Courtney Kemp Agboh is cool as hell. The Power creator, showrunner and director has an inescapable summer hit on her hands, and most of its magic comes from a script that doesn’t pander, but takes the audience on a thrill ride of a narcs game in New York City. When it comes to criticism― especially the never-ending notion that the show’s lead boss Ghost (played by Omari Hardwick) “traded up” his wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton) for a Latina, Angela (Lela Loren), his grade school girlfriend― Kemp Agboh sets the record straight with fans directly on social media. And when it comes to details about Power Season 3, those surprises are smartly close to the cuff. She’s utterly disinterested in any shortcuts or dumbing down the script to meet fan’s expectations. And because of that, she exceeds their expectations every single week, and they come back in droves. There’s level to the addiction.
The Urban Daily spoke with Kemp Agboh to discuss the explosive season finale (airing tomorrow on Starz at 9pm), what we’ll never see happen as long as she’s the show runner, and that extremely dope soundtrack.
The Urban Daily: The audience is still reeling from Shawn’s murder in cold blood last week. Will there be another jaw dropping moment in the finale on Saturday, maybe another major death that you can hint at?
Courtney Kemp Agboh: “There are so many jaw dropping moments on Saturday that I don’t even know what to tell you, man. It’s crazier than Episode 9 by the jump. Will we see other deaths? Yes, for sure. I’m not going to tell you who they are.”
TUD: You’re extremely interactive with your audience on social media. Do you ever use any of that feedback for future plot twists, or is it just fun with the fans?
CKA: “I’d say 80/20. Because 80% of it is just super fun. But 20% of it I feel like is real work, and what I mean by real work is that when people don’t understand things, I try to clarify. You’ll see me, when people have something really wrong, I definitely like to tell them like, “No, no, no, don’t look in that direction,” because it’s usually a misapprehension about something that’s political, in terms of race or something like that. Can people commenting affect what we do in the writer’s room? I try not to let that happen because I have been on television shows where the show runner starts to chase the fans, and the thing is you started the show not chasing the fans. So, you can’t start that now. In other words it’s like, if you start dating a guy, and you play hard to get, once you get him you’ve got to keep playing hard to get [laughs].”
TUD: You bring up a great point about race. People love the fact that the cast is diverse. It’s very much NY. But there’s not a lot of talk about race on the show, it just is what it is. What are some of the misconceptions from fans that you had to make right?
CKA: “Well, one thing that comes up a lot is Ghost picking a lighter-skinned woman over Tasha. Like that seems to come up a lot. And for me, because Angela is so identified as Puerto Rican. Like she’s not confused about her identity at all, in any way. I’m not from NY, I’m from CT. Because my conception of race is very much NY-centered, as you know in NY Puerto Ricans and Black folks, the overlap is so complete. It’s such a complete overlap. In fact, I have a Puerto Rican actress on my show playing a Black woman, La La Vasquez. Because the overlap is so complete, I don’t think of it as being separate. Angela is not a trade-up. Angela is his first love, and I don’t understand why people miss that, you know, or why people have decided to take it into another level, because it’s not… I mean, he picked Tasha in the first place. He had children with Tasha, or in the second place, I should say. I had one woman on Facebook really go after me, and say, “You’re light-skinned so you don’t understand,” and that really bothered me. I was really bothered by that. The idea that I don’t take seriously my identity as a Black woman is absurd. It’s past being absurd. But also that I am unaware of racial politics is also past being absurd. I actually said to her, “The color of my skin is indicative of the abuse of Black women.” How about that? I mean, we can have the conversation if you want to have the conversation. The show is not about that conversation.”
TUD: Will we get to see flashback episodes of how Angela and Ghost first fell in love, or how Ghost and Tommy hooked up in the drug game as kids?
CKA: “I don’t believe in flashbacks. Categorically. Don’t believe in them. I think they’re easy. I don’t believe in flashbacks or voiceover. I think that you should be able to dramatize the way that people really talk. So if you and I were friends in second grade and we had a traumatic event, which is that we were in a bus crash, I wouldn’t say to you, “Do you remember when we were in second grade and we had the bus crash?” What I would say is, “Man, remember when we had that day, and I had that brand new lunch box? I never saw that lunch box.” That’s what I would say to you. Because it would be about specific details and all those things. That’s how people really talk. And the thing about flashbacks for me is that the information that the audience wants about what that was, you can give them present tense. You really can. So no, as long as I’m running this show, you’re not going to see a lot of flashbacks. You will see flashbacks of things you already saw. We do that. So, for example, when Ghost was running in Episode 8, and he flashbacks to shooting Rolla, you’ve seen that. So, those are the flashbacks that you will see. But you will not see Tommy, Angela and Ghost as kids until the series finale.”
TUD: That makes sense because you can already tell Angela and Ghost were grade school sweethearts, especially in that episode where they visited the museum. It’s something that you would do if you were in eighth grade in NYC on a class trip.
CKA: “And by the way, how much more informative was it to see them as adults do that than a flashback of them as adults? Because the other way to tell that story is to have them not go present tense at all. But to see them sitting at their desks, [in] the flashback. And it’s not your actors, because they don’t look 15. So then it’s like these kids, like no… Meh, no [laughs].”
TUD: Another thing I really love about this show is the music, and how it really hits the veins of the scenes. Like the scene with Holly making the decision to either go back to Tommy or take the bus trip to Ohio, the FKA Twigs song really brought that scene to life. What’s your process? Does your team listen to a ton of songs to find the one that fits?
CK: “A lot of those choices are me. I am a big music fan. I listen to a lot of music. That FKA Twigs song, “Two Weeks,” in the Holly scene, that song has actually been around for quite some time. I mean, it’s not very fresh. But it’s a song that I’ve been obsessed with for a really long time, and I knew that I wanted to use that in the series. And there are a couple of songs that I still haven’t worked into the show. There’s “Undertow” by Goapele, hopefully I’ll be able to get that in. And I’m an R&B fan, really, when it comes right down to it. I’m sort of right now pumping Miguel really hard, I’m pumping D’ Angelo really hard. I still listen to everything that Erykah Badu ever did, said, looked at sideways. That’s like my core music. But obviously I’m a hip-hop fan. I love all different kinds of music. But those songs in particular, they speak to me. I really do have a lot of experience with female romantic suffering [laughs].”
Catch the Power season finale on Saturday on Starz, at 9 p.m.
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