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Power’s Naturi Naughton on the Evolution of Tasha and That Debut Album You’ve Been Waiting For

Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images for ESSENCE

This interview contains spoilers for Power and Power Book II: Ghost.

When Naturi Naughton first appears on Starz’s hit series Power as drug kingpin James St. Patrick’s wife, Tasha, she is a dutiful gangster moll, albeit with reservations. Tasha supports her husband’s work in the drug game but worries about his efforts to go legit. That conflict opens a rift between her and James, better known as Ghost (Omari Hardwick): In his efforts to build a lawful nightclub empire, he spends less and less time at home. Tasha, accustomed to a luxe lifestyle, worries about the financial realities of James’s nascent venture.

Tasha’s role evolves after James starts having an affair with an old flame, Angela Valdes (Lela Loren), who turns out to be a federal prosecutor investigating James’s drug enterprise, initially unaware that it’s run by him and his best friend, Tommy (Joseph Sikora). Tasha jumps into action, plotting and commanding with Machiavellian savoir faire. And by the end of the series, Tasha makes a clear choice: She prioritizes protecting her children and herself over James. Her son, Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.), kills James in Power’s sixth and final season; it ends with Tasha arrested and jailed for James’s murder.

Power Book II: Ghost picks up where the original series left off: Tasha languishes behind bars, unwilling to implicate Tariq. Her sweetheart plea deal implodes when the Feds decide to pursue her as the queenpin of James’s drug enterprise. Tariq, meanwhile, sets up a drug empire on his elite college’s campus to fund Tasha’s legal defense and support the family. Recently, Naughton spoke with Vulture about Tasha’s evolution, as well as her past work with girl group 3LW and future projects

How have you interpreted Tasha’s development as a character through six seasons and now into Power Book II?
It’s pretty amazing, because if you’ve watched all of Power, you really do get to see Tasha and her journey, her trajectory, and how much she has grown. Obviously, Tasha started off as the wife of Ghost, and she was very content with just being a drug dealer’s wife who supports him. They were Bonnie and Clyde. But I think Tasha, in Power Book II, is a lot more independent while also being a lot more vulnerable, but she definitely has asserted herself as a woman that can stand on her own two feet.

Unfortunately, she’s in prison now, so there’s also the journey of watching Tasha in Louis Vuitton and Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford dresses to now being in an orange jumpsuit; she spends most of her time in a cell, it’s pretty amazing to watch. You’ve watched the character go from this glamorous, pulled-together woman to really being broken and raw and exposed in a way that she’s never been exposed before.

As I understand it, you’re still in production now. Is this for more Power Book II episodes or for something else? 
We’re shooting Power Book II still [in New York City]. We are actually finishing up the season. Because of COVID, we had to shut down in the middle of episode eight, and we have ten episodes to deliver, so we are actually still shooting season one of Power Book II right now, and I’m really excited about it because the season finale is amazing … When people see the finale, I think they’re going to be really hooked for season two, which we just got picked up for.

On Power, you worked alongside 50 Cent, who played the villain, Kanan, and was also an executive producer. Now he’s an executive producer on Power Book II. You’re working now with Mary J. Blige (Power II queenpin Monet Tejada) and Method Man, who plays your lawyer on the show. Did you already have relationships with all of these music icons? Did you look up to them as a young artist?
It feels surreal. It feels like I’m walking into a dream sequence right now. Obviously, growing up, looking up to Mary J. Blige, as a singer and artist and performer, I never would have imagined, here down the line, I’d be starring in a show alongside her. Like, what? No one could have told me that, and I wouldn’t have believed it [if they did]. After 3LW had kind of broken up, I was at a club event trying to get my career back together. [Editor’s note: Naughton exited the group in 2002; it fully disbanded in 2007.] I got to see 50 do “In Da Club,” it was when he first kinda really blew up. I met him backstage, and he said, “That’s shorty from 3LW!” He just was so cool and nice to me. Fast forward 15 years later: He’s producing a show that I’ve been cast in, and he chose me to play Tasha St. Patrick, along with [showrunner] Courtney Kemp. It definitely feels like a full-circle moment.

And Method Man, I did not know him personally before but I admired his career. I was obsessed with both [Mary’s] “Real Love” and Wu-Tang and everything Meth has done. As an artist, he’s legendary in hip-hop. Now that I get to work with him as an actor, I am so impressed with him and, really, we’ve become friends. We actually just recently recorded a song together [for my album].

Is this the solo project you had talked about recently, where you were going to explore the breakup of 3LW and how you felt, or is this another project?
It’s the same project. I’m working on one album right now, which will be my first solo album. I’m very excited about it. It’s funny that I did an article and everyone went crazy like, “Oh, she’s talking about 3LW,” but it’s really about a lot of different things that have happened in my life. 3LW and that breakup is one of them, but I also had a baby, have been a single mom, and went through what I did in my previous relationship.

