Power fan favorite Joseph Sikora promises spin-off will show different city but 'same Tommy'
We've gotten six seasons of Power and two spin-offs so far, but franchise mastermind Courtney Kemp knows what fans have been waiting for. "The Tommy spin-off, that's a crowd-pleaser," she says of Power Book IV: Force. "It's Tommy, come on now. That's the Buffalo wings and ranch fries of the universe, everybody wants some."
Set to premiere in 2022, Force picks up in the aftermath of the tragic events of Power's final season, following fan favorite Tommy (Joseph Sikora) as he leaves New York and the remaining St. Patricks behing. His best friend Ghost (Omari Hardwick) dying in his arms at the hand of Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.) has left Tommy a "shell of a man," Sikora tells EW. Well, he better put himself back together or his new city, Chicago, and its criminal underworld will tear him apart.
"We're seeing how Tommy became Tommy — but after he lost everything," Sikora says. "What does he do when he has nothing? How does he make things work?"
As part of EW's deep dive into the ever-expanding Power universe, we talked to Sikora about continuing his Power journey, feeling honored by the response to Tommy, and exploring what happens when the ultimate New Yorker leaves New York.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How's filming on Force going so far?
JOSEPH SIKORA: Power Book IV is going great, we're loving filming in Chicago. We started in February, so we're halfway through the season. The city has been really gracious and open to us, and the fans have definitely been coming out to visit the set and see Tommy Egan. The finale of Ghost was the last time Tommy popped up, so I think people are getting hungry — and it's nice to see they're still out there. I feel truly blessed every day at work because I've never been with quite such a cohesive cast before, so I'm super-grateful.
What's the experience been like now being No. 1 on the call sheet and knowing how far you've come with Tommy? Was that first day on Force pretty surreal?
I wouldn't use the word "surreal." Maybe I'm a little bit more even-keeled than a lot of people, but I take everything in stride and remain eternally grateful. I always say fun is my default, so I'm just having a really great time. We left him a shell of a man in Power. We're picking up for all intents and purposes after Power [season 6, episode 13], and Tommy is leaving New York in the rearview mirror and heading out to California and makes a detour and gets caught up in Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders, the Hog Butcher of the World, the City in a Garden.
How do you think Power become such a powerful force that we're on three spin-offs and counting? And yes, puns intended!
I think that our creators Curtis "50 Cent'" Jackson and Courtney Kemp are brilliant storytellers, and they tap into the heartbeat of the culture. Because it's told so truthfully, accurately, and celebrates the diversity of the urban environment, the story really transcends. The original Power show, Power Book I as I guess we're referring to it now, was shown in at least 178 different countries. So just to know that you have a product that not only transcends African American culture in the United States of America, but it transcends American culture and really becomes world culture.
What was it that originally drew you to Power and Tommy?
50 Cent. It was a 50 Cent product, and I was a fan. But even more than that, I'm a journeyman actor — I've been in the Screen Actors Guild since 1988, this is what I do. So it was a job, and the challenge of every job is to create a 360-degree, fully functional human being that makes extreme choices, because nobody ever wrote a play or a TV show about an ordinary day. I love playing Tommy. It's just a never-ending fun video game for me. It never gets old.
When did you realize the show had become a thing?
It hit us right after the first season. I knew that it was really connecting for the audience and that the Power fans were passionate about the show. That was really amazing to see, just how passionate they were about the show on every level, for good and for bad. [Laughs] Celebrating and crying and just seeing how it affected them. And people were saying, "I watch this show with my mother and my grandmother." I think that's a rarity. It brought me back to my childhood of shows that I would watch with my parents, with my grandma. So I thought was really special, when you can have something that is intergenerational. That is truly what made me go, "Wow, this show is next-level, I hope we keep going." And we kept going — and we're still going!
Do you remember when Courtney first mentioned to you the idea of doing a Tommy series, and what your initial reaction was to the thought?
50 had mentioned right towards the end that there was the possibility of a spin-off, and Courtney certainly echoed the possibility of that. And I thought there was a lot more Tommy story to tell, because we had a story of two brothers and then one of the brothers was killed, so there is a very natural progression of the Power story into the Tommy story. It's really the next natural step in the storytelling of this world, so I was happy when it came to be, and once again, just grateful. I think remaining eternally grateful always feels like the appropriate place to be.
Courtney seems confident that Force will be the "crowd-pleaser" of the new shows. What does it mean to you to have brought to life a character that has become so beloved? He's easily the fan favorite in a franchise with so many memorable characters.
