Back in February, we saw the Ghost (Omari Hardwick) chapter of Power come to an end with our favorite conflicted drug kingpin/night club owner and budding political figure taking a bullet to the chest at the hands of his own son Riq (Michael Rainey Jr.). With James St. Patrick out of the picture, the St. Patricks thought life would be a bit easier for them. However, boy they were they wrong because even in death, Ghost literally still haunted them, getting the last laugh in the form of his will, which basically screwed everyone not named Yasmine, the youngest of the St. Patrick who we barely saw during the shows run.
Tasha was basically left with nothing as Ghost smiled from the grave watching his ex-wife suffer, but Riq promised to take care of the family. BUT to touch any of his inheritance, he would have to maintain a 3.5 GPA at a university. Tasha doing some quick thinking, reached out to her late husband’s former business partner and the show’s resident racist, Simon Stern (Victor Joseph Garber). Tasha concocts a plan to hand him over Truth, and in return, he pulls some strings to get Riq in his alma mater, Stansfield University putting Riq on the track to earn his inheritance.
With the plan set, everything looks like it’s going to work out, but in typical Power fashion, Tasha and Riq’s “foolproof” plan falls apart with her ending up in jail for the murder of her ex-husband. Riq being the momma’s boy he is doesn’t want to see his mom locked up for something he did, but she insists that he sticks to the plan and finish school setting up the next chapter in the Starz hit series, Power Book II: Ghost.
Ahead of the show’s Sunday (Sept.6) season premiere, we had an opportunity to talk with Michael Rainey Jr., who will be reprising his role as Riq but on a much bigger scale this time around. Riq is now the focal point of the show, and it will revolve around his decisions as he makes moves on the streets and, at the same time, maneuvers through the halls of Stansfield as he works feverishly to get his mom out jail and taking care of his family in the wake of his father’s death.
In our interview, Rainey Jr. expressed he isn’t scared at all and is excited to take the lead in the first of many Power spinoffs. He is also trying to get Power viewers who historically couldn’t stand his character’s ass (a testament to his acting skills) to give Riq a chance to redeem himself.
Cassius: We literally watched your character Riq grow up on Power, and now you’re basically in the driver’s seat in Power Book II: Ghost. How does it feel to have the show revolve around Riq now?
Michael Rainey Jr.: Yeah, it’s crazy having the show revolve around Riq, you know. Because going from being a reoccurring role to then, I became a season regular and then from there’s now, like, I’m the lead of the show.
It’s insane because that was like the last thing I was thinking about when I first got on this show. Like this is seven years ago, I’m just I’m here, I’m enjoying my time here. Then like boom, out of nowhere, I’m about to be the lead of the only show. Like this is what Fifty told me last year when we were filming season six. He came on set one day, and we were just talking it up. And then he was like, ‘Yo, get ready soon because you’re about to be the lead of your own show after this.’ And like, you know, Fifty is a jokester, so I was like, ‘all right, whatever, okay.’ I just laughed it off. And then like a week or two after that, Courtney Kemp had told me. And that’s when it was like ‘damn,’ like oh, this might get real. So I mean, obviously, when she told me I got a little nervous because this is a whole new responsibility.
But honestly, when it got closer to the first day of filming and all, I got a little bit less nervous. But definitely, before that, it was a lot for me because this is a big shift.
So, it was definitely big for me. It was different, for sure.
There’s new energy to this show, for sure.
C: What can fans expect from Power Book II: Ghost?
MRJ: This show, honestly, this what I like, this is what I’m most excited for. For people to see the new energy in the world of Power. Like now, Tariq is young, you get to see him be a kid and not him being a fricken villain all day (laughs).
He’s just being a kid, and you see how he acts around people his age, you get to see that youthful energy in the new world of Power.
But it’s still gritty, still violent, it still gets crazy, but the whole other side is playful, it’s youthful, it’s a lot more joking. Definitely, like a new dynamic to Power that not a lot of people got to see because Power was very serious. Everything was very serious. So now people get to laugh a little more, and they get to smile and joke with the people watching it, so that’s what I’m really excited for. There’s new energy to this show for sure.
