Lessons Learned While Climbing the Ladder to 'Power'
Courtney Kemp Agboh, showrunner of the Starz crime drama (debuting June 7), recounts the bosses and jobs that helped build her career
1. Write What You Love
Kemp Agboh’s 2001 GQ article on how to date a black woman earned her attention in Hollywood and a gig writing for Fox’s Emmy-winning comedy The Bernie Mac Show. But being funny was never her business. ”I stumbled into comedy, but the truth is I really loved crime procedurals,” she says. ”I was a one-hour drama writer at heart, so I started to brand myself as a legal writer.” The short-lived courtroom dramas Justice and In Justice offered a chance to cut her teeth on a genre that she loved.
2. Let the Boss Show You How
ABC’s 2008 prophet-lawyer drama Eli Stone and its co-creator Greg Berlanti ”were transformative for me,” says Kemp Agboh. ”Greg wasn’t afraid to do weird stuff.” To wit: On Eli, she was tasked with writing an episode about a black-on-black discrimination case. ”Every single day I use something Greg Berlanti taught me.” If Eli was college, The Good Wife was grad school. Creators Robert and Michelle King taught Kemp Agboh how to build story, run a writers’ room, and make it all sing. ”Frankly,” she says, ”there is no Power without The Good Wife.”
3. Keep Your Ego in Check
While developing the script for Power, she logged hours on Hawaii Five-0 and Beauty and the Beast — all the while remembering that humility is the key to rising in the ranks. ”We don’t get paid to write, we get paid to be rewritten. It’s hard, but you don’t get to be arrogant. You learn to be rightsized and go, ‘Oh, I have a lot to learn.’ Always.”