Again, I keep using the word "grateful," but I am so grateful. We're filming Power Book IV and people are just yelling, "Yo, Tommy!" Or they see the Mustang and they're like, "Where's Tommy?!" To have somebody that is iconic in that way, it just makes your heart that much bigger. And to be a white actor, knowing we made this show with African Americans leads, and to have transcended race and been accepted by the culture, it's a true honor. I always say that is better than any award that I could ever possibly win. I already won.
What does Tommy in a new city look like? He's so New York, and such an established presence in those underground New York circles.
He's such a New Yorker. He walks into almost all of these situations expecting one thing, because Chicagoans and New Yorkers will tell you, there are very similar qualities, and a real Second City quality to Chicago that is kind of this echo of New York. I lived in New York almost half my life, so Tommy was very easy and natural for me, and it echoed my surroundings for 20 years. So to be a Chicagoan that lives in New York for so long who created a New Yorker who is coming to Chicago, it's been a real kind of bizarro mind f---, to be a little French about it. But it's been really fun to play that. And what's fun is to see all these New Yorkisms that I've developed as an individual, and then Tommy is so New York with his vernacular and cadence and rhythms, that his style in Chicago sticks out. Are there times where he masks that? Are there times when he embraces that?
The racism of Chicago, the dividedness of Chicago, is foreign to Tommy in a lot of ways, and so I think that is going to be a really interesting topic for us to tackle, the separation of Black and white and Latin people in terms of neighborhoods. We have these real brilliant homegrown actors who are really showing the diversity and quality of the city of Chicago. I'm really proud of that.
Your new costar Tommy Flanagan, of Sons of Anarchy fame, is from Scotland, not Chicago, but his casting made me go, 'They're not messing around."
Oh my God, this guy is the realest deal. It is a race for me to catch up to him when we are in scenes together, just to make sure I can hold my footing and bring my A-game. It's such a wonderful challenge that I look forward to every single time I see him on the call sheet. I couldn't be more excited to work with him.
Ghost is dead. Tasha and Tariq are dead to Tommy. So how did you approach a Tommy who is fully on his own? Or did you always view him as being on his own?
I think you have it pegged. Tommy was always together alone. Tommy was always finding a family. Tommy was always in pursuit to find where he belonged. He was always the odd one out. That said, there are times when Tommy fully embraces who he was, and says so on Power: "I'm a hustler. These streets raised me. I owe my life to the game." And Tommy is true to that. Tommy was the most honest character on Power, so I think this comes back to the roots of Tommy. Now that he's an empty shell, what are the qualities of Tommy that keep him going? Well, he's kind of already told us on Power, and now we get to watch that. It's almost like watching a flashback in the future, in some ways. Because what we're doing is we're seeing how Tommy became Tommy — but after he lost everything. What does he do when he has nothing? How does he make things work? Now granted, the storytelling on this is moving very fast. I don't write the story, so sometimes I find myself catching up, and they've definitely given Tommy a very fast trajectory towards the inroads of Chicago, so my job is to make sense of that and to show up as, I guess, the force of nature — pardon the pun — that Tommy really is.
It's been a wonderful challenge to see Tommy in a different light. Some of the reason he's lived is because he's always ready to die. He shows up fully prepared. He made his bed, and I think there's a bit of a fantasy in that. I wish I was more like Tommy. I wish I was more cocksure, I wish I trusted my gut more. It's been a hell of a journey, and he really has lost everything. God, losing Holly [Lucy Walters] and the baby. And then how wonderful LaKeisha [La La Anthony] was, thinking that was going to be his family and his future, and then losing her. It reflects the true uncertainty of life. As soon as you start settling down and making plans, something comes up.
By the time Force comes out, it will be the fourth show and ninth overall season in the Power universe. Knowing that, what are you all bringing to this world that fans have yet to see?
Maybe some of that is reflected in the name. It's the only spin-off that's not a proper name. We have Ghost and Kanan, and then we don't have Tommy, we have Force. So I think what we're bringing to this is a new perspective and a new city. We're truly expanding the Power universe in a very physical sense. We're bringing New York and Tommy — the embodiment of New York — somewhere else, so I think that in itself is a pretty exciting experiment. So we're showing a different side, different city, different rules, but the same Tommy.
2022 can't come soon enough.
It's really f---ing good. People are going to love it.
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