C: Riq’s relationship with his Ghost became very contentious, as well as complicated towards the end of Power, basically setting up Power Book II: Ghost. Is it a fair assessment to say that in his hate for his father, he also respects him as well, and is Riq becoming the man he couldn’t stand as he goes down this almost similar path?
MRJ: Yeah, I feel like that’s his father, so they’re the same– like that’s in their blood.
It’s kind of like inevitable for Tariq to follow in Ghost’s footsteps and the thing about it is Tariq is so similar to Ghost that he doesn’t even notice it. So that’s like, so that’s like scarier part for him. Because he doesn’t recognize how dangerous or crazy he can be because he’s focused so much on trying not to be like his father.
He’s just automatically in his blood, so it’s inevitable for him.
C: Now, you know, you already touched on people feeling a certain way about your character. Riq has become one of television’s most polarizing characters over the years.
…Tariq is so similar to Ghost that he doesn’t even notice it.
C: And that’s also a testament to your excellent portrayal of him.
MRJ: Thank you.
C: So that goes to say you’re doing a good job. So being that you are well aware of the disdain towards Riq, do you feel like he’s unfairly judged? This is your opportunity to convince Power fans that maybe we should give Riq a second chance.
MRJ: (laughs) Yeah, honestly, I feel like, not a lot of people understood his actions. Obviously, he made some crazy decisions and did crazy things. But when your father leaves the family for someone else, it hurt him. He’s trying to figure out why he did that.
Why the family? Not even just his father, why the family? They didn’t even want to be truthful–he basically grew up on a lie. So once he figured out the truth, he was like, ‘f-ck these people.”(laugh)
So now, I’m going to act out. My father wants to leave, my family wants to lie about everything. So it was bound to happen.
I feel like now he had a decision to make as a man. He’s not acting off of anger towards his family. Now he has to really make decisions for him, for his mom in jail, grandma, and little sister Yasmine. Now he has to think about those people while he makes those decisions. When you make the right decision, it’s kinda hard for people not to respect it.
They’re definitely going to see a lot of that from Tariq. Just growing up and making those right choices for him and his family. So I think that’s going to be a good time for Tariq to redeem himself.
C: There are a lot of familiar faces from Power, along with your character returning. But Power Book II: Ghost introduces new characters as well. What was like working iconic musical acts like Method Man. Mary J. Blige and a rising star in the acting world like Woody McClain?
MRJ: Dope, you know, like, Method Man, is a legend. I always knew who he was like ever since I was young. Method man and my father, they were pretty cool, growing up. Their neighborhoods were parallel to each other, so they were pretty close, and they have a lot of history. And then like, Mary J., like that’s insane. When my mom was cleaning the house when I was little she would always be listening to that.
So all I got was that in my ear as well. So it’s just like going from being young and hearing them and just seeing them on the screen and hearing them on the speakers to being on the screen with them it’s like crazy. It’s a blessing. I never would have thought I would be in this position sharing the screen with these legends. It’s crazy.
When you make the right decision, it’s kinda hard for people not to respect it.
C: We’re living in a new world. COVID-19 has affected a lot of industries, especially film and television. How do you see the entertainment industry being different going forward?
MRJ: I’d say like, right now, it definitely changed the whole world for sure. With filming, there is always a lot of people on set, you know. So getting back to work is going to be tough. They gotta have all these new precautions and all these new rules and stuff like that.
I feel like it’s not going to be too much of a challenge to get back to work, but I feel like they will have to work with on these circumstances. They will probably have to change things in the story, and do all kinds of different things to keep less people around on set. But honestly, I feel like we definitely took a big hit because we had to shut down production. We were literally on episode eight when we got shut down. Dang, we were this close to being done, and then the whole COVID thing went on, but I feel like it definitely changed a lot. But the SAG union made sure everything was under control, and soon hopefully, people will get back to work. And be safe while they’re working too.
I feel right now things are definitely going to change, but people will be able to get back to work sooner or later.
Power Book II: Ghost premieres 9pm ET/PT on Starz. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for our live commentary and head back here for our recap immediately following the first episode.