It’s safe to say Power Book II: Ghost Season 2 promises to continue the momentum of a stellar season one.
Cooper Saxe and Carrie Milligan will be back in full force, and Rashad Tate will be reprising his Power role as the always fun but conniving Councilman. Plus, prosecutor Jenny Sullivan will have an extended role moving forward.
We got a chance to talk to their portrayers Shane Johnson, Melanie Liburd, Larenz Tate, and Paton Ashbrook about everything from relationship dynamics, thoughts on the passionate Power fanbase, and what their characters will be up to when the series returns.
Johnson has been in the Power Universe since the beginning. And after playing the character for so long, we wondered how easy it is for him to step back into the shoes of the flashy lawyer who will do anything for a win.
As Johnson explained, “Well, what I would say is that every season, the layers of Saxe get more and more complex. They’ve done an incredible job of challenging me every year and adding things that are unexpected to me.
“That keeps me on my toes and keeps me excited because then I have to kind of mesh everything I’ve already done as Cooper Saxe to what’s being laid in front of me and try to make it cohesive as a character.
“And so for me, I don’t really know what I’m doing until I get the scripts. And then it’s a matter of trying to kind of go, ‘Okay, so how does Cooper Saxe do this?’ So you’ll learn something that redefines a bunch of stuff that you’ve already done.
“So it’s been a real pleasure and a real challenge as an actor to continue to add more and more complexity with the course of eight years with this character.”
Audiences have been familiar with Councilman Tate from his days on Power, and when we see him again in Power Book II: Ghost, he’s in a different place in his life.
Larenz told us, “In season two, Whitney, season two, he is at the bottom. I tell you why, because he loses the gubernatorial race. He was trying to become governor, and that just didn’t happen. And it took a toll on him.
“It really hit him hard because he felt that he was the perfect person for the position, and he’s a person who’s incredibly determined.
“So when we meet him, he’s down and out. And fortunately, he has someone who is unconditionally in his corner, and that’s his brother Kamaal who’s played by my in-person, in real life, brother, Lahmard. To be able to have that is amazing. But yeah, so he’s being encouraged to pick the pieces up.
“Get back and focus on what needs to be done and make sure that he doesn’t tarnish the Tate name.
“So, you will see that all these hurdles and all these roadblocks in front of the character. And he has to create agendas and find ways to get back on and continue his climb up the political ladder.”
Carrie found herself in some interesting predicaments during Power Book II: Ghost Season 1, and when the second season begins, she finds herself in a bad place.
“Ooh, Carrie’s headspace. She’s spiraling really,” Liburd explained. And that will continue throughout the season as she teased, “Carrie gets herself in some interesting situations, and all I can say is season two’s like tenfold. Carrie finds herself really pulled into some very, very difficult, painful situations and dangerous situations.”
Jenny Sullivan will be back in a significant way, and Ashbrook spoke more about her character, whose one we haven’t got to know too well thus far. But that is certain to change very soon.
“Jenny, she starts off as a very black and white character. She thinks that there’s a way to do things, and it’s by the book. And she is interested in justice. Her ultimate goal is seeking justice, putting bad guys behind bars.
“And so you are going to learn a lot more about Jenny as this season unfolds because right now, it’s kind of just a little bit of like there’s a little sprinkling of information.
“But what I can say is you’ll see how certain relationships she has and certain relationships she develops in the show really start to inform and maybe allow her to call into question her kind of by-the-book mentality.
“And you just kind of see her discover new things and new ways of doing things in the season. I think that’s pretty much all I can say.”
Cooper and Jenny have a very intriguing dynamic, and that’s something we’ll see more of, with Ashbrook stating, “So what can I say? Well, clearly they’re involved, doing something, right? And so what’s interesting about this too is they’re both people who are, their jobs are kind of their lives.
