After a year of both change and more of the highly charged same, the “Ghost Must Die”-themed third season of Power came to an end tonight with a piteous death, discovery, betrayal, threat and the handcuffs being put on the Omari Hardwick-portrayed James “Ghost” St. Patrick by his ex, federal prosecutor Angela Valdez, played by Lela Loren.
This culmination of the season, and in many ways the Courtney Kemp and Curtis Jackson AKA 50 Cent EP’d series so far, tonight’s “In My Best Interest” episode comes with Power’s successful move to Sunday nights. Having made the shift in TV’s big night, the drama was rewarded by a two-season renewal in July by Starz after delivering new record-breaking viewership for the premium cabler this run. Amidst the twists, turns and hustle on-screen, the 10-episode Season 3 of Power also saw a rapid sequence of narrative events set off by the midseason killing off of the pregnant Holly Weaver (Lucy Walters) by her boyfriend and Ghost’s right hand man Tommy (Joseph Sikora).
With that aftermath and the seeds it has planted for future seasons, EP Kemp spoke with me about the season finale she co-wrote with Jeff Dix, why the obsessive Agent Greg Knox (Andy Bean) had to die even after getting back together with Loren’s Valdez, Ghost’s arrest and how Power was always leading to this. Talking about how she had always planned for the show to go five seasons and teasing a Season 6, Kemp also teased about what’s coming next, the addition of Fast And Furious alum Sung Kang to the show next year, the role Jackson’s villainous Kanan will play now that he has Ghost’s son Tariq in his thrall and tonight’s final scene.
DEADLINE: The arrest of Ghost by Angela at his club in front of everyone seems like the character’s worst nightmare. Is that how you wanted to end this season, with Ghost in his personal Hell?
KEMP: Well, I think it’s important in any story of a man’s redemption that you really show him at his bottom, so this is definitely Ghost’s bottom. I think we really wanted to push that and push that idea of what is the worst thing that could happen to him? I think also we wanted to fulfill the promise that we gave the audience when we first did the show. If you watch the last two minutes of the pilot, you know this is where we were going. We were always driving to this moment where Angela arrested Ghost.
DEADLINE: In the logic of the show, Ghost must have seen this coming, no?
KEMP: He thought Angela loved him so much that he could get away with anything, and while he didn’t actually kill Greg, he didn’t protect himself from looking like he would. And, he certainly said some shit that he shouldn’t have said to her, including, when they were in the diner, “I had to protect you from Greg.”
I mean, it’s a hard thing to break up with someone who knows all your secrets. Angela knows a lot about Ghost and even though he did it for a good reason, he broke her heart and he can’t manage that broken heart. There’s not much you can do about that.
DEADLINE: I have to tell you, the Season 3 finale feel like it could have been a series finale, if it wasn’t for the fact that Power got a Season 4 and 5 pick-up this summer. Was that the trick you were playing in the very unlikely event the show wasn’t coming back?
KEMP: The real trick is that we did this at the end of Season 3 as opposed to waiting to the end of Season 6, right? So now we’ve already done the thing that we thought we were going to do and now the audience is going, “What are they going to do next?” And I think what you’re going to see is that Ghost fights to redeem himself from this charge, which is a wrongful charge, he did not kill Greg. Tommy is really going to redefine himself as a connect. He’s getting bigger and bigger. He’s the biggest God damned drug dealer in New York City, not Ghost. So we’re going to see that happen.
DEADLINE: So, are you planning on pulling the plug on Power at the end of a Season 6 if you get that too?
KEMP: This team at Starz, it’s really HBO 2.0, right? So they’re used to doing longer-term series. The Sopranos ran for a long time, Sex and the City ran for a long time. I conceived of this show as a five-season show, so that means that I certainly had a five season plan, and I could end it at the end of five.
But if they want more seasons, then our story structure is going to have to change to accommodate that, and so one of the things that we talked about was if the end of Season 3 is a jumping off point for two more seasons, or if the end of Season 3 is a jumping off point for three more seasons or more, we have to have a level of complicated storytelling ahead of us that will sustain that. We don’t want to run out of the idea, the basic idea, and so that’s all part of the motivation to have Ghost arrested.
DEADLINE: The theme of this season was Ghost must die, is the arrest in the finale the figurative death of Ghost, at least the persona?
KEMP: I’d say the death of Ghost is coming, I wouldn’t say it’s this ending. I’d say the death of Ghost is coming, though, it’s approaching.
DEADLINE: So, what is also approaching in Season 4?
KEMP: We’re going to see Angela actually try to become a decent prosecutor again. She’s wrong right now, but she’s in the place of righteousness. And then Tasha is really going to have to re-evaluate what it means to take care of her family. We’ve seen her over the last year take care of that family on the criminal side, really be in the drug world.
