New York • "Power," a gritty new drama debuting this month on Starz, is executive produced by 50 Cent and chronicles the underpinnings of a brutal drug trade life and the glamour of the clubs.
But its creator, Courtney Kemp Agboh, balks when it’s described as urban entertainment. The Emmy-nominated producer, whose credits include "The Good Wife," sees the story as one that’s relatable to everyone, even suburban moms.
"In a real sense it’s a show about a universal question," she says. "Does your past dictate your future? Can you change who you are? … The show is really about a larger thing."
"Power," which premieres Saturday, June 7, stars Omari Hardwick as Ghost, a drug dealer who doubles as a successful nightclub owner to conceal his illegal trade. While it’s part gangster drama, it’s also a love story: The married Ghost is pining for a long-lost love who has made her return. He also seeks to shed his life of crime in hopes of finally becoming a legit businessman.
While the show is based in part by 50 Cent’s transformation from drug dealer to rap superstar, Agboh, who created the show with him, also used her late father as inspiration.
"My dad was an advertising guy, and he was very invested in the idea that perception is reality and that if you looked good, and you smelled good and you sounded good, that people would believe whatever you had to say and you were able to manipulate people’s opinions of you through image," she said. "As a black man he felt he got access to people and experiences as a result of dressing a certain way and sounding a certain way and having a certain educational background. … When my dad died, I felt like I really needed to write about him and write about his experiences."
The death of Agboh’s father in 2011 was a turning point for her. It was after he died that "Power" began to become a reality.
"This is the first show I ever pitched, the first show I ever sold, the first show I ever wrote for money," she said. "Things happened at once."
It’s another high point for Agboh, who started off as a magazine writer before leaping into television writing, then producing.
"I wanted to be the first black female editor in chief of Vogue magazine, and that totally didn’t work out," she said with a laugh.
As one of the few black women behind a TV series, there are obvious comparisons to Shonda Rimes, who with the success of shows like "Scandal" and "Grey’s Anatomy" has become one of the most powerful figures on television. But Agboh sees few similarities besides their race and gender, the significance of which she downplays.
"I don’t think it’s about the race or gender of the show runner, I think it’s about what’s compelling and what will bring people back," she said. "I’m grateful to Shonda if in fact her existence allows people to see me in a different way, but I don’t think that we do the same thing or should we be expected to."
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