“And they’re both really obsessed with their jobs and very good at their jobs. And yet, at the same time, we get to see kind of this other side to them in these scenes, or from last season, just like that kind of power-play dynamic that happens. Who actually has the power in this situation? Does it change?
“Watching how that shifts and how we kind of negotiate the relationship was really fulfilling and really interesting to play because, again, these characters are so dynamic and so complicated that only having those two people, in particular, come together is really interesting and hopefully fun to watch.
“We’ll see. But yeah, there’s a lot going on there, and you all will see some things happen.”
Regarding what Ashbrook could tease about Jenny Sullivan’s season two storyline, she responded, “Episode one of season two really just hits the ground running. It picks up right back in the hot water from where we left in season one. And so, the pace is just this unrelenting, amazing train that you just kind of stay on.
“So for Jenny, as with many of the characters on the show, there’s a lot of questions about ethics and what is, if your ultimate goal and your objective is something positive, something like protecting your family and how you go about doing that.
“Some things you might have to do are questionable, or you’re not sure if it’s worth doing it for that ultimate goal.
“That’s kind of the question that has been asked in the show a lot. And we’re definitely exploring that a lot in this season. And Jenny for sure is exploring that as well.”
Cooper has another prominent relationship in the series, which is between him and Davis MacLean. The former adversaries are now working together, and Johnson described what we’d see from the pair this season, as well as what it’s like working alongside Method Man.
“Well, honestly, going toe to toe with Method Man has been one of the biggest joys of my acting career. He brings a lot out of me. He challenges me. I think he’s a hell of an actor and an incredible human. He’s just a great, great guy.
“And it’s funny because starting to work with him, I was kind of intimidated by him like this is Method Man. And he’s just like a kid in a candy store. And this work means so much to him.
“He shows up to work. I mean, this isn’t a game for him. We laugh a lot, we have a lot of fun, but when it comes down to the work, he challenges the shit out of me. And so the relationship between the characters, you’re right, it’s like their kind of frenemies.
“There’s a mutual respect there, but we are motivated by such different things that we clash a lot.
“If I could just get on the money train, then I might be more like Davis, and if he could kind of be on the… I guess I don’t want to say ethical because we both sort of compromise our ethics, but what matters most to Davis is kind of the cash and what matters most to Saxe is winning back his self-respect.”
Councilman Tate hasn’t gotten a lot of wins lately, but that won’t stop Larenz from hoping good times could be on the horizon for him. He explained, “Well, in any character on the Power shows, in the Power Universe, you would just hope that you survive literally because there are so many people that are killed off the show.
“And so for him, honestly as the character, I would just hope that people can see a little bit of that humanity. A hope that he happens to have underneath this politician and the stigma that comes with being a politician.
“So I’m hoping that he will win something. You know what I mean? Because the dude is so determined, and he truly believes that he should be in a political office, in a political space to have a platform, to use his voice, or to use his influence of power to make something happen.
“And so those are certainly my hopes that he can continue to do that and that he will prevail.”
On a series that’s so rich and full of characters, the women truly embody Power at its core, and it’s something that drew Liburd to the role.
As she explained, “This is what I love about Carrie. You know, she’s the smartest person in most rooms. In fact, she was a prosecutor, brilliant genius. She teaches canonical studies, and she chose to teach just because she wanted to give back.
“I mean, she could be earning much more money somewhere else, but she’s from money. And she has this whole exterior way she’s seen by the world and the people she works with. But then, of course, we know that she’s flawed because she’s having an affair with one of her students, which is outrageous.
“She makes some terrible, terrible decisions, like a lot of brilliant people, men, and women.
“But yeah, she’s absolutely powerful and smart as well. So I just love that. I love playing both sides, and I think it’s very human and, well, in Carrie’s case quite extreme.”
With such a large cast, their characters don’t always get to interact with everyone. So, they all had fun when asked about whom they’d like to see their characters get some more screentime with.
