‘Power’ heads toward its finale, but its influence grows

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With his characteristic bravado, Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson believed in Power so much that he predicted the series would become a massive hit to cast members even before the first episode aired five years ago.

Since then, Jackson has joyfully watched as his words have come to fruition. The original series has become a ratings juggernaut and Starz network said it is the most-watched show in the cable network’s history.

Power kicks off its sixth and final season, but the gritty series isn’t going anywhere. Starz has at least two spinoffs in the works.

Power stars Omari Hardwick as James ‘Ghost’ St Patrick who is trying to escape his life as a drug kingpin and go legit with a legal business, but his gangster-mentality wife and best friend still want him to run their drug operation. He struggles with the double life he’s created by dating a federal prosecutor.

“I like anticipating success,” said Jackson, the show’s Executive Producer who also played the role of Kanan. “I don’t work on projects feeling like there’s a possibility for failure, because I don’t think you can work hard on a project feeling like it can just fail.”

The cast of Power
ABOVE & BELOW: Photos show scenes from the series

“When people say, ‘Are you shocked about how popular this show is?’ — I was less shocked because he told us it would be this,” said Joseph Sikora of Jackson’s vision for the series. Sikora plays Tommy Egan, the business partner and lifelong best friend of Ghost, who find themselves at odds after Tommy shot Ghost’s girlfriend in the previous season.

“Omari and I met him at the same time, he gave us a big hug and basically broke everything down,” Sikora recalled. “He didn’t say, ‘I think this is going to happen’. He said, ‘This is going to happen and this will, too’. Then everything happened. He spoke it into existence.”

Power built a cult following for its take on the glamorous and gung-ho gangster lifestyle, twisted love triangles and violent drug deals gone wrong. Hardwick said the story line in Power resonated with viewers the same way HBO’s Game of Thrones did.

“But they have books,” he said. “I’m proud that we were able to create the book. There was no book. We created it with the help of incredible writing and fellow cast mates.”

Hardwick said fans of the series’ characters have a love-hate relationship toward them.

He acknowledged that his character has received mixed praise, but his other cast mates have faced blatant threats over the years. “It was culturally shifting. That’s how much people are invested in this show.”

Starz is banking on viewers to invest even more.

Power has been an absolute monster. There’s nothing else bigger on television right now,” said Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch, who noted the series helped build the network as a destination to watch original content.

He gave credit to Jackson and the show’s creator Courtney Kemp, whom he said helped lead a team to keep “the audience in every episode with cliffhangers”.

The series will come to an end, but several spin-offs are planned to be part of a collection of new shows inspired by the world of Power.

Jackson said Power Book II will pick up soon after Power ends. He said in the new version “we’ll see the aftermath of what happens in the season six finale”.

Jackson is also planning other Power prequels including Raising Kanan, based on his popular character Kanan who was killed in season five.

“As (Starz) becomes a household necessity, you’ll see faces that look like ours consistently on it,” he said. “It’ll become more of a diverse leading cast.”

Life-changing ‘Power’: Stars reflect on series’ impact

It’s tough to overstate the impact of Power. The series turned Starz into a must-watch cable network for many viewers. While much of the show focussed on Omari Hardwick’s character, James ‘Ghost’ St Patrick, its supporting cast proved equally compelling.

Hardwick and other cast members reflect on how Power changed their lives.

OMARI HARDWICK (James ‘Ghost’ St Patrick)

Omari Hardwick didn’t want to play Ghost after reading script for Power, because he was satisfied with being a backup co-star as he’d been on BET’s Being Mary Jane and the films Beauty Shop and Sparkle.

But Hardwick’s wife encouraged him to take on the lead role. Best move ever.

Hardwick may not have had a problem landing roles before Power, but he’s picked up even more in the last five years but none of those roles was similar to Hardwick’s Ghost. The former college football said Power helped him land parts that showcased other facets of his acting. “It’s definitely been a launch pad for me,” said Hardwick.

JOSEPH SIKORA (Tommy Egan)

Joseph Sikora has been acting for more than three decades, but his Power character stands as his most memorable one.

Sikora played the gun-toting, cold-hearted Tommy who savors the drug world. He’s also Ghost’s best friend and business partner, who he often tries to convince to stay in the drug game.

Tommy is a fan-favourite, and given Sikora the most consistent acting work of his career.

“How has it changed my life? I’m able to pay my bills,” he said. “I don’t have to delegate where the money goes. It’s nice to have options.”

But Sikora thought his breakout role would have led to more opportunities sooner.

“I still audition. Unfortunately at a lower level than I was anticipating after the success of this show,” he said. “But whatever it is, I’m never afraid of hard work.”

LELA LOREN (Angela Valdes)

Before Lela Loren was cast to play federal prosecutor Angela ‘Angie’ Valdes, she was on the verge of moving in with her parents.

“That’s not a thing anymore,” said Loren, who auditioned for the role and was uncertain if she could land it.

She had appeared in several TV shows including CSI: Miami and Cold Case along with a small film role in The Hangover Part III.

But Loren said being a main character on Power changed the course of her career.

“You benefit from financial stability,” she said.

“With anyone who takes a creative path, there’s such a hard road to navigate. Most of us had crazy odd jobs.”

In the show, Loren’s character rekindles a relationship with Ghost, who she dated as a teen but ultimately discovers is married and a New York drug kingpin.

She’s endured a lot of negative feedback, and threats, because her character was knowingly involved with a married man.

Loren said she’s gone to therapy to cope. “It’s a lot,” she said. “Maybe rationally you know that it’s not real. But your body doesn’t know. So you have to take care of yourself.”