Deadline recaps “Power’s” pivotal episode and interviews executive producer Courtney Kemp and star Lucy Walters:
Power has been building towards a pivotal confrontation and reconciliation all this season and tonight both occurred – to fatal and, according to series creator Courtney Kemp, “inevitable” results
For the latter, the fifth episode of the Starz series’ third run saw estranged drug kingpin partners James “Ghost” St. Patrick and Tommy Egan reunite Sunday to stop the string pulling Felipe Lobos after both their lives were almost blown away. While Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s recovering Kanan is now back in NYC and preparing his own revenge on Ghost, for the former the tragic showdown tonight was between Tommy and his now returned girlfriend Holly. With little left unseen, the Sanford Bookstaver directed and Damione Macedon & Raphael Jackson Jr. written “Help Me” detailed an emotional explosion that violently and shockingly ended with the Lucy Walters played character dead literally at the hands of her Joseph Sikora portrayed lover and Omari Harwick’s Ghost arriving to handle the immediate ramifications.
The midseason turn of events comes as Power has been riding a high this year for both itself and for Starz. The Kemp created and 50 Cent EP’d show snared the best debut viewership of any Starz series ever with its Season 3 premiere on July 17. In fact, Power has topped premiere cable every week since in total audience. The Hardwick, Lela Loren, Sikora, Naturi Naughton and Walters co-starring drama has also hit number #1 among the 18-49s on the crowded overall cable weekends three of the last four weeks.
With that in mind, Walters and EP Kemp spoke with me about the whys and hows of the pregnant Holly’s death and what consequences it holds for the rest of the season and the CBS Television Studios produced series going forward. The ex-Good Wife supervising producer and the Shame actress also discussed how the news of the character’s demise was broken to Walters, what filming that strangulation scene was like, working together again and how Holly won’t be the only character leaving Power this year.
DEADLINE: Let’s just get right to it, why did Holly have to die in this episode?
KEMP: Well’s there’s a couple of reasons like that the whole front of Season 3 is actually not so much about Tommy picking Holly over Ghost, as Tommy reacting to Ghost rejecting him. Then there’s basic thing that the Holly, Ghost, Tommy thing was a love triangle, and it had to play out along the lines of a love triangle, which is that you can’t as Holly said to Tommy last season, “you can’t have me and Ghost.” So, we’ve already stated it, so when Tommy’s like “I’ve got to warn Ghost about the hit by the Jamaicans” that Holly’s put out on him and when he won’t pull the trigger himself to kill Ghost as Lobos is demanding, it’s inevitable what happened to Holly tonight.
DEADLINE: Did it seem that inevitable to you, Lucy?
WALTERS: Well, the whole situation doesn’t make any sense to Holly, you know. For her there shouldn’t be this unholy trinity, because to her, it’s like a duet. I don’t understand why you keeping making a trio. As an actor, I don’t delude myself that this is a story about Tommy and Holly, obviously, this is, at the end of the day, a real romance between Tommy and Ghost, and I’m aware of that.
But still, Holly is so sort of pragmatic and reasonable and I think she’s a good complement to Tommy because Tommy is pure emotion. He doesn’t really think things out. Holly is always five steps ahead, and that’s not Tommy’s way and when she pays for the hit on Ghost, that sends everything out of control.
KEMP: In Tommy’s mind, Holly had done the thing that he could not do, which was kill Ghost. But she’s also done something that she can’t apologize for, she can’t lie her way out of. None of the tricks that she’s used before will change the fact that at that moment, at least to Tommy, Ghost is dead and she is the reason. Having realized Ghost saved him from the Koreans in the last episode, he feels like, “oh, Ghost isn’t rejecting me, Ghost still loves me and Ghost protected me.” So his reaction to her having killed Ghost is that, is, “oh no, I was going to get this back.” They’re mutually exclusive, Holly and Ghost, for Tommy – and you can’t have two great loves of your life
Let’s be clear too, Tommy’s love for Ghost is not romantic. It’s not sexual. It’s none of that. That’s his brother, and so it is really hard, and I’m sure everyone can respond to family versus romantic love. That’s a choice that a lot of people are forced to make.
