Courtney Kemp explains why [SPOILER] killed Ghost: "I don't think there is another ending."

By Derek Lawrence
February 09, 2020 at 09:40 PM EST
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Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday’s Power series finale.

“Live by the street, die by the street.”

With that line in the Power series finale, Ghost Kanan (50 Cent) was talking about his own death, but it also was a perfect thesis for the end of the hit Starz series — and its main character. Kanan’s appearance is what is the final nail in Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.) deciding that he needs to be the one to put Ghost (Omari Hardwick) in a coffin. Yes, the “Who shot Ghost” mystery was solved, and, while it initially looked like it could be Tasha (Naturi Naughton), Tariq decided to protect his mom and step up to be the new man of the St. Patrick family. And it took a lot for him to get away with it: His dying father had to tell Tommy (Joseph Sikora) to “let him go,” he had to blackmail Saxe (Shane Johnson), Tasha had to frame her new boyfriend Quinton (Tyrone Marshall Brown), and, finally, Tasha had to take the fall when her plan backfired.

In the end, as Tasha enters her new life in prison, the episode cuts back and forth with Tariq entering his new life at college, which he needs to finish since he’ll only see his share of Ghost’s will upon graduating. The credits then roll as he shuts his dorm door…but hopefully you kept watching! Because a post-credits scene sends us back to 1996 and introduces the high school versions of Angela, Ghost, and Tommy (Shameless star Ethan Cutkosky as Tommy might be the greatest casting in TV history). The series ends as Angela shows a brochure for Choate to Ghost, a defining moment in their history.

There’s a lot to break down, so EW hopped on the phone with creator Courtney Kemp to talk about choosing this ending, ignoring any criticism, and continuing Power with multiple spin-offs (see the Power Universe teaser above). For more Power, read our interview with Tariq actor, Michael Rainey Jr.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In preparation for this chat, I went back and read our last two interviews and I started both of them the same way, and I couldn’t get an answer from you either time, so here it goes one last time: Is Ghost dead?
COURTNEY KEMP: Yes!!

Awesome. But, are we sure? We are locking that in? There was definitely some blood and some dying-like behavior and everyone told me he was dead, but Fast & Furious literally just brought back Power star Sung Kang, whose character died like seven movies ago, so anything is possible.
I mean… [long pause] Uhhhhh. I said yes. He’s dead for book one, how is that?

Considering the title of the episode is “Exactly How We Planned,” was this exactly how you always planned on ending the series?
The flashback scene is always how I wanted to end it. As for exactly how the story came to be and the complicated end and doing the episodes in the Rashomon-style, that was more recent.

The last five episodes have been building up the mystery of “Who shot Ghost,” so how did you land on Tariq? Why him?
It has to do with my obsession with Shakespeare, obviously. I mean, that doesn’t surprise you. I’m traditional, I’m a classical storyteller. If you go through everything that we’ve done on the show, you will see classical roots in almost every cliffhanger and wild twist and turn; I’m not reinventing the wheel. It looks different because of who’s playing the characters, but this is not any more shocking than the character of Livia in I, Claudius conspiring to kill one of her own sons. These classical things really have inspired us in the Shakespearean way. Then, to use a more modern phrase, the superhero rules of things: If we were going to kill Ghost off, there were very few characters for whom that would have made sense, or for whom the audience would have accepted it.

Cara Howe/Starz

The original plan that Tasha and Tariq settle on is that she will kill Ghost, until Tariq changes course last minute. Why did he feel like he had to be the one?
The reason that Kanan gives, which is that your mother is not going to survive. If she pulls, then Ghost is going to kill her. So, Tariq, the first reason he should do it is he is putting himself in the line of fire for his mother. What do they say to each other, that they’re going to protect each other. So there’s a lot of Gift of the Magi-type storytelling here. Then, there’s also the fact that he feels like the original injury has been done to him by Ghost. And that’s why when he shoots Ghost, Ghost says, “You can’t go back from this,” and Tariq says, “I wish I could go back, to before you left us for Angela.” It’s really that little kid, that innocent Tariq who is so rageful.

