“The final scene of the show is definitely the final scene that I always envisioned,” Power executive producer Courtney Kemp says as the sixth and final season of the Starz drama kicked off tonight with a very big death.
After five seasons shuttling between both sides of the law in her love affair with James “Ghost” St. Patrick, Angela Valdes, played by Lela Loren, finally took a literal bullet for her old flame – a bullet from Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) meant for the Omari Hardwick-portrayed drug lord looking to make it in the legit world.
That shot at the end of Season 5 saw the once highflying federal prosecutor in the emergency ward and, soon after tonight’s David Rodriguez-directed “Murderers” episode started, on a slab in the coroner’s office.
This being the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson EP’d Power, that led to more shootings, plans for revenge from Ghost on his once best friend Tommy , and his own deeply resentful son Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr). The season premiere, which actually dropped on the Starz app hours before, also saw a declaration of divorce from Tasha St. Patrick (Naturi Naughton), a search-and-destroy mission from a newly topped U.S. Attorney’s office, and new role for LaKeisha Grant (La La Anthony) in Tommy’s professional and personal life as things seemed destined to spiral toward way more body bags before this super-sized final season is over next year.
Or, as Tasha told Tommy: “You took a shot at the Devil and missed!”
Coming off an August 20 Madison Square Garden preview of the season opener that she co-penned, Power creator Kemp chatted with me to go behind the scenes on the season opener and what’s to come and the planned spinoffs for the series. The former Good Fight scribe also spoke of the world and work beyond Power and her current run for the Writer’s Guild of America board because of the looming crisis she sees for Hollywood.
DEADLINE: Last year as Season 5 ended, I asked you if Lela Loren’s Angela Valdes was dead after being shot by Tommy at the school in front of Ghost and you said, “At the end of the season, no, she’s not dead.” And you were telling the truth, Angie died in the hospital in the early minutes of the Season 6 opener. So, on a show that has seen a lot of major characters take a bullet, why did Loren’s character have to die?
KEMP: The original idea was that Angela would die at the end of Season 5. In fact, we shot that death. But then I realized that we needed more story time for Angela’s death than we had room for at the end of that season — and that perhaps, Angela and Kanan dying in the same, penultimate season, didn’t give the audience enough time to process it nor leave enough stakes for Season 6.
So we pushed the death — but not very far.
And in terms of Angela’s story, she buys her own death when she decides to pick Jamie and love over the truth and herself. Paz tells her to save herself and she chooses to try to save everyone so she can preserve her fairytale ending.
DEADLINE: How high will the body count go before Power itself ends?
KEMP: The body count will be very, very high.
DEADLINE: How did you tell, Lela Loren that her core character of Angie was going to have to bite the bullet, as it was?
KEMP: I told her the same way I tell everyone – in my office in New York, before anyone else got the script. When you tell people their character is going to die, you always have to keep in mind that they are losing a job, too. So you need to treat people with respect.
DEADLINE: The last season of Power is going to be super-sized to 15 episodes with 10 episodes airing this year and five next year. How did going larger impact the story you planned to tell to wrap up Power 1.0?
KEMP: The last season asks a specific question with the first ten episodes, and answers it with the last five. No, I’m not going to tell you the question.
DEADLINE: My next question is then, Is the finale going to be the one you envisioned when the show started?
KEMP: The final scene of the show is definitely the final scene that I always envisioned.
DEADLINE: We’ve already gotten the official word on at least one Power spinoff with Mary J. Blige and at least a couple more have been implied, to put it mildly? You said back in May that “we will play with your expectations of which characters, where, and the master timeline of it all, creating a Power universe as unpredictable as the original.” So, when will we learn officially about the next steps of the Power universe?
KEMP: I’m not giving any details on the spinoffs right now. I don’t want to distract the audience from the end of Power. But I’m very, very excited about Mary.
DEADLINE: How will the Mary J. Blige spinoff be connected to the original series?
KEMP: I’m not answering that question! Why would I get ahead of the story?
DEADLINE: Fair enough, but at the same time, final seasons and series finales can be very hard and very few shows pull them off in the end. Power wrapped several months ago, now looking back and now the last season has kicked off on the app and now on the small screen, what was the unexpected elements of getting the show to end the way you wanted it to?
KEMP: It was hard to get through, emotionally. And I already know that certain people will hate the way the show ends, because we are taking a big swing creatively and pushing the boundaries of what this show can do. It’s time for the show to end. But it was harder to walk through emotionally than I suspected. I am ready for the show to be over, because the story is over. But saying goodbye to the actual humans we work with — that’s a different story altogether — no pun intended.
KEMP: I’m writing Dirty Thirty right now! I’m excited and thrilled about it and I can’t wait to get it onscreen. For The Ones We Choose, we are looking for writers right now.
DEADLINE: Speaking of writers, the upcoming WGA elections have seen a lot of sharp elbows and some very harsh tactics, what’s been your POV as a candidate for the Guild’s board?
KEMP: Honestly, I’m only concerned about the WGA/AMPTP negotiations next May. I got into the race to get the focus off agents and onto the changing landscape with Disney+ and all the other new streaming services.
DEADLINE: What do you mean?
KEMP: It’s the end of green envelopes, the end of residuals and back end as we know it, and instead we are fighting about packaging. It’s silly, frankly. The invaders are on the beach and we’re arguing amongst ourselves. I could go on, but I’m not sure how many Power fans care about union issues. They care about us making the show and getting it on the air. And if we go on strike next year about the very real issues facing the writers in this Guild, everyone loses, including the fans.
DEADLINE: OK, stepping back to Power, this sixth and final season previewed on August 20 at a packed Madison Square Garden with you and core cast and more on-stage and a concert by 50 Cent and friends. What did that mean to you as the creator of Power? What did that statement “I did it, Dad,” that you put up on your Instagram account of the event mean?
KEMP: “I did it Dad,” is a reference to a line Ghost says outside Truth in the first episode. As it was in the pilot, the Instagram quote is an homage to my father and to the fact that he will never see what happened with Power. He doubted I could do anything like this — when I moved to LA he said: “Why bother? You’ll just be back in a year, broke and disappointed. You won’t make it as a writer.”
But I did.
Now, I’ve done enough work on myself and around my father to know that he was afraid for me to fail. He was afraid of failure. But as it is with ending a series — you can’t be afraid to fail. You take a big swing, you leave it all out on the field, and any given Sunday you can win or lose. I think MSG was a sign that we won. I hope the fans feel that way too.