifice for Tariq by taking the fall?
KEMP: I feel as a mom, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices for my kid, and I would do it again. I don’t think you ever regret making a sacrifice for your child. I just don’t think you do. I can only speak to being a mother, but I’ve seen fathers also give the ultimate for their child, you know? So Tasha going to jail instead when Tariq has his whole life ahead of you, and you blame yourself for some of your choices, why not? Why not?
DEADLINE: It’s a pretty big sacrifice, and also a good launch pad for more.
KEMP: Yes, but I think there’s also a lot to be said for Tasha’s guilt about the family falling apart, even though she knows it’s Ghost’s choice.
Now, maybe so much of the discourse in this show underneath it is about my own mommy guilt for traveling so much, for working so hard. I don’t know. I can’t break apart my own psychology that way, but what I’d say is that when Tasha turns to Tariq and she says, go to school, live your life, I mean, I wept when I wrote those words. I would even say that I’m as emotional about it now because that’s what I would want. Put all of this behind you. Put all of us behind you. I’m gone. Tommy’s gone. Your father’s gone. Kanan is gone. Go be a person now. This is the last thing I can give you.
KEMP: Yeah, but I guess for me, I felt that that was the strongest possible position for that woman. Also, because she does try to frame Quentin (Tyrone Marshall Brown), it’s not like she’s not Tasha. She’s still trying to get out of shit, you know? It’s not like she lays down, but she can’t trust that her kid has it, and I think that’s an important element of it, as well.
Christine Leunens’ 2008 novel Caging Skies
DEADLINE: In a series created by a strong woman, another example of a strong female lead &, and perhaps you will disagree with this, but with Naturi’s exceptional performance in this final episode it’s not really about who shot Ghost to me. It’s about who dealt with the fallout from who shot Ghost.
KEMP: In terms of women, characters who are women, I’ve said this to you before and I will say it again because I still feel the same way. I think the bar should not be who creates great female characters. The bar should be creating great characters, and that writers who are not women should be held more accountable. I’m not afraid of people disliking my characters as much as I’m afraid of people being bored by them. So that’s where that comes from.
As for the fallout, or setting it up, it is ultimately Tasha who says I’m going to stop him. She makes a plan to kill Ghost. She makes a plan, and when she makes that decision, she, in a way, gives up her right to claim innocence and gives up a part of her soul when she makes that decision. It’s because she wants to protect her child. Remember that that’s, again, she wants to protect her child because Ghost wants to have him confess and she can’t have that.
DEADLINE: So, the son kills the father. The mother takes the fall, but we know we haven’t seen the last of Tariq, for sure. The look in his eyes tell us, and we know from what’s out there, but have we seen the last of Tasha?
KEMP: I can’t tell you anything. I can’t tell you anything.
DEADLINE: Looking at what’s next, we now have the Powerverse laid out with the four spinoffs. But Power Book II: Ghost is the most mature so far. Where is the Mary J. Blige series at and how much of the legacy of the original Power is embedded in it?
KEMP: It really is a continuation. It picks up 72 hours after the end of Power Book I, and it pushes you right into what happens next. I mean, there’s Mary, there’s Method Man and there’s a very complicated and interesting framework that we’re dealing with But, a lot of what was in the original Power, which is the idea of being torn between two worlds, is there.
DEADLINE: How about characters from the original show? We’ve heard that there more Tariq, what about others?
KEMP: Well, I will say that the governor-to-be Rashad Tate (Larenz Tate) is definitely in some episodes with Power Book II: Ghost, and Victor Garber’s Simon Stern is in some episodes of Ghost, as well.
DEADLINE: I have to say, with the Mary J-led Power Book II out there for the last several months and coming up later this year, I was pretty sure you would use the end of the original Power to openly fuel the first spinoff. Why did you decide not to give in to that temptation?
KEMP: (LAUGHS) I think it’s because I have a little bit of OCD…
KEMP: And then there’s a part of me that’s like, let those things that are Caesar’s be unto Caesar, which is like Power is Power. I mean, in our last five episodes we definitely did some nods to things that we’re going to do in the future. I think if you’ve been paying attention, you know some of the things that are coming.
I certainly know that you know some of the things that are coming just because you’re a wise student of television, and you know me. But I think that there is something to Power being a series, Power Book I being a series unto itself and an experience unto itself, which allows me a little bit more freedom. If I had tried to turn 615 into a backdoor pilot, I think it would’ve been impregnated then with so many other elements that are setup elements, and setup elements are never fun. They’re just never fun.
DEADLINE: But with the exception of you and say David Chase, almost everyone plays that setup game if it is in the cards, don’t they? It’s the business of show business, at least on the small screen…
KEMP: What I would say is that I feel very much like Power has its own moments. You know, when we started, Obama was in office. It’s just a different feeling altogether, and so it belongs to its own cultural moment, and whether it stands the test of time or not, I can’t speak to, but what I can say is that my attempt has been to make it something that stands on its own two feet. Something that can be judged, for better or for worse, on its own merits and not just as a way to make more money or as some sort of stunt at the end.
DEADLINE: There is an element of full circle in all this, harking back to the very beginning, as all great series do in their own way, no?
KEMP: Well, yes and you brought it up at the beginning today. The magic of having Anthony Hemingway come back and being able to work with someone with whom you have such a shorthand was just fantastic.
You know, we adopted a very complicated structure for these last five, and there was a lot of people who were upset because it wasn’t just your typical episodes of Power. But, the reason that we did it is because I think that we can challenge the media. I think we can do things that are much more wide-ranging and risky, you know? I think we can do those things, Sure it’s a gamble. It’s a risk, but it’s a risk I chose to take.
DEADLINE: With that risk, those risks, are you satisfied with how Power ended?
KEMP: I am a perfectionist. I am never satisfied.
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