SPOILER ALERT: This story includes details about last night’s episode of Power.
“We’ve created a template for the show that is non-Hollywood,” says Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson of the shocking death of his Kanan character on last night’s episode of Power. “Anyone can go, there’s no one in the show that can’t die,” the executive producer of Starz’s most watched series asserts.
“This show was not designed to go 10 seasons,” adds fellow EP and series creator Courtney Kemp of how the death of Jackson’s character pivots Power towards its eventual conclusion. “It was not designed to go 15 seasons. It’s not a crime procedural or a sitcom. It’s a closed-ended story that really begins and, in some way, ends with Ghost,” she notes of the Omari Hardwick portrayed drug lord trying to make it in the legit world.
With the end of Power looking clearer on the narrative horizon heading into next year’s already announced sixth season, the two EPs chatted with me about the fatal betrayal of Kanan by Ghost and the Naturi Naughton played Tasha St. Patrick’s wayward teen son Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.) and where the last two episodes of Season 5 could go.
Jackson and Kemp also discussed why they decided to kill off one of the biggest draws of Power, and what’s next for 50 Cent on the show both in front of and behind the camera.
DEADLINE: Let’s start with the death of Curtis’ Kanan character last night in the shootout with the NYPD, how he was set up by Tasha on kidnapping Tariq and how the teen he thought was his protégé ultimately betrayed him. When did you guys decided to kill off Kanan?
JACKSON: The decision was made early on when Courtney and I discussed how the arc of Kanan’s story would end. You see, we slated the show to go seven seasons initially, because we created it with the success of The Sopranos in mind.
DEADLINE: So, the show is going to end with Season 7?
KEMP: All I’ll say is that this iteration of the show with me as the showrunner, that iteration of the show is going to have to end because the story that I wanted to tell is almost over. That has to be the way that it is, otherwise we’re going to end the show badly. We’re going to end the show really in like a whimper instead of a bang, and I need it to be a bang.
KEMP: Because I want to be able to still tell a story that’s about can I change, does my past dictate my future, can I be the man or woman that I picture and I’ve always wanted to be? I need to answer that question, right, and that question can’t go on forever.
DEADLINE: So where does it all go for the final two episodes of Season 5?
KEMP: (LAUGHS) Why would I answer that question? Look, the death of Kanan is going to have some repercussions, mostly with Tommy’s relationship with Ghost.
JACKSON: The death of Kanan at this point, it ramps up everything. The pace of the next two shows is a lot more because everyone responds to the betrayal of Kanan and his death leaves a big gap with Tommy (Jospeh Sikora) and Ghost where they don’t trust each other. It also changes Tariq and Tasha in different perspectives as everything starts to spin out of control.
DEADLINE: Is it broken between them now?
KEMP: It’s not as broken as it’s going to get, but in terms of the trust, yeah, that’s fully eroded. Because the tension for Tommy all season was who is my actual family member, Ghost or his newly discovered father Tony Teresi? Now that tension gets ramped up because now, without the trust of Ghost, he turns more to Teresi (William Sadler), which the audience knows is very dangerous but he doesn’t know that yet.
DEADLINE: Why did you do this in episode eight of the season? Most series would have left such a big death for the season finale…
KEMP: Because episode eight is always a season finale for us, and then we give you two more episodes. Because in the first season, we only had eight episodes, so we had to do the season finale then, and so we’ve always been doing a Season 8 finale. We always do kind of crazy stuff in eight in order to have the audience go, well, what are they going to do now? That’s the question we want them asking at the end of eight.
DEADLINE: OK, but Curtis for you, what does the death of Kanan mean?
JACKSON: It allows me to stay involved as an executive producer and expand on the other projects I have on the network at the present moment and get them up and running.
DEADLINE: Like what?
JACKSON: I’m looking at what I’m going to do with Black Mafia Family, what I’m going to do with other shows. I’ve talked about them but I haven’t actually had the time to have the writers room opened and move further with those. It also provides me with the ability to direct 603. I’ve traveled to the writers’ room since they been in there working on next season and developing 603.
DEADLINE: How does this change things for you Courtney?
KEMP: You know our working relationship was not about Curtis the actor, because I really wasn’t on set enough for that, so it doesn’t really change much. But will he have other things to do? For sure, I mean that’s the whole point. He’s expanding into producing much more and really giving notes and reading scripts, and he’s learned how to make a television show, and he’s got two on. He’s got more shows on than I do, because he’s got The Oath.
DEADLINE: Yes, but even as Kanan is clearly dead, as that last scene from last night’s show has his body in the coroner’s slab, but will we see him and you returning on-screen in flashbacks this season or next?
JACKSON: You may see that. You may see nightmares for Tariq’s character. With the relationship between the two of them, when you do something like that, it doesn’t just go away. That’s a traumatic experience for him too.
DEADLINE: Courtney, to lost a major character is usually a huge deal for any series, but how big a deal is it for Power at this point in its run?
KEMP: Well Kanan is super important to the series, but ultimately the show isn’t about Kanan. The show is about power, so no character is actually super important. I was never writing about the power of the characters. I was writing about God’s power and the powerlessness of the characters. That’s what I was always writing about.
DEADLINE: So, you don’t see the end of Kanan, a clear fan favorite, as a risk?
KEMP: I don’t think of it as a risk because I don’t think that’s what the show is. Also, Kanan is a huge time commitment for 50. It’s a lot of work to be a series regular on a series like this. So, part of it was actually just expanding his career and his horizons in television and in film but also providing the audience with the first clues about the end of the series.
KEMP: This show was not designed to go 10 seasons. It was not designed to go 15 seasons. It’s not a crime procedural or a sitcom. It’s a closed-ended story that really begins and, in some way, ends with Ghost.
The design of Power is not to give you the warm fuzzy feeling that you get at the end of an episode of Family Ties. So, yes, you’re right, the rule of TV is that people return to those characters as they’re parts of their family, and I agree with that a hundred percent. It’s just this isn’t that kind of entertainment.
I can’t design the show to be the thing that everybody wants it to be, because then it would just be every episode would be the same, Ghost and Tommy hang out, they sell drugs, they kill a bunch of people, somebody has sex, the end. I mean you could do that forever, but that’s not that interesting. This kind of entertainment is who dies next.
JACKSON: We’ve created a template for the show that is non-Hollywood. Anyone can go. There’s no one in the show that can’t die.
KEMP: Kanan’s death was always going to be what we like to jokingly call the ghetto Bar-Mitzvah.
DEADLINE: What is that?
KEMP: That is today Tariq is a man, you know? We always talk about that, which is that how are we showing this trajectory of Tariq turning into his father? His father sacrificed Kanan. Tariq just did too. So, it was always happening. It’s like I think…and it may be that people ask these questions like why would you decide to kill off Kanan? It’s like I didn’t decide to kill off Kanan. I decided to tell a story.
Ghost’s great failure involves the fact that you cannot keep your kid from turning into you. You can’t stop it.
Genetics are genetics, nature is nature, nurture is nurture, and this kid has Ghost for a dad, Tasha for a mom, Tommy as his godfather, and now was partially raised by a friend of the family, which is the name of this episode, a friend of the family who is Kanan. He’s going to be a criminal fucking mastermind and there’s not a God damn thing Ghost can do about it.