When the legitimate business is a Manhattan nightclub, consider what the illegitimate one could be.
Starz's latest drama, "Power," from executive producer Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, who raps the theme song, premieres Saturday, June 7. In it, James "Ghost" St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) is a New York drug kingpin looking for legitimacy with his new business, a club.
He's made it this far with childhood pal Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora), who sounds as if he is from the streets and retains his rough edges. Ghost, however, is smooth and would look as comfortable at a Fortune 500 conference table as he does in his hip new club.
"I have described him as a ruthless, ambitious Pablo Escobar of sorts," Hardwick ("Being Mary Jane") tells Zap2it of his character, "who will go to all extremes to get what he wants, when he wants it. And that encompasses the narcissism he is riddled with, He is equally Cliff Huxtable, not only with his kids, but the kid within himself."
It may seem like a stretch to think of a drug dealer as Dr. Huxtable, Bill Cosby's quintessential family man in the classic NBC sitcom "The Cosby Show," but Hardwick's point is despite being a killer who has street cred, Ghost is also a solid family man.
"I want to play every bad guy in the most sympathetic way," he says. "We would forget about the nature of him being a ruthless killer as we see in Episode 1, and someone desiring to be a killer in the game of entrepreneurship. If I could just make him a regular person, a father and a husband -- he has never done anything of infidelity pertaining to his wife."
That is not going to last.
The pilot and second episodes do a wonderful job of setting up the conflicts within each character and how the characters will relate to one another. Ghost moves through life as quietly as a shadow, leaving bodies in his wake and killing effortlessly, neatly
and apparently without remorse.
His wife, Tasha (Naturi Naughton, "Lottery Ticket"), is his true partner.
"Tasha goes shopping with her girlfriends and can do whatever she wants," Naughton says. "Being the wife of the kingpin, she enjoys being a part of the whole hustle, and she wants him to lean on her for opinion. They have always been teammates in everything they have done, and it is strange when he stops coming to her with details with what is going on with the team."
Neither Ghost nor Tasha has done time, which seems odd considering they have lived off dirty money for long enough that they live large in a Tribeca penthouse. Clearly the murder Ghost commits in the pilot is not his first, and one can't help but wonder how anyone could be in the life for this long without getting caught.
"We have a character in the show played by 50 Cent who is inside," says creator Courtney Kemp Agboh. "There are guys who go in and some guys who escape it."
The show blends the life from the streets, which 50 Cent lived before becoming a successful rapper, with the life from the club.
Agboh was interested in showing how Ghost's talent as a drug supplier to the rich could be transferred to a nightclub.
"The whole first season, you can't predict the future and control what is happening," she says.
Some scenes foreshadow. A sexy woman, Angela Valdes (Lela Loren, "Gang Related"), shows up at the club, and Ghost all but melts upon seeing her. Unfortunately for both of them, Tasha sees this as well.
Angela was Ghost's first love. She had a chance at private schools and great colleges and jumped. Now she's an attorney with a government agency, so could it be coincidence that she just wandered into Ghost's club?
All Tasha knows is that she is not going to give up her man.
"She is in love with James but also in love with the life," Naughton says.
Tasha grew up poor with a single mom in Queens, and her mom pressures her to hold onto her man.
"Essentially it is not just the money she enjoys," Naughton says. "It's that security more so. She never felt safe without Ghost."
The first two episodes lay the groundwork for Angela to return to Ghost's life. Would Angela gamble her hard-won career over a criminal? Would Ghost gamble his longtime marriage over the love that got away?
If Tasha gets wise to Angela, it could get violent. And there are genuine sparks between Angela and Ghost. So what happened to the Dr. Huxtable character?
"Where the childlike quality also shows up for men in general - he is no exception to the rule - we lose ourselves when there is another piece of a... in front of us," Hardwick says.
So there will be a love triangle, tensions between two lifelong friends on whether to stick with an incredibly lucrative drug business, and family relationships set to unfold over eight episodes.
"It is a show for people who like crime, a show for people who like romance," Agboh says. "It is a show for people who like family dramas and a show for people who like cops and robbers."
Photo/Video credit: Starz