'We really want to push the audience and lead them to a new place,' Courtney A. Kemp tells EW
Did everyone else also have a big smile on their face at the end of the Power finale?
Two weeks after the penultimate episode ended with the gut punch of young Raina St. Patrick being gunned down, season 4‘s final installment concluded with the exciting reveal of Ghost (Omari Hardwick), Tommy (Joseph Sikora), and Kanan (50 Cent) joining forces. The former friends, business partners, and enemies are teaming up to take down the series’ new big bad: Dre (Rotimi Akinosho). Of course, it wouldn’t be a Power finale without some troubling news, as the final shot indicated that the government tracker on Tommy’s car has been turned back on due to the re-emergence of Maria Suárez (Maria Rivera).
But there was plenty going on before those last few minutes, considering Ghost, Tommy, Tasha (Naturi Naughton), and Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.) had to deal with Raina’s (Donshea Hopkins) death, and they handled it like we all expected — by seeking revenge. Yet, while the four of them rushed to track down Ray Ray (Marcus Callendar), it was Tariq who found him first, pulling the trigger and getting that much closer to following in his father’s footsteps. Always further complicating things is the involvement of Angela (Lela Loren), the new head of crim, who’s called to the scene of the crime, where she finds a stray bullet.
To get the full lowdown on the busy finale, EW spoke to creator Courtney A. Kemp about ending on a positive note and why she thinks some fans were down on this season, plus, she gives a super early tease of what comes next.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I want to start at the end, because I had the biggest grin on my face when it was revealed that Kanan was in the car with Ghost and Tommy. What excites you most about teaming up these three?
COURTNEY A. KEMP: In planning season 5, it’s actually been really fun playing with all of this in the writers’ room. We take our jobs seriously, but at the end of the day, it’s entertainment and the audience does sometimes really need a win. And we all felt like after the great big down of episode 409, that we’d have this season finale, which is probably our strongest we’ve done, come out in this great and positive way. At the end of season 2 when Ghost finds the La Araña cards and he’s going, “Oh shit, someone knows what I did last summer,” that’s a great ending, but it’s a downer. This year, we got to do an upending that still asks good questions. What will these three be like working together? How will that work?
And their reasoning for working together is to take down Dre, who, can we officially call the big bad of this show?
It’s interesting, because he is the big bad, but I will also say that one of the great wins I feel as a storyteller is that you as a fan of the show — and Derek, I know that you’re a real fan of the show — you just referred to Dre as the big bad and Kanan not as the big bad. Like, I won. [Laughs]. I totally won because that was the whole point. In our show, who is the villain and who is the hero can shift on a dime, and I think people saw that in episode 408, when all of a sudden people who were Angela haters for years were like, “Oh wait, never mind, she did that.” They didn’t realize that we were capable of making people feel different things about these characters. And I love that you said that he’s the big bad. We love parenting stories and I think Dre’s parents on our show are Ghost and Kanan. So if Ghost and Kanan had a kid, what would that kid act like? Like a little motherf—er, right? That’s not going to be a nice kid by any stretch of the imagination. Tariq is Tasha and Ghost’s son, but in some ways, he’s also Kanan and Ghost’s son. So we love to think of them as Ghost is Ghost 1.0, Dre is Ghost 2.0, and Tariq is Ghost 3.0.
This season has really seen Tariq step into the spotlight in a big way, culminating here with him committing this revenge killing. When did you know you wanted to focus so much of the narrative on him? Many adult-driven series have struggled with giving independent story lines to teenage characters.
Well, we didn’t plan to do it. Michael Rainey Jr.’s talent ended up pulling us in that direction. Because whatever I gave him, he could do. It was really more about Michael and his ability than anything else. That gave us an opportunity to really open it up. But I will tell you, in the original version of this show, the kids were originally supposed to be 15. When we cast Naturi, we had to make the kids younger, because she was about five to six years younger than we had planned Tasha to be. We had this whole story of Tariq selling drugs in his private school that obviously we never did. But we had conceived Tariq as a very different kid, so this was a bit of a dream for a long time. We always wanted to tell a father-son story with Ghost.
With the evidence likely to point in Tasha’s direction, she made the decision to lose Terry as her lover and gain him as her lawyer. Is she prepared to take the fall for this?
Does anybody on our show just let things happen to them? [Laughs]. The answer to your question is, Tasha’s trying to save her kid. It’s all she wants, so she’s going to ask questions later.
