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Kendrick Lamar showed up ‘to win’ after taking on role as drug addict on Power

Grammy-award and Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar will be making a guest appearance on this Sunday’s episode of Power on Starz.

It is his first role in scripted television, with new footage released by the network showing an interview Lamar gave to showrunner Courtney Kemp.

It comes after it was revealed at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills that the gritty yet sleek hit drama has been repeatedly building its audience to new ratings-breaking heights in Season 5.

Kendrick Lamar will pay a drug addict on Power
Kendrick Lamar will pay a drug addict on Power

Carmi Zlotnik, President of Programming at Starz, told how viewing figures are up 12 per cent across all platforms in Season 5, with record-breaking numbers of people using the network’s app to watch it.

The cast and showrunner Courtney Kemp then delivered the key points for the new season.

Executive produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Power is a drama about James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), who’s desperately trying to shed his drug kingpin history and reputation for a legitimate life among societal elites.

Sunday’s episode, Happy Birthday, guest stars Kendrick Lamar as a drug addict. But don’t get too excited, as Kemp explained Lamar’s role was not going to continue.

When asked if he would return, she said: “No. There are no guest stars like that. That wasn’t really the plan. The plan was not a guest star.

“What happened is 50 [Cent] was like, ‘Kendrick mentioned that he’d wanted to be on the show.’ And then I got on the phone with Kendrick and said, ‘What do you want to play?

“Because that’s my favorite thing to ask an actor: ‘What do you want to do that you’ve never done before?’ That’s my favorite question.

“And then he said, ‘You know, I’d like to play’ — well, he didn’t say ‘drug addict,’ he used a different word. But so then we created the character Laces.

“We’d already broken part of the season and we were always gonna have 50’s character use someone else to kill a bunch of Tainos. So those two things came together very naturally.

“We already had the idea in place. And then Safia Dirie wrote this incredible script and this incredible character in Laces for Kendrick to play. And then he showed up to win.”

The series killed off a child character, Ghost’s daughter Raina, last season which raised questions during the panel about that rare moment dramatized in television.

Kemp said: “In the season that built to that death, to Raina’s death, we were really focused on the sophomoric or wise fool of the adolescent and the way that the adolescent brain doesn’t quite work all the way.

“It’s like most of the way there, but not. And so we were really writing about Tariq not being able to understand the consequence of his actions and the fact that twins keep secrets and that adolescents keep secrets.

“And so it actually all comes together in Episode 501. You saw little pieces of that when both Ghost and Tasha say, ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ That’s really the crux of what happened.

“So on our show, deaths are always in some way the fault of the person who died, always. So Raina, when she agrees not to tell their mom, she has taken on a little bit of the responsibility because she, too, decided not to involve the adults.

“She had her opportunity and didn’t. In terms of making the decision to ‘kill a child,’ that’s what would have happened.”

Kemp was clear that Power definitely has an endpoint in her storytelling, but was coy about the exact duration of the series.

“I pitched this show with the end game in mind,” she said. “Some things have changed along the way but we knew the ending all along. The success of the show may have prolonged that ending but it’s the same ending it always was going to be.”

In April 2018, Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize for his album DAMN.

Power airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
April Neale
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