DEADLINE: How do you think the audience is going to react to Tommy killing Holly?
KEMP: Oh, I have no idea what the fan reaction will be – none.
WALTERS: Neither do I, but like Courtney said, sometimes as women, we keep deluding ourselves and we keep justifying bad choices. I think it is my job as an actor to sort of justify and sort of find the love in that relationship. But, it is also something that’s part of a real conversation, and I will be very interested to know what the fan conversation is surrounding this.
KEMP: I do know this, that what happens to Holly is a direct result of the game that she played. It is a direct result of the world of Power, and so I just want to be really clear about that because that’s the most important thing – that to depict something is not to condone something.
I consider myself a feminist and we are not glorifying domestic violence in any way with this episode. This show goes there because I don’t really believe in being fearful as a writer, I want to be fearless. So for Tommy and Holly, I feel as though when you get in a relationship with a man who is violent, then there’s this thing that women do, we do this not with violence, we do this with everything, of thinking “I’ll be different, he’ll treat me different.” And it’s a delusion because that’s actually not how it is.
So you know, Tommy’s not the most articulate cat. He’s not going to say to her, “well, I feel very conflicted that you ordered a hit on James. I just…I don’t know how to feel about that, Holly.” He’s not that guy, but, in fact, he even tried to kick her out in the scene. I think this is really important. We were very careful about how this escalated.
WALTERS: For Tommy, I think it was like breaking a toy, he didn’t realize his own strength.
KEMP: Yes, so you have to go through what the scene is. She starts the real physicality, and that was really important too because Holly isn’t an incredibly articulate person either. She is a cat. She’s fighting for her life and so she’s going to scratch, and I think that that’s really important that we look at the theme, we look at all the different dynamics that happen.
Now, I don’t think that every audience member is going to go, “Wow, they really thought this through.” There’s going to be some people who say, well, the b***h had it coming. There are going to be some people who see how incredibly destroyed Tommy is. There are going to be some people who recognize this is a tragedy for both characters.
DEADLINE: Are we going to see other major characters’ die before the end of Season 3?
KEMP: Yep, That would be a Y-E-P answer. Yep.
I would say this too, Holly story’s not over even in Season 4 because Tommy’s still walking around with this big secret and he’s still walking around with something that is …I mean, can you even imagine the guilt that you would have murdering someone you love, murdering someone who was carrying your child? What that does to your ability to continue to…
DEADLINE: Because obviously at some point he’s going to have to discover that Holly was pregnant with his child and…
KEMP: I would say so because we know that someone else is in possession of that secret, right? We know Tasha knows that. We know Tasha and Tommy have a really close relationship. I think we’ll have to wait for that, but it’s nothing that happens right away. Right now, he’s unaware. I also don’t think that it would go down the same way if he had been aware, obviously.
And, in the coming episode Tommy is horrified by what he’s done. He’s not horrified because he finds out that she’s pregnant. He’s horrified because he’s horrified – because we really wanted to separate those two ideas. He’s horrified because he killed Holly. He’s horrified by that. The additional information about the unborn child, when it comes, it does have an effect on him, but it’s not like he’s fine with what he did then finds out that she was pregnant and is like, “oh s**t, I shouldn’t have done that” because that to me really would have demeaned the relationship between Tommy and Holly. It would’ve cheapened how important this person was to him.
DEADLINE: Lucy, after all the near misses your character has had, how did you find out last year that Holly was finally going to be killed off on the show?
WALTERS: (Laughs) Courtney’s a busy woman and she doesn’t always have time to talk if you want to have a chat after a table read, so when I was called into her office last fall, I had a feeling that a death sentence might be coming down. And it’s so interesting how the head and the heart sort of process things at different paces and even though I sort of was intellectually there, it was also really way more emotionally effecting than I had anticipated that conversation to be.
