“Power” is getting supercharged.
With the popular Starz series having wrapped up its sixth and final season in February, the network is prepping the premiere of spinoff “Power Book II: Ghost” on Sept. 6. It is the first of four planned spinoffs of the mothership show that have been ordered to series at Starz — marking a rapid expansion for a television franchise that has failed to garner the same media attention devoted to the likes of “The Walking Dead” or “Law & Order,” but one that’s supremely important to its network.
“Power” creator and showrunner Courtney A. Kemp says expanding the franchise represented an opportunity to lift up people in the industry.
“For me, it was about a moment where people of color had an opportunity to make television,” Kemp tells Variety. “I remember when I was a kid during the ‘In Living Color,’ ‘Roc’ period where all of a sudden there were all these people on TV who looked like me. Then that went away, but then it came back. In this renaissance, this moment, I wanted to continue to make more people like me, is what I like to say. Make more showrunners, make more strides for people of color, women and LGBT-plus folk. All of those things are super important to me, and the franchise allows me to do that.”
She adds, “Having the ‘Power’ brand label allows me to open those doors faster. So in doing all of it at once, it allows me to maximize employment. We didn’t know that COVID was going to happen, but I’ve been able to help people stay employed during this period, which is huge.”
The move to extend “Power” is not at all unexpected. According to Starz, the show averaged 10 million viewers per episode in multiplatform viewing in its final two seasons, compared with 4.7 million viewers per episode in its first season. It’s also the No. 1 series in premium cable for Black viewers. Forty percent of the show’s audience is composed of Black women; 73% of the household audience is African American.
Starz president and CEO Jeffrey Hirsch says that the show is also the highest generator of subscriptions and retention for Starz on both linear and digital platforms “hands down,” topping even fellow perennial hit “Outlander.”
“It is definitely a huge driver of our business,” he says. “‘Power’ and the ‘Power’ universe is probably the most important franchise to the company. It’s one of the key foundations of our programming strategy, and it’s given us a lot of data on how to put other shows around it on the network.”
Series executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson says that making more shows set in the world of “Power” was only natural, given that the drug trade the series dramatizes does not stop even when a high-level player is removed — as Omari Hardwick’s character, Ghost, was in the final season.
“I tried to convince the network that the ‘Power’ universe was like Marvel,” Jackson says. “It’s not something that you can just do one time. In the lifestyle you see in the first show, when someone is taken away or someone is killed, there’s always someone to fill those shoes. There’s always a new prospect, so the show can continue to grow.”
And grow it will. Along with “Ghost,” which is set days after the original series’ narrative ends, Starz has also commissioned “Power Book III: Raising Kanan,” a prequel set in the ’90s during the early years of “Power” character Kanan Stark, played in the original by 50 Cent and in the spinoff by Mekai Curtis; “Power Book IV: Influence,” which follows Rashad Tate (Larenz Tate in the initial series) in his pursuit of political power; and “Power Book V: Force,” centering on Joseph Sikora’s character of Tommy Egan, Ghost’s partner in crime, after he cuts ties and leaves New York.
Work is continuing on all four shows as much as possible given that the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down all physical production since March. Kemp and Hirsch both say that the shows’ writers’ rooms are still turning out scripts, and that the plan is to have multiple series in production at the same time once shooting can safely resume.
Expanding a franchise can be a tricky business, and some have begun to set self-imposed limits on new series before they debut. “The Walking Dead” spinoff “World Beyond,” for example, will consist of only two seasons, with the show set to bow in October. But Hirsch says Starz is placing no such limits on “Power.”
“None of these four shows have any kind of predetermined timeline on them,” Hirsch says. “We’ll continue to grow as the story grows. For us, the farther you get into the arc of a story in Seasons 2, 3, 4, those are bigger drivers of subscriptions than Season 1. For the most part, when you get to those seasons is really where you see the business accelerate behind it.”