Who will turn?
That’s the burning question going into the fourth season of Power, Starz’s most popular drama (sorry, Outlander fans) that returns Sunday on the premium cabler. We asked creator and executive producer Courtney A. Kemp to give us a preview of the new season, which picks up after James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) was arrested for the murder of Greg Knox, the former boyfriend of his gal pal Angela (Lela Loren). Ghost didn’t do it — it was the corrupt FBI Agent Miguel Sandoval (David Fumero) who pulled the trigger — but Ghost is now in the fight of his life, trying to convince the courts and his loved ones that he didn’t murder a federal agent.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Are you going to pick up moments after the season 3 finale?
COURTNEY A. KEMP: Yes.
So Ghost is basically in the pokey, preparing for trial?
In the first episode, Ghost has been detained and it’s before his bail hearing. The first episode is about trying to prepare for him to get out on bail and all the forces marshaling to get together to get that money for him. But for such a heavy charge as murdering a federal agent, it’s not a small thing. So the whole first episode — that’s why it’s called “When I Get Out,” because it’s all about that — is about him trying to keep it together because he knows he didn’t do it and he thinks Angela is scheming and she’s mad at him, and that’s why she’s arrested him.
When can he pull her aside and say, “Angie, I didn’t do it”?
He says it to her at the end of the first episode. The good folks at Starz put it in the trailer. He says, “You can’t possibly think I did this,” and she says, “No, I don’t think you did it, I know you did it.”
It’s going to take a while, then, to convince her otherwise.
Yes. She doesn’t believe him. By the way, he’s a big liar. In the writers’ room, we say, “He’s a lying liar who lies,” like he’s the original lying liar who lies. Because with Ghost, truth is so ecstatic to him.
Tommy [Joseph Sikora] is so likable but such a bad dude!
He is. We always write Tommy from the most honest place. Tommy is the most honest character on the show, he almost never lies, he’s really open and vulnerable, like a big, raw nerve. And I think people can really identify with that. When Holly was alive, he really loved that woman. He loves Ghost, he loves Tasha, he loves those kids, he’s real. Even though he’s obviously a murdering psychopath, we love him anyway because he’s real. At least I hope.
What would you say the overarching theme of this year is?
The overarching theme of this year is redemption. The Adam Knox case doesn’t last the whole season, but it overshadows the whole season, if that makes sense. There’s a place that Ghost now has to redeem himself from because his worst nightmare happened, which is that he was arrested and it happened in public. He has to redeem himself from that view of himself, which is actually the truth — he is a criminal. Let’s face it, the guy’s a drug lord. But in Ghost’s mind, he’s not. In Ghost’s mind, he’s better than that. In Ghost’s mind, he’s more complicated than that. So the whole season is about that redemption. For Angela, her redemption is over arresting the wrong guy. At the end of the day, she made a huge mess. For Tasha, her redemption actually goes all the way back to Shawn’s death, which is really about, who is she in this world? Is she a good mother?
Is Ghost’s relationship over with Tasha?
Well, they’re married and they are parents. So if you’re in that together, you’re in something together. But on top of that, Ghost getting arrested and going through this process, this is a family tragedy, it’s a family problem, so Tasha will rise to the occasion in that way. Do I think they’re still in love with each other? I think that’s a strong way of putting it, but I would definitely say this — they love each other because they’ve been together a very long time and they have these beautiful children together, and they’re a family. Hopefully, it is more complicated than a simple love triangle. Angela has committed the ultimate sin against him and Tasha has to show up. How will these relationships go forward? What’s more interesting this season is the relationship between the two women.
Do you have a tug of war over whether you should follow the crime or the romance?
All the story lines on our show are color-coordinated in our cards — we have a card system — so we can look at an episode and see when there aren’t enough of a certain color. Like the proportion doesn’t work, so you’ll look at the board and if there aren’t enough of the romance cards you go, okay, we know that’s not working. Or if there aren’t enough family cards we go, oh, that isn’t working. So it’s basically not as much about the tug of war but always keeping that nice balance so there’s something for everybody in every episode.
Does Jerry Ferrar as attorney Joe Proctor play a big role this season?
He’s huge in this season, and his performance is amazing. I wrote this part for him. He really created a consigliere for Ghost, someone he can talk to who has more knowledge. Ghost thinks he’s smarter than everybody, but the truth is he doesn’t have a law degree. Joe is super smart and he’s also a New Yorker. He’s down, he’s from the hood, you can’t f— with him, and I think it’s been such a great role for Jerry. And by the way, even though it’s a very heavy dramatic role, I get to exploit his comic timing.
Is it not a season of Power if you don’t have at least one episode with Omari having his shirt off?
I trim nudity out of the episodes a little bit because this show isn’t just about beefcake. But part of my training with [producer] Greg Berlanti is that Greg used to say, “You want your cast to be attractive.” You want to have a great-looking show. So if you notice on Power, everybody’s beautiful — even the drug dealers are beautiful. The DAs are beautiful! If you go into your average federal prosecutors’ office, nobody looks like that. People don’t look like Lela Loren. But you want the audience to have that fantasy, right? Part of watching television is to turn off your brain and watch someone who’s gorgeous. Omari brings a whole bunch of assets as an actor — he’s extremely talented, he’s very intelligent, he’s incredibly shrewd, and he also has a really beautiful physique. That’s really what we’re showing in that upcoming scene when he’s working out in the weight room in jail with his shirt off. We didn’t take his shirt off just because we wanted to take his shirt off. We took his shirt off because the truth is he’d be working out in prison to show, “Don’t mess with me, you will get hurt.”
How are you so good at the expletive-filled trash talk?
I’m very fortunate in two ways. I have a pretty decent ear for language, so when I listen to people I pay attention to how they talk. But the other thing is just listening to 50 Cent. I spent so much time on the phone with 50 Cent when we first started to get to know each other and to build this show. For someone who got shot in the face — he’s been shot nine times — two of those bullets were in his face. So you have to be really, really careful to listen and get everything that he says. I started to get his vernacular and his pauses. I also listen to a lot of hip-hop music. I’m from Connecticut, I went to Brown and Columbia, which is as [incongruous] as you can get. But I just really love language.
Power returns to Starz Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.