Dre really steps into this incredibly ambitious, almost to what I’d say, I call him Baby Ghost. In Season 4 we see a lot of this, we see Baby Ghost emerge. It’s because just as with Ghost and Tommy, and they got rid of Kanan, they murdered Breeze and then they grew into themselves. Well, Ghost is arrested and it gives Dre an opportunity to grow, not only in the clubs but in the drug business, so that’s one aspect.
DEADLINE: And we see Fast and Furious‘ Sung Kang joining the cast, what’s his role going to be?
KEMP: Let’s just say he’s a very influential character who comes into Angela’s life
DEADLINE: Will we see him quickly when the new season starts or…
KEMP: We need him in 401, we need him in 401, so we see him right away.
DEADLINE: Looking back on Season 3 now, with the killing of the Lucy Walters’ played Holly by Tommy and tonight’s killing of Agent Knox, what were your anxieties of what has proved Power’s biggest season so far – with everything else going on, did you think you went too far?
KEMP: I think all the things that people were like, “Should you really do that? Are you afraid that the audience won’t like it?” All of those motivations are kind of left behind. We went straight at it and it paid off. It really paid off. I mean, even I was actually surprised that people went with us with the murder of Holly. I thought there would be way more backlash about that and there just wasn’t.
DEADLINE: We’ve talked before about the mechanics of that episode, but how did you ease Andy Bean into the fact that his character was going to be killed off in the finale?
KEMP: I called him into my office as I do with everybody, and we had the conversation. But he’s not a dumb person, he read the writing on the wall. He said early on, he said if Greg continues down this path, he’s going to have to die because he knows everything.
But it was hard. I love Andy Bean very much. I feel very close to him as a man and as a human being and as an actor. I just think there’s really not better you can do. Andy can do anything, and it was hard to let him go. But at the same time if you’ve been watching the show, Greg kind of had to go. The character had done all he could do.
DEADLINE: That is the opposite of your fellow EP 50 Cent’s Kanan character this season – after secretly escaping death at the end of Season 2, the villain has been biding his time for what seems like a big confrontation with Ghost again in the Season 4…
KEMP: I would say that what we used him for was this idea of hiding in plain sight, so he’s in the show. Kanan’s always a presence, he’s always a threat, but he’s outside of Ghost’s purview. So, in some ways, we had to construct it so that he was outside of our purview too to some extent. He was operating quietly.
But I think episode 10 brings him full circle when you see that Jukebox is back and you see that they have a new confederate in Ray Ray. And you see that there are much more horrors planned for Tariq as a result of this relationship and the fact that he’s fallen in love in some ways with Kanan.
DEADLINE: And Jukebox is a big part of that retribution against Ghost in Season 4?
KEMP: Well, that had been the idea but Anika booked a lead role on a BET series. It’s one of the problems of having this novelistic set of characters, which is you can’t put everybody on a contract. So as much as I would have loved to really have Anika’s Jukebox be a huge part of Season 4, that huge role may have to wait because she has other things she’s doing. And, you know Anika is so talented, I would never imagine that I could get her to wait around to just do this part.
DEADLINE: So, Jukebox’s return telling 50’s Kanan with here “one in the pocket, one in the heart” to ransom and kill Tariq to get back at Ghost is her Power swan song?
KEMP: No, we’ll see her in four for sure. We’ll definitely see her in Season 4, there’s no question, just not as much as I had planned.
DEADLINE: Whether you planned it or not, Season 3 turned out to be, with Jukebox’s introduction, Tasha’s path of independence, Holly’s attempted moves into Tommy’s business and Angela’s relationship with Ghost and role in protecting him from the Feds, the rise of the Power women – looking back now, does that interpretation seem apt to you?
KEMP: I think that’s actually pretty apt considering that Angela arrests Ghost, so her action became exactly how we end the season. And I think in terms of Tasha, she helps end up changing Ghost’s destiny, really in episode 309 by betraying him to Tommy, and then she helps in that plotline when she really goes over to Tommy’s side and becomes his ride or die, in a sense. So that series of actions also has a very profound effect on Ghost because Tommy has come to a kind of blossoming through Tasha’s help. Last week when we aired, so many of the fans were like, “I can’t believe Tasha snitched ghost out. What a bitch, blah, blah, blah,” and it’s so funny to me because Tasha did what she had to do for her family, as she always does.
DEADLINE: For a finale, season or series, I’m always interested from a showrunner’s point of view, is there a scene or a piece of dialogue or an aspect of the finale where you thought, that’s it, that’s what I wanted to capture, that’s where I got it right?
KEMP: The last scene.
DEADLINE: Really, why?
KEMP: Because that was very much what we had aimed for from the beginning of the season. When we open in 301 the first thing you see is Ghost and Angela arriving together at the club, and you think that it’s a callback to 101, which is he and Tasha arriving at the club, and it is. But it’s also the bookend to what we’re going to do at the end of the season. So if you think about it, we really did achieve a kind of nice loop. They arrive together at the very beginning of 301 and at the end of 310 they leave together, but not in the way that we would have expected.