You had mentioned people coming around a bit on Angela when she set up Mike (David Fumero) to get killed as revenge for Greg (Andy Bean). She’s been far from innocent over four seasons, but this was her biggest step over the line yet. Has Angela gone dark? Or was that a one-time thing because of how personal it was for her?
I would love to say that we’re really going to commit to trending her darker. I think, though, this was a situation where if she didn’t do this, the tariff was too high. So I don’t know, I mean, this character is capable of a lot of things and we will have to see what’s going to come up next with her.
Do you still see a possible future for Ghost and Angela? They just seem to keep finding a way back to each other. This is obviously also complicated by the fact that it seems she’s going to be back investigating him and his family.
Angela and Ghost are really a perfect match. But because they are so much alike in terms of their incredible selfishness as characters, it will be very difficult for them to maintain a relationship. Yet, that doesn’t mean that the desire to have it work will go away or the impetus to try and make it work wouldn’t pop up again. The death of Raina is going to change a lot of the way Ghost looks at the world. Omari said to me, “Well, if we kill Raina, Ghost will never be the same.” And I said, “Exactly.” That’s where we are with the show… we really want to push the audience and lead them to a new place. We’re going to take risks; people won’t like everything we do, but it’s important to try to stretch the medium with a show like ours, which is a melodrama. I don’t stand on ceremony and think our show is The Grapes of Wrath — it’s a full-on melodrama. We want to see where the characters can go within reality. What happens to a person when the worst thing you can possibly imagine happens and you begin to blame yourself for it? How does that eat you inside? And how do you take your comfort? How do you stop the pain? Those are the questions that are going to come up for Ghost, and then, in any possible conversations with Angela.
Should we think Proctor (Jerry Ferrara) is looking out for his own protection with keeping the laptop or does he have some greater end game in mind?
In the way that I can answer it, what I will say is, he thinks the laptop could either be a move to protect himself or to protect Ghost in future seasons. After all, what Bailey Markham says is true: if you’re just trying to defend Ghost and not Tommy, that recording could be very useful.
A few weeks ago, you tweeted about some people “hating” this season, which was surprising to me as someone who has thoroughly enjoyed it. So why do you think some haven’t been as excited about season 4? And does that at all affect you or come into your mind when molding the seasons to come?
It’s like anything else; I’d say 95 percent of the feedback we get is super positive, and overall, I think people are enjoying it more than previous ones. Like yourself, many real fans have been loving this season. However, for people who really loved that love triangle, this is not the season for you, because it’s not about that so much. A lot of people love it when Ghost wins and Ghost hasn’t had the easiest season, which was hard for some people. We did challenge the audience by asking them to go with us on a bit of a scarier ride. Power became a show where you weren’t as sure that everything was going to work out in the end. That’s always risky, but I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I do not plot the show for the fans in that way. I can’t control what people like, so therefore I can’t aim for it. But what I can do is say, “What’s fun?” And what do we think people will find enjoyable or have stakes in? Whenever people respond negatively to something, I always feel like there’s two things that go on immediately. One is “Ah, you responded.” As long as you’re watching the show, I won. Thanks for the hour of your time, I super appreciate it. [Laughs] And also, and I mean this in a real way, every show gets canceled. There are a couple of shows that didn’t actually get canceled, but for the most part, every show does. Why do shows get canceled? Because people stop watching them. So eventually, every show, people are going to stop watching. We aren’t going to do a thousand more seasons of Power, so this show isn’t going to be on the air forever, and I think when people look back, they will go, “Man, I was really mad that they did this to my favorite character. But damn, I miss that show.”
Based on that kind of thinking, do you already have an end game in mind?
I always have. I know exactly how it ends. I know the last scene of the show. It hasn’t changed, it’s always been the same in my head.
Season 5 is still well down the road for fans, but what can you tease about what we should expect?
A lot of people reading quietly at their desk. No sex, no violence. It’s going to be very calm. I feel like we’ve done the excitement, so why not do something different? We’re aiming for the middle of the road with season 5. [Laughs]. But seriously, we were just in the writers’ room arguing and screaming, because we’re trying to work out these heavy plot beats. It’s funny, no one on Power has been on a show for as long as this show has run, because I left The Good Wife after three years. So most of us haven’t had this experience where you have such tonnage, so much story you can tell. That’s really where we are now: What do we want to emphasize? What do we want to play with? I guess the best way I’d tease season 5 — it’s the season of the triumvirate versus Dre, and I think that’s going to be the most fun of all.