DEADLINE: I’ve always wondered how an actor handles that talk…
WALTERS: I will say, I certainly needed a few days to process. I guess after Courtney told me, I talked to Joe first, and Joe really I think had actually known before me. And to his credit, kept a good secret, and Joe and I don’t really keep secrets, you know. He had kept that completely a secret from me, which I really appreciate, so that I could know on my own. I remember sort of making a joke before Courtney and I talked like, it’s going to come. It’s going to come, and him just being like, I’m sure not.
DEADLINE: What was shooting that death scene with Joe like for you Lucy?
WALTERS: It was really intense, I have to be honest. Besides the scene itself, it was also intense because you know, this has been my life for three years. I have loved this role. I have loved this world. I have loved working with all of the people, with Courtney, with Joe – it has been life changing for me.
So, it was not only an intense thing for an actor to do, I mean, that’s kind of fun, that’s the meat of our job, but it was also intense because it was my last day of being in this world. Ultimately, to me, it felt dark, but it also felt really satisfying in a way, that there was this closure to it.
DEADLINE: You guys shot this episode just before Thanksgiving last year, so how did you keep it under wraps? Lucy was at all the premieres and junkets but not the TCA earlier this month, a slight hint…
WALTERS: It was really tricky because I’m not a very good liar, and I felt like it was a good test for me. I kept trying to think of reasons why, you know, my hair is a different color for a different role, and I kept talking about maybe Holly has to get a new identity, just trying really hard to not straight up lie, but to have plausible reasons that wouldn’t give it away. So it was hard because this thing that was the center of my life was no more, but really trying to navigate that fine balance of moving on, but also just not spoiling it – that was hard.
Like, the people around me are also huge fans of the show, you know. My mom, I had to tell my mom before, and she was like, “well don’t tell me how.” She really wanted to watch as a fan.
DEADLINE: Courtney, to pivot for a moment, we were introduced to the Jukebox character this season, played by Anika Noni Rose – it seemed like her story arc ended with her telling Kanan it was time to go back to NYC after the successful jewelry heist and the healing up of his wounds from the end of Season 2. Will we see more of the corrupt D.C. cop?
KEMP: Yes, we will – I mean, people’s response to her was even bigger than I had hoped. Look, Anika is a very busy lady and we will definitely, definitely see more Jukebox but, there are other stories that kind of needed to dominate.
There are things that are happening in episode 6 and 7 of Season 3 that require a lot of page count in another direction where there was very little page count in episodes 1 through 5, so you’re going to see other characters grow and change in that way. As much as Jukebox won’t be there, she may not be missed as much because other things will be happening.
DEADLINE: Like the reunion of Ghost and Tommy and what looks like Ghost shedding the suit of the legit world for at least a bit to settle scores?
KEMP: Absolutely. We had Ghost and Tommy apart for the first half of the season and we really wanted to bring them together for the second half, so that’s part of it. We really wanted to see how these two men would reunite because that it part of the story.
DEADLINE: And to talk about Holly’s death again, how do you, as the Power creator and showrunner, feel about a major cast member leaving?
KEMP: I’ve said publicly that Lucy is one of my favorite people and Holly is my favorite character.
DEADLINE: Sounds like you are leaving the door open to a flashback appearance or not?
KEMP: I don’t know how I would do that within the context of this show because I feel like we’ve told the whole story between Tommy and Holly onscreen, as I want to do.
What is more likely is that I will write a show where number #1 on the call sheet is Lucy Walters, that’s more what I plan to do with Lucy as a opposed to bringing Holly back. I have a couple of actors where it’s like this person is now a muse, they make me want to create other stuff.
There are so many things that I want to do, other shows and I feel like I get why sometimes when you watch Aaron Sorkin’s stuff, how it’s like the Aaron Sorkin players proudly present. He just brings back the same people over and over again, or kind of what Ryan Murphy has been doing with his anthology series where you just want to play with these crayons. You just want to take these crayons and like make a different world, and so I think for me, my passion is about Lucy.
WALTERS: I’m sort of speechless. I mean, that’s just everything that you ever want to hear from anyone, but especially somebody that I respect as deeply as I do Courtney. I would, of course, love nothing more than to get to have a second act together.