Executive producer 50 Cent expands the Power universe with a new drama
Starz 2The third instalment of the Power-verse has plenty of familiar elements from the popular franchise: A key character from the original series at the centre, edge-of-your-seat drama set in the gritty underworld of the American drug trade and a commanding female character that you really don’t want to mess with.
Following in the footsteps of Power’s Tasha St. Patrick (Naturi Naughton) and Ghost’s Monet Stewart Tejada (Mary J. Blige) is Raquel “Raq” Thomas, portrayed by Madam Secretary’s Patina Miller. She’s the mother of drug lord Kanan Stark, the character played by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson in the original series.
Starz 2Those familiar with creator Courtney Kemp’s crime drama, the story of cunning drug dealer James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), will surely recall Kanan Stark as the main series’ antagonist, the man who killed his own son and cousin for their lack of loyalty. But before Kanan was the super gangster of Power, he was a kid coming up in early ’90s New York.
In joining the franchise, what piqued Miller’s interest was how the son her character raises, became the man everyone came to fear. “Kanan is a pretty, pretty dark character, and, for me, that was one of the things that always stood out in the original Power series, watching how he has no emotion. He was almost soulless in a way,” says Miller. “To be able to be as crazy and psychotic and a sociopath, you have to wonder what his life was like. Who were the people in his life? He didn’t just get that way. What happened to make him ultimately do all of those things, to kill his son? What I love about this show is you really get to see how that man gets to that point.”
Starz 2Much of Kanan’s ethos is learned from Raq, a savvy drug dealer in her own right, who feels somewhat conflicted with the dark path her son is determined to choose. “She’s running everything, but she is always trying to be the mom and say, ‘You don’t want to put your hand on the burner,’” says Miller. “There is a lot of a mother and son dynamic that I’m excited for people to see, because we wrestle with those things. When you see Kanan as a 15-year-old, when he starts to be curious about the world around him and the people around him, you really get to see what he picks up from all of those people.”
This third chapter of the series is narrated by the original Kanan Stark, series executive producer 50 Cent, while young Kanan is portrayed on screen by Disney voice actor Mekai Curtis. “It’s an extreme jump that I’ve been fortunate to make,” says 20-year-old Curtis. “At first, I definitely felt pressure because he’s such a prominent figure of the franchise. I wanted to make sure I was giving an accurate representation to the fans of the show. But this is essentially a brand-new version of him, so I want to give him room to grow.”
Starz 2To help him better embody the character’s journey from impressionable teenager to remorseless murderer, 50 Cent offered the actor some advice. “I would convey to him that you don’t have to be tough because he’s not tough yet,” says the rapper. “Kanan got tough from the experience. Over time, the things that he went through made him behave the way he was behaving at the end. And Mekai got that immediately.”
While a show is easy to dismiss based on a particular genre, where the actions on screen often say kill-or-be-killed, what Miller thinks has always set the Power franchise apart is the strength of its characters. “I’m always drawn to characters that have a three-dimensional aspect of them,” she says. “When you give these characters life and you give them this secret, this inner thing that they’re juggling in this world, you really get to see all of these different aspects. For our show, Raising Kanan, I love that we get to see these characters who are human, who are dealing with the same things that everyone else is dealing with.”
Starz 2The rapper, actor and executive producer at the helm of all three shows has high hopes for the spinoff, which will be followed by at least two more Power “books.”
“I really think I can do bigger numbers with Raising Kanan than I can do with Power,” says 50 Cent confidently. “People feel funny when they hear me say that, but I’ve been doing that my entire career. Every time I put a song out, I feel like the next projects has songs that surpass those songs, because those were my old ideas and this is my new idea. You need to keep the hits coming, and that’s what I’m doing in television, because I’m conditioned for it.”
Power Book III: Raising Kanan airs Sundays at 2:25 a.m. on Starz 2