Five facts about ‘Power’ creator and showrunner Courtney A. Kemp
Kemp recently signed a multi-year pact with Netflix after years with Lionsgate
Television writer and producer Courtney A. Kemp is changing the game.
After signing a lucrative Netflix deal, the Power showrunner opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about her commitment to amplifying more diverse voices, leaving Lionsgate and more.
What’s next after your first show draws in more than 10 million views and spawns five spin-offs? This is the crossroads Kemp finds herself at as she prepares to enter the next chapter of her career. Her first show she ever pitched, Power, has been a smash hit for Starz and Lionsgate, and clearly, the industry noticed.
After her deal with Lionsgate ended in August, Kemp signed a multi-year pact with Netflix, which seems to be the popular move for television titans (Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris signed similar deals).
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter‘s Mikey O’Connell, Kemp shed light on this new era of her career.
Kemp wants to “challenge” her audience
Kemp is very clear that she wants to push people with her work. “I want to challenge my audience. I want to be pushed or to push people. I love honest, frank talk about race, gender and sexuality. It’s not a small thing to me.” Reflecting on a gay character in Power Book II: Ghost, she reveals, “one of the sons in the drug-dealing family is gay and has a relationship. There were people who were like, ‘You shouldn’t do that because the audience won’t like it.’ Well, if you make a show about people who are college-age in 2021 and everyone is straight, you’re an a—-e. You’re an a—–if you make that show.”
Despite pressure, she “trusts” her track record
Signing a major deal with a streamer can be daunting, to say the least, but Kemp knows through her experience that it’s nothing she can’t handle. “My experience as a showrunner is specific to me but true of a lot of people I know,” she says. “We’ve been overachieving — because of trauma, nature, nurture or whatever — since we were kids. The perfectionism thing is really a big part of showrunning. You want to do people proud. At the same time, I trust that my track record is not so bad. I’ll come up with something.”
Despite its success, Power was overlooked by Hollywood
While simply looking at the data shows that Power is a successful television series, Kemp reveals that it still faced an uphill battle with many of her Hollywood peers. “I’ve been in multiple rooms full of showrunners and WGA members — before the pandemic, of course — and heard, ‘Oh, you’re a showrunner? Power? Never heard of it,'” she explains. “If your own peer group has never heard of your show, and it’s been on for six years and it’s the biggest hit on your network, it can’t just be because they’re not looking for it. It has to be a combination of factors. It has not been the universe’s will that we be acknowledged in the way that I would hope, on a mainstream level, and I’m so grateful to the Image Awards for acknowledging us as much as they have.”
Kemp is still involved with her Power spin-offs, though in a limited capacity
Similar to how Grey’s Anatomy is still airing on ABC long past Shonda Rhimes’ transition to Netflix, Kemp’s Power spin-offs will continue on Starz. Kemp describes herself as “not completely divested from them” but is now focused on Netflix. She shared, “New business is my focus. As a sunflower turns toward the sun, we turn toward the development of new projects.”
Kemp will always prioritize amplifying diverse voices
Challenging her audience is much more than an artistic decision for Kemp, it’s a personal commitment. She adds in the interview, “I’ve said it before, but the color that matters in Hollywood is green. And I think people look to me to provide a certain demographic of viewer. I’m very committed to, BIPOC, LGBTQIA and women. Those are the areas where I’m committed to telling stories and amplifying voices — which isn’t to say that if you’re a straight white man, you can’t have a great story. But I’m pretty sure you’ll get that on [the air]. That door will open to you. Whereas if you are a queer woman of color, maybe people aren’t listening as much. They’re starting to listen more.”
Read the full interview with Kemp and The Hollywood Reporter, here.
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