By Jared D. Childress | OBSERVER Staff Writer
Nearly a half million watched as police held Uncle Marvin at gunpoint on the season finale of the crime-drama, “Power Book III: Raising Kanan.” The “Power” spin-off, set to return to Starz with season two Aug. 14, was one of the highest-rated programs among Black households on Sunday night during its first season.
While being a member of a drug-trafficking family business at the height of the 1990s crack epidemic in New York City is something few relate to, London Brown, who portrays addict-turned-pusher Marvin, said that at its core, the show is about family.
“We all have that family member that isn’t at their best, but if somebody tries to condemn them, we protect them,” Brown said. “People wrote Marvin off as this old-school Black father that snapped. In season two, Marvin is looking for redemption.”
Unlike his onscreen character, Brown is one to bet on.
The OBSERVER hopped on a Zoom call with the actor, comedian, and Los Angeles native about the upcoming season of the hit show, representation, and his humanitarian efforts to fight the unhoused crisis.
This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: How do you respond to critics who say the show is just another show glamorizing drugs, sex and violence?
A: People think this show is about drugs and violence, but at the core of it, it’s about loyalty and really being able to hold your family down. Ultimately, I would like to be in a position to hire writers, actors, and artists that look like me to create images and stories that are uplifting. It’s so important for us as Black artists to be able to write these scripts that highlight us in a strong position.
Q: What attracted you to the character of Marvin?
A: I thought it would be cool to show myself in a different light. I saw an interview with Denzel Washington where he said the first five projects set up the energy of your career, so I wanted to show a little savagery with the acting and that I have the range to do more emotional material.
Q: I definitely noticed the emotional scenes, especially with Marvin’s struggle to accept his daughter’s sexuality. How did you prepare for that?
A: My main goal was making sure it was real. I didn’t want it to be some quick storyline. I had a chance to reach out to my friends’ LGBTQ friends, and I found out that sometimes children come out to their parents and the parents don’t receive it as well – it’s a hard time for them. And we have to also remember that the show takes place in 1991. The world wasn’t as liberal as it is now.
Q: Marvin became violent when he discovered his daughter was a lesbian. How was it filming that scene?
A: That was a very difficult scene for me as an artist. I don’t think a man should ever put his hands on a woman. We have to have enough discipline and self-control to say even if I disagree, I can’t put my hands on you. Even man-to-man, we don’t need to fight anyone because we disagree.
Q: The show features a strong female lead in the character of Raq. What is the significance of having a Black woman in the leading role?
A: I really like that we have a strong Black female lead. Even though she’s a kingpin, we get to see a Black woman not being bullied around, not shivering; she’s not dancing when she doesn’t hear music. She’s strong. I just love that element of it.
Q: Patina Miller does an excellent job portraying Raq. How is it working with her?
A: Patina Miller is holding it down. I’ve seen women leave comments thanking her for just being strong. It’s not about the drugs – not about the show itself. It’s about a strong Black woman, coming from Broadway, and holding it down as a lead actress with the chops to stand next to anybody on TV.
Q: The “Power” franchise is known for celebrity guest appearances. Can we expect any this season?
A: I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, but I’ll give you one: Tony Danza appears on the show. We don’t get to see the show in its entirety, so I don’t know much about what he does. But he’s on the show, so people can look forward to that.
Q: How is it working with show creator 50 Cent?
A: I respect 50’s business savvy. We may not approach business the same way, but he does have a connection with people – and his audience. The thing I learned from 50 is: Don’t let people try to put you in a box. If you want it, go after it.
Q: What do you want to “go after” in your own career?
A: I really want to use my platform to bring light on homelessness because the homeless are people too. People think the homeless are just drug addicts or that they’re lazy. But a lot of them just fell on hard times. Maybe they lost their mortgage or are Vietnam veterans who are struggling with depression. If you ever want to keep your heart in check, you have to learn to give because it’s not about us.
Q: That’s very admirable. Many rising stars on a hit TV show aren’t doing that kind of work.
A: This is all God. I’m just a regular person with a public job. I’m very humbled to do these interviews, but being able to help people is what it’s all about.