I talked to Michael about the episode, and he joked that when you told him the ending, his reaction was “Wow, you really want people to hate me.” Unfortunately, a lot of people have somehow blurred the lines between fiction and reality, and Michael spoke about the threats that he’s received on social media. Is it hard for you to comprehend how this could happen?
I don’t understand it at all. I don’t understand how people don’t know how this is fiction. There’s lighting and flashbacks and costumes. These people have other names. His name is Michael Rainey, it’s not Tariq St. Patrick. I don’t understand. And someone sending a death threat through the internet to someone who until recently was a minor child, are you out of your mind? I honestly don’t know. I cannot explain it. I know that it’s real, and I acknowledge that there’s so many things that I’m grateful for in terms of our audience, but I have to say, the blurring between fiction and fact is frightening to me.

It was a pretty bold and unprecedented decision to sideline your main character for the final five episodes of the series. When it was decided that this was the route you were going, what were those conversations like with Omari?
I think Omari had a very good, realistic relationship with what it was. Like many of us, he remembered “Who shot J.R.,” and I think he also kind of understood that I was taking a little bit of the pressure off him towards the end. He had worked so hard. It was a very hard job being Ghost. He worked every day in episode 10. Then, he was still around for everybody else’s episodes and he had to reshoot scenes from the different perspectives that he had already shot. So it didn’t make his job any easier. But I think he understood what we were doing. We had never done anything like that before.

What is your relationship to the reception that your show gets? Are you interested in what the fan reaction will be to the finale? Do you care?
Look, there a lot of people out there who didn’t want Ghost to be dead, so those people are going to be mad anyway. Then, there’s the truth, which is, I don’t think there is another ending. I just don’t know that there is another one that would have worked. So, in that way, I don’t know, I guess it lays as it lays. I’m not in the results business, just spiritually I can’t be. I leave it all on the field; any given Sunday I could win or I could lose. I’ve worked really hard, we’ve all worked really hard. This is such a complicated way to tell a story, it’s so hard, and, if you link all the episodes together and do a supercut, which I hope Starz will do at some point of all five hours in order, it truly is an incredible dramatic achievement for everyone involved. I think the audience may never know how hard we worked on it. And there are going to be people like, “Well, you worked hard for nothing, it’s garbage,” but those people are mad because they didn’t get the happy ending they wanted with Ghost and Angela (Lela Loren) riding off into the sunset, like Sandy and Danny at the end of Grease. But that wouldn’t have been real, because those two people have done so much damage that the rules of the world of Power are, you do that kind of damage, you’re going to get hurt. I didn’t want to change the show to cap it off with a happy ending. And I also feel like once Raina died there was no happy ending for Ghost. It wouldn’t be true to the show, and it wouldn’t have been true for life. You end up either dead or in jail, that’s just the reality.

Myles Aronowitz/Starz

You mentioned it at the top, but we have to talk about the post-credits scene, which was maybe the most excited I got during the entire episode. And a big part of that was because of the perfect casting of Shameless star Ethan Cutkosky as young Tommy. What can you say about the decision to end there? And that has to be setting the table for a prequel spin-off, right?!
I can’t say anything, other than he’s amazing, those kids are amazing, that girl was such a great doppelgänger for Lela. That was always how it was going to end. And I’m glad it made you happy. That is what it was meant to do.

Can you at least say that I maybe should stay tuned for more on that?
Oh, Derek. I can never please you, can I?

You could please me doing a Tommy in L.A. spin-off. What do I personally have to do to make that a reality?
You don’t have to do anything, you just have to stay tuned.

Obviously, you’re keeping a lot of the spin-off details close to your chest. We do know that Power Book II: Ghost is premiering this summer, but what can you say about your general plan and mission for the Power universe going forward?
We are patterning it after Marvel, where different characters come in and out of other people’s shows. So there’s crossovers and some of your favorite characters will come back, even if they don’t get their own spin-off, they will show up in places. We’re trying to really do it for the fans, to give the most of what they want.

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