‘Breaking Bad.” “The Sopranos.” “Game of Thrones.”
Competition is stiff to rank among cable’s most popular drama series, but the stars behind the Starz channel’s new show “Power” are ready for the challenge. Set in New York, it’s the story of two clean-cut-looking drug dealers and best friends who differ only in their desires on next steps for their business. Translation: One wants to go legal while the other wants to deal dirty.
One thing that sets the series apart — aside from being executive produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson — is the diversity of the cast. The two lead stars, one from Norwood Park, helm an interracial bromance. It’s the kind of realistic friendship oft-missing from cable shows that take place in America’s largest city.
“The best friends in this show are white and black and the music is not just gonna be of the hip-hop genre,” says the Atlanta-born Omari Hardwick, who portrays James “Ghost” St. Patrick, the Spanish-speaking drug lord who also runs a night club. (You might recognize Hardwick for his sultry role on BET’s recent hit series “Being Mary Jane.”) “No disrespect to the show ‘Friends’ that went forever, but I always felt a little weird that it was in New York and nobody there looked like me.”
Adds co-star Joseph Sikora, who once boxed for the West Town-based Matador Boxing Club and who portrays Ghost’s best friend Tommy Egan, “It’s really representative of New York. The Latino community is strongly represented, and we have black, white and everything in between. It shows New York off as the incredibly diverse community that it is.”
The two men complement each other in real life and on screen. They banter. They know each other’s family history. They get a kick out of trading Chicago stories. (Hardwick says he once dated a woman who lived off 63rd and California and has cousins from Harvey to Naperville. He also lived in Streeterville for three months while filming “Beauty Shop.”)
True to other Starz shows — “Spartacus” and “Boss” come to mind — “Power” (premiering at 8 p.m. Saturday) doesn’t shy away from violence or intrigue. Though the stars won’t verify if it will follow the kill-off-the-main-characters trend that is filtering through today’s TV landscape, they do say that the violence is not unabashedly glorified.
“When approaching the job, you are sort of having to be unapologetic about delving into these characters and doing them in a way that’s true and raw and different and groundbreaking,” says Hardwick.
Sikora says show creator Courtney Kemp Egbo shows the consequences of living the fast life. “It’s like any kind of thing that is action-packed,” he says. “It’s hard to look away, and Courtney did an amazing job of creating this world. But people just don’t walk away. There are consequences for these actions, and she shows those.”
When the conversation turned to deep-dish pizza, neither could stop talking. And, having lived in both New York and Chicago, Sikora says he can settle the pizza wars for good.
“Super shout-out back to my neighborhood pizza joint Phil’s Pizza D’oro,” says Sikora, an ensemble member of Shattered Globe Theatre Company. He adds, “In New York, [you can get] a great piece of pizza but sometimes it reminds of me of getting a slice at the Brickyard [mall] or something. It reminds me of mall pizza.”