By Derek Lawrence
July 16, 2021 at 09:45 AM EDT
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"It's Power with a new edge."

That's how Power Book III: Raising Kanan star Mekai Curtis describes his prequel series, which serves as the latest entry in the ever-expanding Power Universe. Ahead of Sunday's premiere on Starz, Curtis and his costars Patina Miller, Omar Epps, and Joey Bada$$ joined EW's Around the Table to talk 50 Cent, the '90s, and taking Power to "new heights."

Raising Kanan travels back to 1991 and South Jamaica, Queens to track the origins of cold-blooded Power villain Kanan Stark, who was memorably played by Curtis Jackson, a.k.a. 50 Cent on the flagship series. We know how Kanan's story ends, with a setup from Ghost (Omari Hardwick), Tasha (Naturi Naughton), and Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.) leading to his death, but prepare to find out how he became the Kanan who wouldn't hesitate to kill his own son.

"We know the monster that he was in Power, but it's really an exploration of his innocence," says Epps of Raising Kanan. "I think that's a really unique avenue in the Power Universe."

Power Book III: Raising Kanan
Mekai Curtis and Patina Miller in 'Power Book III: Raising Kanan'
| Credit: Cara Howe/Starz

Stepping into Jackson's shoes as the good-hearted, 15-year-old version of Kanan is Curtis. "I was a Power fan at this point, so I didn't really care," the actor, 20, admits of not originally knowing he was auditioning for Kanan. "I could have gotten shot at the end of the episode but it didn't matter, I was on Power." It was similar for Miller, who stars as Kanan's drug queenpin mom, Raq. "When they finally told me what the show was, I was like, 'Holy s---,'" the Tony-winning actress recalls. "It's a pinch-me moment."

Rapper-turned-actor Joey Bada$$, who recently starred in the Oscar-winning short film Two Distant Strangers, would like it to be known that he immediately could tell what show he was going in for. "It's like a dream come true," says the diehard Power fan who plays Raq's street rival Unique. "There's nothing like this on television. This show is a one of one. To me, it's like New Jack City meets Juice."

Power Book III: Raising Kanan
Omar Epps in 'Power Book III: Raising Kanan'
| Credit: Cara Howe/Starz

The Juice reference is only enhanced by the presence of Epps, who starred alongside Tupac Shakur in the 1992 crime thriller. Here, the veteran actor is on the other side of the law, playing Det. Malcolm Howard. But despite the drug and violence elements of the show, Epps views Kanan as "a beautiful family drama."

Adds Miller: "It's raw, it's in your face, it's authentic, it's the 90s. Who doesn't love the '90s?!"

Watch the full Around the Table video with the Raising Kanan cast above.

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