'Power' creator Courtney Kemp Agboh: As a showrunner, it's harder to be female than black
Courtney Kemp Agboh didn’t always have Power. In fact, she wasn’t always even working in television.
Before creating the Starz series, Agboh worked as a journalist. It wasn’t until a funny article for GQ about how to date a black woman caught the attention of writers Chris Alberghini and Mike Chestler that her career took a different route. The duo planned to turn the piece into a series. Though that project never came to fruition, the aspiring TV writer still had one foot in the door.
“It was not something that ever occurred to me, to be able to be in TV,” she said. “I was very lucky.” She moved from New York to L.A. in June 2004, and by that August, she was working as a staff writer on The Bernie Mac Show.
As a black female showrunner, Agboh joins an exclusive club that also includes Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes. In an interview with The New York Times, Rhimes said she doesn’t feel disempowered as a black woman—and Agboh can relate to those words. When it comes to running her gritty hip-hop drama, the journalist-turned-screenwriter says people are more taken aback by her gender than her race. “I’d say it’s far more challenging to be female and be a showrunner,” she explained. “People are not surprised to see a black person running this show, but the female aspect is the thing that I get asked about.” (She’s not alone.)
Before branching out on her own, Agboh wrote for ABC’s legal dramedy Eli Stone, and served as co-executive producer for the CW’s Beauty and the Beast and as supervising producer CBS’ The Good Wife. Given that experience, the Power exec has some advice for others looking for their big break: Don’t expect to get a series right away. “We have this weird Instagramy culture where you can become famous for not doing very much, [but] it doesn’t work like that,” she said. “If you wanna be your own boss, you gotta work your way up—have the skills.”
Power returns June 6 at 9 p.m. on Starz.