Johnson replied, “Well, I’m just pitching something here, I don’t know. But I think that there’s an argument to be made that Cooper Saxe and Monet Tejada have a bit of a fling, a little… I just think that there could be a thing where they see each other, and it’s just like, they both just know, and we don’t have to talk about it.
“It’s just like it’s palpable, and they run with it, and they see where it goes. I’m just pitching it.”
In response to Johnson, Larenz added, “You stole my answer, brother, but I got to say that I’m so living the dream, and I think the character is also doing so. The fact that I’m able to work with my real-life brother, Lahmard. I’m so happy that that happened when they created the character to have a family member.
“It could have been an Uncle, or it could have been a sister, or it could have been anything, but they were able to bring my brother into work with Lahmard. It’s just been truly fulfilling. It’s fantastic.
“I’m excited anytime I get a chance to work with the characters on the show and the other actors, but there’s something special about working with your in real-life family member. And so I’m actually living that dream now.”
Liburd would love to share scenes with some new faces, as she stated, “Well, I’d like to, cause Shane’s a good friend of mine, and Paton always gets to work with Shane, and I’m like, oh, I want to work with Shane.”
Ashbrook thought outside the box as she replied, “Oh God, dream scenes. I mean, honestly, I feel very lucky with who I’ve worked with so far. I would really be curious about a scene in the future with some of the Tejadas and Jenny, like what is that?
“It would be a very tense situation. So that would be fun to play, and I love all of those actors so much. I mean, everyone on the show is amazing, but it would be really fun to get to work with that group for sure.”
The fans have genuinely been behind Power from the get-go. And they’ve latched onto Ghost just as hard.
When asked about the fan reaction to their characters, Liburd replied, “Well, I walk down the street, and I get, ‘Professor, hey.’ So, I’m like, ‘hi.’ And I say to my friends, yeah, they’re talking to me, Professor. ‘Is that woman calling you a professor?’ Yes. Yeah. Lovely.
“They’re the sweetest. They get so wrapped up in the storyline and the show, and you know, I’ve had like on my Instagram feed, it’s like, ‘Oh Carrie, you’ve got to stop.’ They call you your character name, talk to you and say, ‘What are you doing? Just stop, leave Zeke alone.’
“So, they’re very invested, but I love the passion. They really enjoy it, which is great.”
Ashbrook answered, “My experience has been so far a little limited. But in the people or the fans that have reached out, they’re delightful. I mean, it’s so lovely. And they’re actually, they seem very excited to get to know more about my character, Jenny Sullivan.
“So that’s exciting. And I know that there’s some fun stuff coming up for them, so yeah, it’s been an extremely positive experience. What an amazing fan base.”
Having worked on Power for some years now, we had to ask Johnson and Tate what’s the best part about being involved with such a longstanding and well-respected franchise.
For his part, Larenz responded, “I’ll just make it really, really quick.
The fact that we’re able to learn more and more about these characters each season, each episode, the creator of the show Courtney Kemp, along with the writers and the producers, they find a really nice way of intertwining the characters with new characters and new faces.
“People that we are familiar with and finding those nuances that elevates the shows, elevates the storytelling and just kind of moves the audiences in ways that they can’t get enough of the show.
“So, it’s really nice to be a part of that journey.”
Johnson replied, “And for me, I would just say quickly that it has been amazing to watch Courtney, specifically, manhandling plot, where we get backed into a corner as characters and as a show, like where do you go from here? And then seeing them artistically and masterfully write their way out of it.
“Honestly, it always has impressed me from the beginning because I’ll read a script in the middle of a season, and I’ll be like, well, that’s the show, it’s done.
“And they find their way out of it, and it gets even more and more exciting. So that’s been really cool as a somebody who writes as well and likes to create things, to see the mastery of storytelling and using plots so incredibly over eight years now.”
Power Book II: Ghost airs Sundays at 8/7c.
***This interview has been edited for length and clarity.***
Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.