This interview contains spoilers for Power and Power Book II: Ghost.
In the Power universe, law is a terrible profession. On the original show, coke kingpin James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) kills his onetime lawyer, Terry Silver (Brandon Victor Dixon). His best friend and drug-trafficking partner, Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora), murders another one of James’s lawyers, Joe Proctor (Jerry Ferrara). Egan, who’s always down to strangle or stab or shoot a perceived enemy, also kills federal prosecutor Angela Valdes (Lela Loren), James’s on-again, off-again lover. Another federal prosecutor, who’s in cahoots with a Mexican drug lord, is knifed in jail. Meanwhile, the lawyers on Power who survived and made it to Power Book II: Ghost are shadowed by entanglements stemming from their unsuccessful efforts to nab James and Tommy.
Enter Method Man, who plays defense attorney Davis MacLean on Power Book II: Ghost. MacLean reps Tasha St. Patrick (Naturi Naughton), James’s widow, who’s jailed following her arrest for James’s murder. Initially, MacLean doesn’t want the case, but Tasha and James’s son, Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.) — the real killer — forces MacLean’s hand by publicly announcing that he’s defending his mom. MacLean’s seeming leeriness about Tasha’s case, and the mysterious source of Tariq’s money to cover her defense, are apparently overshadowed by an opportunity for great press. With Tasha as a client, MacLean can strengthen his persona as an aggressive defensive attorney who champions the rights of those wrongly maligned by an unjust system.
With Power Book II: Ghost back on Starz for the second half of its season, Method Man spoke to Vulture about MacLean’s evolution, his thoughts on real-life courtrooms, and the status of How High 3.
You’ve never played the role of a lawyer before this, so what informed your portrayal of Davis?
First, I had to use a few references, and once I got my feet wet and got grounded, I give a lot of credit to where the character went to the director of the pilot episode, Anthony Hemingway. Because he kind of put things [into] perspective for me. I already had an idea of what I was going to do, but sometimes somebody can broaden what you were thinking about, that kind of adds on to what you’re already doing. And once Davis MacLean was manifested onscreen, it is what it is. Honestly, I enjoy playing this guy a lot. I love the polarizing effect that he has on the fans, and I’m just going to have fun with him from now on.
You said that you had a few references going in, who were you looking at?
Denzel [Washington] comes to mind off the top. In my acting class, I had to do a scene from Philadelphia with my scene partner, and I played the Denzel role, so it kind of prepared me for the work that I was going to do on Power. Also, Johnnie Cochran’s mannerisms inside and outside the court, because I needed something real and grounded. And then you know, add Method Man. I add Method Man to every character I [do]. But then Anthony Hemingway, because I came in with all these ideas and he kind of grounded them, mixed them all together, and made them taste good in a nice stew.
What were some of the things that Hemingway brought to the character that you hadn’t thought about before?
Well, this is where the Method Man comes in. The courtroom scenes, which I was a little leery about because usually, in a courtroom setting, I’m not on that side of the fence. He told me that you approach the courtroom the same way you would approach the stage where you perform. This is where Method Man comes in. I’m a performer, consummate performer, I took it as I’m standing in front of a class, and I know my shit, and I’m about to blow them away, and it comes out in the performance. This is what I do. Once he put that thought into my head, I was off to the races: This is Method Man and Davis MacLean performing in front of this crowd. He needed a little bit of that Method Man in him in order to get his point across.
You mentioned that usually in a courtroom setting, you’re “on the other side of the fence.” Explain that a little bit more.
You know, little minor infractions here and there, or I’m going to see if someone that I love or a friend of mine is in court, usually, just like I said, minor infractions. We had the Targee St. courthouse [on Staten Island]. Growing up where I grew up, a lot of times you get in trouble for dumb shit. I’ve never seen where a judge sits or sat in the judge’s seat, pounded the gavel, people go school for that. I don’t know what those papers are. I just know it’s as boring as shit in the courtroom. And if you fall asleep, they kick you out.
So you don’t feel like those experiences informed your character, how you approached playing Davis?
In a sense, yeah, I’m glad you asked that. Because, for me, whenever I was in the courtroom, I would look at the lawyers and the public defenders and the people that are just there, pro bono guys or whatever, and I would look at their shoes. [If] they had great shoes, that meant they were getting money, and then I’d work my way up from the shoes to the suit and be like, “Yeah, that’s Armani. That’s definitely a Tom Ford he got on right there” … And you know, a lot of times we do as people — which is fucked up — but we do judge people on appearance, you know. Like I said before, and this is from [NFL star] Deion Sanders: “If you look good and play good, your pay good.”
Would you want Davis to represent you?
Yeah, he has a good track record. I wouldn’t mind him representing me. I mean, I’m not going to question anyone’s moral code, especially someone who’s a lawyer. You know, it is what it is with lawyers. He does take very good care of his clients, if they can pay his fee.
I’m glad you brought up the moral code. It seems like in representing Tasha, he has a lot of internal conflict. Tariq finds an end run for you to represent Tasha, who you didn’t really want to represent, and then you want to defend her, and then you have reservations again, because she withholds info. So run me through what’s going through Davis’s head throughout this evolution of this situation.
He didn’t know what he was getting himself into in the beginning. I mean, even the conversation he had with Tariq in the beginning, where he tells him “500K,” it was more or less to get rid of the kid. But when the kid came with some of the money, and he pulled that stunt that he pulled, he kind of forced Davis’s hand, but even then, Davis told him this only buys you the week, maybe some counsel on the side, if that. But as the case went on, and he started to learn more things, it’s more or less like his curiosity gets the best of him. And Davis, when he’s in it, it’s like, “Okay, now it’s just, how do I get a win?” Then Tasha lies to him. He’s been here before, he has a brother that he tells her about, and he says he’s never told anybody to tell the truth. Something about his brother and the truth …
He said he’s only told two clients to tell the truth, one was his brother and the other was Tasha.