When do you think we’ll be able to hear it?
That’s the thing. I can’t say right now, because obviously with COVID a lot of things have shifted. I was actually in Atlanta recording when things kind of broke out with us all having to go into quarantine, to get back home. The good thing is, I created a little home studio in my house, so I’m able to do certain things to keep this project going. I anticipate by 2021, hopefully by next summer.

Throughout Power and now in Power Book II, there’s been a lot of discussion about stereotypes and biases against Black men and women, particularly in business, school, and the criminal justice system. Did you expect a premium cable drama to address this as thoroughly as it has done with this franchise?
I think that because our showrunner, Courtney Kemp, is a Black woman, and because it’s a show that’s trying to show the reality of what’s happening in the world, Power has always done a really good job of addressing different parts of our society in a unique way.

I’m actually really proud of our writers and the team, and how they’ve been able to implement certain storylines into the show. I was not surprised, but I was definitely relieved and proud to see how they were able to weave in what’s happening with race, culture, and the school system. One of the lines that I say to Ghost is, “Now, you know the system is not going to treat him the same way — a young Black boy on trial for murder.” That was in relation to Tariq almost going down for the murder of a character called Ray Ray. Because we talk about that openly and honestly, it’s what makes the show also really lovable; we’re not shying away from the truth.

Since Power started there have been a lot of changes in the TV and film industries when it comes to discussions about onscreen nudity and sex scenes, a lot of it spurred by Me Too. Of course, Starz, like other premium cable networks, tends to have a lot of nudity in its shows. Was that ever uncomfortable for you? Have there been changes on set, like intimacy coordinators?
Actually, it’s funny you say that. Now, we do have intimacy coaches. [They] exist now when they didn’t before. I’d done a lot of sex scenes in the first three to four seasons. It’s scary at first; it definitely can be a little daunting, but the best thing for me is that I trusted my leading man, Omari Hardwick. He’s like a big brother to me, he’s always been very respectful. When you feel comfortable with your castmates, it really does make that level of respect a lot easier and so much better. I think the industry is changing, though, because there have been a lot of issues and complaints, rightfully so. The Me Too movement needed to happen and now we’re all a little bit more aware, I hope, of how we’re treating people when it comes to sex and sexuality and doing intimacy in a fictional world, because this does affect us in the real world. So we always need to make sure we protect the actors and anyone in that space.

You mentioned there’s going to be a really big, shocking, edge-of-your seat finale. Any hints about what we might see? 
You may see some old faces pop back up; you may see some people get killed, as per usual. I would say to just really buckle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride, and an exciting one, because we really had great writing. I know that my character has a really big moment with a character that you’ve never seen Tasha interact with, so I think it’s going to be exciting to just see how that all plays out.

Can you tell me: Is Kanan actually alive?
Oh. No, no, no. He’s been dead. A lot of people think Ghost is still alive, too; skeptical people do not believe that Ghost is really dead.

Why do you think these kinds of conspiracy theories persist despite everything that’s happened to the contrary?                           
I ask the same question, because I’m like, You guys, it is literally right there. The proof is in the pudding. I want to know the same answers, so I don’t even know. But I will say, we have a very excited and zealous bunch of fans, so maybe they talk on social media? Our show is really popular in that way. People will come up with their own little theories. I don’t know, but hey, I’ll take it. We let them go off on their own tangents and try to reel them back in when we can.

We know Power Book II focuses on Tariq, and there’s going to be another spinoff focusing on Tommy. Has there been any talk of a spinoff focusing on Tasha?
Not right now, but you know, I think Tasha is also a big part of this moment with Tariq. I guess it’s kind of all wrapped up into one.

After six seasons and now this spinoff, what’s been a standout part of this journey for you so far? 
Becoming a mom while shooting the show was a big step for me. The growth of me as a person has been really because I’ve been given an opportunity to grow in this character. I’m truly blessed by that.

When did you become a mom while shooting the show?
I was pregnant in season four, and I had her over the summer. I came back to work for season five eight weeks after having her, which was pretty surreal. And I had a C-section, too. It was a lot of work. But I did it. I still don’t know how I did it, but I did it. 

That’s impressive. Do you feel like becoming a mother informed or changed how you approached your role as a mother on Power and now Power Book II
Absolutely. It made it better. I think I feel more grounded in what it takes to be a mother, and now that it’s actually something I’m really doing in my real life, it really helps to connect to why the character is fighting so hard for her children. I don’t have to pretend what that feels like, I know it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Naturi Naughton on the Evolution of Power’s Tasha