‘Raising Kanan’ Creator Sascha Penn on Why ‘Power’ Fans Should Tune In

Mekai Curtis in Power Book 3: Raising Kanan

Power Book III: Raising Kanan follows Kanan Stark (Mekai Curtis), a 15-year-old coming of age in South Jamacia, Queens, in 1991. When we first meet Kanan in the Sunday, July 18 premiere, he is given the opportunity to test out of his high school and into one of the best high schools in the city. However, he’s more interested in joining his mother, Raq Thomas (Patina Miller), in her booming drug business.

In celebration of the third chapter in the Power Book, TV Insider caught up with series creator Sascha Penn to discuss this new take on the series’ most infamous characters and what he hopes old and new fans of the Power universe will get from the show.

Out of all the characters in Power, why Kanan? What about his character inspired you to dig deeper in this series?

Sascha Penn: It was 50 Cent and Courtney Kemp who thought that Kanan was the character worth exploring in this way, and the reason is that we always gravitate towards the villains. We always want to understand them better. Kanan was one of the most polarizing characters, if not the most polarizing character, on the original Power, and he was also pretty mysterious; he was enigmatic. And one of the reasons why is because the way 50 Cent was able to capture Kanan in the original Power gave us so much creative latitude to imagine him as a 15-year-old. 50 Cent’s portrayal of him was scary and charming and heartbreaking and heartfelt. He really put a ton of depth into that character, and that really allows for a ton of creative opportunities when you’re doing an origin story.

The relationship between Kanan and Raq is central to the story. What has it been like telling this story through that family lens, and how has that dynamic between the cast flourished?

I would say one of the things you never know when you do something like this is when you put those people in a room together if they’re going to feel like a family. What’s been amazing is how they do feel like a real family. How they talk to each other and how they relate to each other feels really organic. Make no mistake about it; this is a family drama. Yes, it exists within this high-stakes criminal world, but it is a family drama in the same way in the same way that The Sopranos is a family drama. Raising Kanan is very similar in that respect. This is about a mother and her son trying to understand themselves and their relationship within the context of this dangerous world in which they exist.

A big theme of the show is destiny: that things are written in the stars for you, and a lot of Kanan’s future is already written in the stars by the events of Power. How did you approach a new version of Kanan while simultaneously keeping him recognizable for Power fans?

I think that’s the whole challenge of doing an origin story. You’re, on a certain level, creating a new character. So that’s really the challenge of what we’re doing here: making sure the story we’re telling feels inextricably linked to who Kanan is in Power. Part of what’s made it work is Mekai Curtis’ portrayal of Kanan. He has a lot of the same charm and humanity and subtlety that 50 Cent put into the original performance. When I watch it, I’m like, “Yeah, that’s Kanan.”

What would you say to Power fans on why they should check out Raising Kanan?

I think Power fans should check out Raising Kanan because it very much has the DNA of the original Power that they love so much. I think Kanan is a character that everyone either loved or hated, and here’s this opportunity to go back in time and see where that character came from, how he came into being, who he loved, and who he lost.  You don’t have to have watched Power to have that same experience, but if you have, you’re in for a pretty great ride. You may know how it ends, but you have no idea where it began or where it goes.

Power Book III: Raising Kanan, Premiere, Sunday, July 18, 8/7c, Starz