Exactly. He’s laying down what he’s trying to tell her, like, “Look, don’t lie to me. Lie to everybody else but do not lie to me. I can take the truth. And I can twist it in any way, form, or fashion that you need me to do, but do not lie to me.” From there, Tariq keeps coming with the money. So now it’s like, okay, this is serious and it’s a high-profile case. We see [federal prosecutor Cooper] Saxe (Shane Johnson) over here, where did this come from? Okay, now, I want to beat this guy, not just beat this guy, but beat the system as well, for an African American family in the United States of America. How good a headline is that?
It sounds like Davis’s curiosity about this case was replaced by ambition, and throughout Power, ambition has always had kind of disastrous results. When you’re playing Davis, do you try to have that in the back of your mind? Or is he not realizing that yet?
No, no. Davis doesn’t realize anything like that. Davis is in a space where he feels like he’s untouchable. You know, he cheats on his wife with a special investigator. How crazy is that? Being that high profile and doing something like that? Davis is the epitome of what Power is about: winning, coming out at the end, everybody else can fall by the wayside, but you’re the king, still sitting on a chessboard. Checkmate. Davis does not feel touchable at all. Not just loopholes in the courtroom. He knows the loopholes in life also, at least in my opinion.
Do you see Davis as a turning point in your acting work? Do you feel like you’d be interested in more legal roles on this side of the courtroom, or do you feel like there’s another aspect of acting calling you?
I know there’s a big, big something out there. It hasn’t gotten me yet, or I haven’t found it yet. I’m not saying this right here isn’t a treasure in itself, because I mean, I’m on a spinoff of a show that was on for six seasons, with a rabid fan following, but in the same breath, you want to be able to challenge yourself more and step outside of comfort zones and just see how far you can take it, you know? I’m like Pac-Man right now. I’m trying to eat as many pellets as I can before the ghost gets me.
So what are some of the other pellets you’re eating? I know you have a podcast …
Nice, very nice segue. Yes, I do have a podcast. It’s called Marvel/Method [on the SiriusXM app] and basically, we’re interviewing other celebrities from music, TV, movies, everything, and finding that they have a love for comic books, and then talking shop with them. Not only talking shop, but we bring in maybe a surprise guest to explain story lines and things like that. And out of the conversations that I’ve had with the guests, I always learned something new, not just about the comic books but about life in general, their lives in general, and how they even found comic books. You don’t even have to be a comic-book geek.
So on Power Book II: Ghost, you’re working with Mary J. Blige. You both won the Grammy for “You’re All I Need,” then worked together again on “Love @ First Sight.” What’s it like working with her again?
It’s great. We don’t actually have any scenes together, at least I can’t give away if we have any scenes together until you guys actually watch the series. But Mary’s always been a consummate professional. You don’t last this long in the game and be a corny person. Mary’s always been like, just the queen. She exudes greatness, just a fabulous Black woman who came from where I came from. Anytime I run into her, it’s always love. There’s never any uncomfortable energy in the room and I’m pretty sure everybody experienced that by now on the Power set. She comes to work ready. And the fans, man, they have yet to see what Monet is capable of, but they will in the second half of the season.
You had mentioned that you can’t say much because Monet and Davis have not interacted onscreen yet. But, the way you said it kind of made it sound like they might have some interaction later on in the series …
No, that’s just me being aloof. That’s it. I’m not giving away any clues or anything whatsoever, but I just know a lot of people have wanted to see that, but some people for the wrong reason. They think we’re going to bust out in song and do a quick “All I Need” thing, make it a musical real fast: Power: The Musical. It’s not going to happen, though.
What can you tell us about what we might see in these last few episodes with Davis?
Davis is going to turn the screw, so to speak. And Davis is going to have to adjust and readjust and adjust again, just to gather all the things that he’s learning, and he’s taking chances. But he’s taking chances he shouldn’t take. It’s going to crash in his face, and that doesn’t sound good for him or his client.
There’s going to be another season of Ghost. Can you tell us about Davis’s role in that or potential roles?
Yeah I survive, I don’t get Proctor-ed, but you never know. There are still five episodes left.
So wait, you say you don’t get Proctor-ed, but then you say we don’t know what’s gonna happen. So which is it?
This is me being vague, Victoria. I will not lose my job, no. Just know that the plot thickens and some things are going to turn sour, and in this world, when things turn sour, people die.
One thing I also wanted to ask because I haven’t seen too much about it in the press: You’re working on a How High 3?
Yeah, yes we are. We’ve been in meetings with people from Universal and it’s going to be a trip in more ways than one. And I think that we got a hit here. Hopefully, when it does come to fruition — and it will — people will receive it well. They will say, “We’re going to wrap this up in a nice little bow.” After this How High, there could be a How High 4, maybe How High 5. We could do a Friday with it, who knows? But right now, we’re in the beginning stages trying to get it solidified and done.
Are you going to be reprising your role in it?
Silas and Jamal, baby! We on deck, yes ma’am!
So what does How High 3 look like in this economy? Are they doing an unpaid internship, or how does it work?
I’m not telling. Not yet, at least. No way. But that was good. That was really good right there. I like how you did that, because you are actually coming from where a reader would come from. That was nice, though. Sorry, Victoria. Not today.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.