As we approach the finale of "Power" next weekend, most audience members will admit that this season has impacted them. In other seasons we have seen characters evolve, change directions, surprise or shock us.
But for season four, the characters didn’t make us believe they were someone other than who they were at the beginning of the season. It was us, who actually changed.
After the death of a child, a mystery father revealed, a teenager kidnapped and witness to multiple murders and the view inside this scripted prison, how could we as viewers remain stable. We became untrustworthy, least hopeful, and more invested.
As we were changing, we continued to find humanity in more characters, both leading and newly introduced. We saw them as opportunistic but caring. Impressionable yet powerful. Flawed yet beautiful. Dangerous yet gentle. Imperfect yet relatable. And vulnerable yet unbreakable.
Before screening episode one of season four, I got a chance to speak to the women who intimately share the screen with Omari Hardwick, Naturi Naughton and Lela Loren. They offered a deeper, behind the scenes look into the intense, family oriented, driven, disparate characters of Angela and Tasha that lead the emotion behind many of the events that unfolded.
But more than just offering us Tasha and Angela, they also gave us a piece of their real life selves and their creative process to help us understand as viewers why we are so attached to many of the "Power" characters.
For an actor, how does this process impact them? Upon receipt of the script, how does Naturi become Tasha? Where does Lela find herself in Angela? And what comes first, reality or art?
Naturi Naughton and Lela Loren, arguably the most relatable yet apathetic women on TV today, describe for the WELL, the process and events unique to this season, which changed the dialogue around "Power" indefinitely.
Naturi. She is a storyteller, in film, on TV and first, in song. She believes everything she learned about telling a story through song translates to telling a story through a script.
Singing was the first art form she practiced, it was a reflection of her spirit and a part of her everyday routine. Acting came later. First on Broadway as Little Inez in “Hairspray”, then in film as Lil Kim in “Notorious.” She continued acting in roles like Denise in “Fame” before finding herself on television in “Power.”
Naturi describes how the artistic form, rhythm, and process on Broadway, and then again when she played Lil Kim was similar for both song and acting. She used her study of the breath control, the technical parts of singing, and translated that to rapping and rhyming in film for “Notorious.”
In securing more roles as her career surged, that didn’t always include singing parts, Naturi found herself portraying characters that she admired but were also quite different than her.
She admits she identifies with the fire in Tasha but isn’t nearly as badass. Finding Tasha more risqué and rebellious, she understands her process to becoming a character isn’t about being the character but finding the humanity in every one of them. She adventures through the journey of Tasha, researching, relating and then trying things on screen that she “wouldn’t have the balls to do in real life.”
Whether in a biopic, on stage or as a fictional character on TV, her characters are connected.
Naturi appeared light when we spoke to her. Months later, and in the middle of season four, she welcomed her first child, a baby girl.
Her career seems consistent to the naïve eye. She has enjoyed the process and simply describes acting as fun. She is much different than the complexities of her character Tasha and also unlike Angela as well as Lela Loren.
Lela reminds us that art does cost. It is a process. A tireless and dogmatic one. There are real people with real experiences and big dreams behind the making of art. As actors and writers, producers and directors, travel through the process, when they become idle or surge, you will see their art do the same.
Lela isn’t married to the stage or the screen. She is obsessed with being an actor. She gets that a role rarely last a full year and many times, the creative process is interrupted by the grind of seeking work.
But when she finds herself accepting a role, Lela repeats. She queues up the process.
Our words, not hers, she floats into a part. She lets the wind take her there and doesn’t control the navigation.
Here she describes, in her own words, the development of her role as Angela and compares her to a cross between a dancer and a crow.
So after floating in the wind, Lela lands, accepts the destination and begins to build a house around her new character. She starts the grunt work as she describes it. The memorizing.
Lela believes only the memorization is really similar in TV and Film. What is different is the prep.
What is required of the process in television varies from film. Lela understands you need more endurance in television. In film, you have the entirety of the script in your possession.
Television doesn’t provide an ending. TV has this different pace. The timeline. You can’t linger. You have to move on quickly through a kaleidoscope of emotions with a single character.
"Power" is no different. “Power is this compressed reality,” says Lela.
This season, we saw the art unfold in this abbreviated timeframe, that Lela describes, not just in how the characters changed but how we changed and dialogued in our own circles, different from previous seasons.
We got to know who these actors were off screen and who we were when they were on screen. We cried maybe only the second time since season one.
This show that came out of nowhere, effected us. These actors who we got to know from "Power", remained the same and watched us unfold instead. We became as obsessed with them on TV as they are with acting, writing and directing in their real life.
And through the generosity of Naturi and Lela describing their process here, we witnessed just how "Power" rose and changed us through art, creativity and good television.
The finale of season four, airs Sunday, September 3rd.
Micaeh Johnson for THE WELL.