Manhattan's Highline Ballroom was re-adorned Monday night as Truth, the pivotal club of Starz's new primetime drama "Power." Deep into his entourage, executive producer and co-star Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson grinned from the balcony as he fielded salutes from hip-hop legends Grandmaster Flash and Doug E. Fresh, performing onstage at the Time Warner Cable-hosted afterparty.
Beneath a swath of pink-and-yellow mood lighting, showrunner Courtney Kemp Agboh ordered a light chardonnay at the bar. "In the beginning, 'Power' was actually two different projects -- one being proposed by 50 and Mark Canton, that was more music-driven, and then mine -- inspired around the time my father died. He was born with nothing, and became a big businessman."
Omari Hardwick -- who, 50 insisted to a packed house at the premiere screening, "was always the guy" for the role -- as James "Ghost" St. Patrick, a drug dealer turned nightclub entrepreneur, the show interrogates the perks and problems of the American Dream.
Agboh sweetly waved down comparisons to other crime shows. "'The Wire' was about drugs and gangs, and 'Power' is more complicated than that. It has the nightclub side, it has a romance side, a bromance side, it has aspects of that. But yes, it's gonna be sprawling."
Hardwick described Ghost as "Pablo Escobar meets Cliff Huxtable."
"I think every viewer would agree we all have some demonic thoughts or ills inside of us. We all have a side that, when we brush our teeth and look in the mirror, we might not be proud of," Hardwick elaborated. "Maybe not as extreme as Ghost, but I think at the end of the day, minus a couple wrong turns, he's done what his father wanted him to do, which is own a club. There's a real connection with carrying the baton of his father's dream."
Ghost's empire is doubly tested by a mole in his own drug-dealing apparatus and the demands of opening Truth with his best friend from the streets, Tommy (Joseph Sikora). "50 gave me a lot of pointers," Sikora said, "basing the character off of a guy he grew up with on his street corner."
"Tommy and Ghost are brothers. There's a love there, and that's why they push each other's boundaries -- you know you can actually stretch that rubber band pretty far. I feel like Tommy is underestimated by people on the series because they think he's Ghost's sidekick, because he's a white guy, but they don't realize he's already proven himself in the hood. He gets the club dynamic. Ghost is the only character who doesn't underestimate him. The club is either gonna keep them all together or tear 'em apart."
As 50 and his entourage slinked out of the club through some double-secret-back-way, Sikora commented: "50 was very, very involved. He and Omari are very tight and he had a lot of ideas for the show; I'd send him an idea or a picture, he'd respond with a lot of LOLs and Emojis. He was an incredibly influential, easy guy to get in touch with, and not a posturing guy."
(Pictured: Joseph Sikora, Naturi Naughton, Omari Hardwick, Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson and Lela Loren attend the "Power" premiere on June 2)