We caught up with show’s stars on set and they participated in an intimate press conference. You can read part one of our report here.
Naturi Naughton and Joseph Sikora
How excited are you to be on this show?
Naughton: You’ve got Courtney Kemp Agboh, 50 Cent as our executive producer … I get to be in the show with this lovely man, Joe Sikora, Omari Hardwick who is just lovely and eye candy and delicious. So, you know, we’re really, really lucky! And for me, coming from the film industry, I did “Notorious” and I’m working with George Tillman Jr. who directed me in my very first film, “Notorious,” and he’s directing me on episode six of “Power,” so it’s a dream come true.
Q: Tell us about your character this season.
Sikora: My character is Tommy Egan, I am a longtime friend of Omari Hardwick’s character, Ghost. We grew up together in South Jamaica, Queens and we were street kids and the show finds us trying to take our business in different directions. He’s trying to make it legitimized, I’m just trying to expand the already existing business as it is.
Naughton: My character has a different world. We come from the same thing. Natasha is also a part of Ghost, Omari Hardwick’s character, his original beginnings on the streets. She grew up in Queens. She’s a very strong, ride-or-die, about her business type of chick. Tasha doesn’t play games. She’s very … look, we gotta have our business in order, helping build the empire, she’s a mathematician, she’s smart, she’s focused on the hustle, on the game. But at the same time, she’s a mother, she’s also a wife who’s very vulnerable because at the end of the day she could lose all this at any moment because her life is dependent on Ghost in a way even though they built this empire together. She’s feeling, now in the show, she has some things that the club is taking her husband away from her, other women … you know, it just gets really crazy so Tasha’s dealing with being very vulnerable right now but she’s not going for it. She will fight for her family and for her man.
Q: Is there a plan to boost the show through social media? To live tweet during the show?
Sikora: We’ll all be tweeting during the show. I’ll be making my twitter debut.
Naughton: I hope so, yeah. We’re all planning, I’m very active on Twitter. La La actually put me on to Instagram, I was still doing Twitter.
Sikora: We will be doing that during the show and I know 50’s gonna promote the show as well because he’s gonna be dropping an album pretty soon and he’ll be promoting the show on that. He’s been incredibly supportive. Obviously it’s his project as well but .. he’s going to bat for the show and he believes in it very, very fully and his character is pretty exciting with twists and bits in the show, too. It’s been incredible to have him at table reads.
Q: Can you go a little deeper into what that’s like, being at a table read and going through lines with 50 Cent?
Sikora: He’s a good actor! He’s a really good actor. He listens and responds. It’s not 50. We’ve all gotten the chance to get to know him a little bit and hang out with him socially.
Naughton: He’s got a big, great smile and he comes into every table read like, ‘Yeah yeah yeah.’ He has this energy that lights up a room because he’s happy to be here and that’s a great feeling. As our executive producer, he’s not just a standoff figurehead in a faraway land in L.A. somewhere, he comes, kicks it, we’ve had DJ Envy on set. We have a fun time but 50 is very much a part of the family which makes us all feel safe and comfortable.
Q: Your character is a wife and a mother, I know that’s not your reality. How did you prepare for this role?
Naughton: Well, the funny thing is this role was written to be quite a few years older than my actual age but I’m really fortunate that Courtney Kemp Agboh, our showrunner/writer kind of tailor made the character so that it would be a great fit, with me in it.
Q: She’s great.
Naughton: She’s amazing. She’s a black woman who’s focused and loves these characters and has written beautiful stuff. But for me, I prepared for Tasha by talking to my own mother … it’s also not just motherhood, but being the wife of a big high-end drug dealer but just doing some research and I even looked at T.I. and Tiny. I was just into the whole idea of how do you be someone’s counterpart? You’re partner in crime? They’re like Bonnie and Clyde and Tasha and Ghost have that element, so I definitely did a lot just to dig deep into what it takes to be a mother, which I learned from watching my mother and other mothers and I asked a lot of questions so I think preparing for Tasha really just helped me delve into a part of life that I anticipate. I’m not there yet, but I look forward to all that. I want a me a ring like the one Ghost got Tasha.
Q: Do you approach this differently doing network television versus doing cable TV?
Naughton: I did do a cable show on Lifetime. My first TV series was on NBC. but I feel like doing premium cable is different because we’re shooting a movie every episode and it’s very cinema. A lot of times on network you only have like, 42-45 minutes while we have 52.
Sikora: One full hour.
Naughton: So I mean yeah, we get a little more focused, a little more time, and you really get a chance to play the moment, play the beats. We’re not rushing because we have to get to commercial. So that’s the great thing I think.
Sikora: I also think because it’s premium cable that we have the opportunity because we get to deal with the sex and violence aspect of it.
Naughton: As raw as possible.
Sikora: We get to use the elements to further the story, you get to learn about people through them and it’s not gratuitous in the way that it’s just there for the excitement and for no other reason. But you’re actually using those components to drive the story and you have the ability to show that aspect and around that world out.
Q: Do you think that this show could be a series award contender?
Sikora: I think it absolutely can. I think you have incredibly established actors like Omari Hardwick who’s obviously an award nominated guy and he’s doing stellar work. And then you have people who have notoriety and incredible talent like Naturi and so the element of talent certainly exists right here. And it better win best soundtrack!
