'It's going to elevate the stakes immensely for the rest of the season,' he says
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s episode of Power, “New Man.”
The latest episode of Power might have been its deadliest to date: Three key players were taken out, with the most notable being Ghost (Omari Hardwick) and Tommy’s (Joseph Sikora) trusted lieutenant Julio (J.R. Ramirez).
A part of the series since the start, Julio had risen in the ranks this season, ultimately becoming the organization’s No. 2. The new position of distro proved to be too much, especially considering Dre’s (Rotimi Akinosho) constant attempts to undermine him. In the end, the “ambitious” Dre took the rivalry to the next level and set up Julio to be killed by his former gang.
After previously chatting with creator Courtney A. Kemp about the big death, EW called up Ramirez — who has already lined up a super new gig — to talk about his last episode and that “beautiful” final scene.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How far in advance did Courtney tell you about the plan for Julio? And what was your initial reaction?
J.R. RAMIREZ: I found out at about the beginning of season 4. It was the kind of thing where we all see it coming, even friends of mine that are on the “good side,” they are ready for it to happen any day. It’s the kind of show where they need to keep the stakes high, so your days are numbered, period. I was just blessed enough to get four years out of it. When I first saw it, it was definitely bittersweet, but I couldn’t be happier with the fact that I could have just got a bullet to the back of the head, and instead, they wrote a beautiful, moving scene. I had an amazing director in Dennie Gordon. I knew she had my back, and I was super happy with the final product.
It’s a great scene. They really let it play out. Talking to Courtney about it, she said she wanted Julio to go out in a “heroic” way. So what was it like shooting that scene?
Hands down, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career. It was a very long day. I broke my hand without knowing, I still have the scars to prove it. Power is so professional, and anytime you do any sort of love scene or action scene, we spend a lot of time preparing and laying everything out and making a good outline, so when you get there, you feel free to play. For me, I really wanted to do all of my stunts. It was my last day in four years and I gave it everything I had — I left it all out on the battlefield. Unfortunately, it was a fluke accident, I fell one of the times I was trying to beat the henchman down. When you get your Achilles sliced, you have to commit to falling on the floor. One of the times I got stabbed, the pipe got stuck in my pinky and it went all the way back and popped. And that was like five or six hours into a 17-hour day. My hand just swelled up like a golf ball and I put a lot of ice on it, but I was like, “You know what, it’s my last day, let’s do this.” Joseph [Sikora] came in; he’s a rockstar. He wasn’t even shooting that day, just came in for support and to give his love. He was like, “What are you doing? You have stuntmen here for a reason!” I was like, “It’s my last day. If I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out.” And then, the next day, I was having surgery [laughs].
The Dre and Julio rivalry was building all season. Dre kept going behind Julio’s back, almost making it sort of a one-sided rivalry. Do you think Julio underestimated Dre or was he just so preoccupied with settling into the position of distro?
It’s funny, because I think Julio is one of the smartest guys that they have, which is why Ghost and Tommy trust him the way they trust him. But this season, he was just extremely overwhelmed. He wanted to do right by the organization and he was a little lost. He was trying to meticulously coordinate which moves he needed to make so he could make everyone content and have the organization run the way he wanted it to run. But he was out of his element. I think he sensed that Dre was a snake to a degree. It was just a beautiful dynamic, the way it was put together between the two characters. In the end of the day, he really wanted to believe in Dre. He’s in a game where no one is loyal, everyone is trying to move up, and he was trying to hope that everyone had his back like he had their back. But that was not the case.
Obviously, this was the end for you on the show, but how do you think Julio’s death will affect characters like Tommy and Ghost?
It’s going to elevate the stakes immensely for the rest of the season. His death is going to really bring to light the fact that Tommy needs to get his stuff straight and make sure he focuses on the right things because he’s all over the place like he normally is. Now, with Ghost being out, me being dead, I think the stakes are really going to rise. Also, we’re going to have some amazing actors who come in for the last few episodes. I didn’t get to see it, so I’m super excited to watch.
Looking back on your four-season run, what did Power and the role of Julio mean for you and your career?
I was overwhelmed with all the responses I got yesterday. I love Twitter, so I’m usually one to respond to my fans, but I took a break yesterday because I had like a thousand comments. I’m just like, “I can’t respond to everyone.” I was so overwhelmed with the love and appreciation that I got from everybody. It’s humbling. I’ve worked really hard to get to the point I am and it’s the kind of thing where I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. It taught me so much, I’ve made some lifelong friends, and it was quite a run. I was blessed enough to get four years on a show where people go out all the time. I’ll always remember it and be grateful to Courtney and 50 [Cent] for giving me this opportunity and believing in me.
Earlier Monday, we exclusively broke the news of your next gig. What can you say about joining Jessica Jones for season 2?
It’s been tricky because I’ve been holding secrets since late February, so it’s been really tough. It’s very different from Julio, obviously, but I can’t really say much. I’m super proud and blessed. It’s a great family to be a part of and they’ve opened their arms to me. I couldn’t be happier.
Power airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.