Naughton: And on top of the talent I think we have really good material. The thing is when you think about awards seasons, you can have the cast but then say, ‘Oh the writing was whack, the show was crap,’ or whatever. It didn’t look good, we’ve got the best crew, we’ve got the best cast, we’ve got the best writing team, and I think we all genuinely work together to create this amazing show about the struggle between power and … the whole world was something that I think everyone can jump into and I think that’s important to have an all around great group of people who care about the show.
Sikora: And Courtney’s a genius. She created this incredible world and the dynamic of these all fully rounded characters that, in a way like “The Wire,” you’re dealing with all A-rated story lines going on throughout the entire thing. I think that adds an aspect that will be really exciting for the audience to be able to jump into because you don’t have the option of not following all of the story through. It’s a great, diverse world.
Lela Loren plays Angela Valdez.
Loren: I guess what’s really awesome about her is that she’s incredibly complicated. She’s intelligent, ambitious, focused, and then at the same time she has this piece of her that is filled with longing and when the first love of her life comes in again she becomes completely unraveled.
She’s got this great job and is on the brink of something huge when she bumps into Jamie (Ghost or James St. Patrick), Ghost or James St. Patrick, her childhood sweetheart. It’s this great love story that has no good ending and then at the same time there’s sort of the laws of morality and society and then there’s the laws when two souls and two hearts meet together and they’re kind of caught in between. It’s kind of like she knows that nothing can come of it and then at the same time she can’t say no. She tries. A girl only has so much resolve.
Q: Is her re-entering his life kind of a catalyst for him thinking about getting out of the game?
Loren: For him, I think it’s starting to dawn on him before. I mean the irony, it’s almost like…there’s this one quote I remember listening to once, “You know if you’ve aged early when you get to the top of the ladder and you find out it’s against the wrong wall.” And so his sort of big dream to be the biggest, baddest drug dealer on the planet is…he’s realizing that it’s too small and he’s sort of bored with it. But everybody in his life wants him to be that and my character knew him beforehand and so he’s starting to get that spark and he loves being seen as a legitimate businessman. She supports his dreams, she supports the vision that he’s starting to have for himself. I think that seed had already germinated when they met but Angela sort of adds water and sunshine and…strange analogy.
Q: So they were together prior to him getting into the business?
Loren: Yeah, they were each other’s first loves. They grew up in Queens together, I think from 8th grade to 16 years old and Angela got a scholarship to Choate and then she just left and never looked back.
Q: Can you talk about getting the part and any stories with that?
Loren: It was very fast and as an actor…so many times you’re put through the ringer and then you’re let down so this was strangely easy to the point where you’re waiting for the anvel to fall out of the sky and crush you. But what happened was I went in for an initial reading and then it was literally like the casting director went, ‘Wait, hold on one second,’ and then she went and brought in, I believe it was, David Knoller, and then I did it again and he’s like, ‘Wait! Hold on one second!’ and then he went and brought Courtney and then I did it again and Courtney’s like, ‘You’re great! Just stay there.’ And then the testing process continued through the network. It was really lovely.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the director that you’re working with for this project and what that process has been like? I know all directors can be a bit different, is this one of those situations where you guys have something that you have to get done and you stick to the script or do you have free range to bring some of yourself and what you bring as an actor to the role as well?
Loren: Courtney’s been really great about talking and fleshing her [Angela] out and getting underneath her skin. But Starz is pretty regimented in terms of once the script is finalized then that’s what you stick to. There isn’t any ad-libbing, they’re generally wordperfect. But there’s still room for conversations beforehand. If there’s gonna be slight tweaks or changes or if I say, ‘I think Angela would use a different word here,’ or, ‘I think she wouldn’t say this,’ or, ‘Maybe she says this,’ or add in this little color or flavor there’s still room for that. It just has to happen before and not on the day of. But the schedule is pretty tight.
Q: How far along into filming are you?
Loren: We’re finishing up five and six and we’re about to start seven and eight. We shoot two episodes at a time which is challenging.
Q: How long has filming been going on for?
Loren: Since November 18.
Q: I heard that there’s a lot of Spanish speaking in this show in particular, are you a native Spanish speaker?
Loren: I learned to speak Spanish later in life. I learned after the age of 10. And I have a really great accent but no, I have family from Mexico and I wanted to be able to communicate with them and my father’s caucasian, so we never spoke it in the home. And then in some ways it was a really great skill because actually now with television spanning the range that it spans it’s a good skill set. I also speak Italian. … Angela’s character is Puerto Rican so then try to get that flavor with her sister and things like that.
Q: Have you guys been doing a lot of location shooting around the city?
Loren: Yeah, we’ve been doing probably about split, about half of that. It’s been sometimes hard with the weather and … I think it’s thrown production a curveball because this winter has been particularly stark. But I think it’s allowed a really wonderful environment. … We shot this scene in the Museum of Natural History that you couldn’t build a set that would affect you the same way. So there’s something about getting to be on location that helps to infuse the story with romance and excitement. It makes you have to work a lot less.
Q: You said you’ve been filming since November, I’m wondering have there been any funny stories, anecdotes, huge spills, anything that’s happened while filming?
Loren: I am notorious for dribbling coffee on costumes to the point where I have to have a bib, an adult bib. So there’s that. There’s, ya know, there’s just also certain days where your mouth stops working and you can’t get your lines out to save your life. But in some ways, I was gonna say there hasn’t been a ton of room … if you’re on a tight schedule you can’t really play.
-Chasity Saunders (@itsmechasity)