Larenz Tate Talks Playing The Bad Guy, Working With His Brother, And 30 Years of Sex Symbol Status

Larenz Tate and 'Power Book II: Ghost' co-star Shane Johnson discuss playing villains with legal jobs on Starz' hit crime drama
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: Larenz Tate attends Lexus Uptown Honors Hollywood at Neue House Hollywood on February 05, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
By Rivea Ruff · November 22, 2021

Hot on the heels of last night’s explosive Power Book II: Ghost season 2 premiere episode, the actors portraying the show’s big villains, Larenz Tate and Shane Johnson, are opening up about being antiheroes on Starz’s hit crime drama series.

Even though the Power Universe focuses on the stories and interpersonal dramas of murderous drug dealers and others who dabble in illegal activity, Tate and Johnson’s characters, Councilman Rashad Tate and FBI agent-turned-defense attorney Cooper Saxe respectively,  are the show’s antagonist villains. 

Though the irony isn’t lost on either of them, for Johnson it’s all about what’s at the center of it all that makes a true villain.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 17: Shane Johnson attends the Ghost Season 2 Premiere on November 17, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for STARZ)

“In Saxe’s mind, he’s the hero and everyone else just hasn’t figured it out yet. But they will!” Johnson joked. “Like you’re saying, it’s a dark hero show.” 

Johnson likens the viewing experience to that of one of his favorite shows, Showtime’s Dexter, in which the audience ends up literally rooting for a serial killer to get away with murder each week. 

“What separates the good guys from the bad guys in our show is really motivational factors,” he added. “Like Tariq, does he just want to be powerful and rich, or is it for his family? Is it to protect his Mom and his sister? Giving him that at the core allows him to play whatever game he needs to play in order to provide that.” 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 05: Larenz Tate attends Lexus Uptown Honors Hollywood at Neue House Hollywood on February 05, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

“For me, it’s really nice to be able to play a character who has the complexities of Rashad Tate,” Tate said of his villainous role. “He’s incredibly determined, he’s motivated, in his mind, he deserves to be in public office he deserves to have a platform to use his voice, his influence, and his resources to change things around him, but underneath it, he has some personal agendas, as we believe most politicians do,” he laughed.

“But what it really speaks to is, it’s really not what’s on the surface. It’s not just about the underworld and drug dealing,” Tate adds. “It’s really about the family and the friendships and the camaraderie that people can relate to in everyday life. It’s just that their professions or the decisions they make based on their circumstances paint them in a negative light, a stigma, or stereotype.” 

Speaking of family, Tate is afforded the rare opportunity to have his real-life brother Lahmard Tate play his on-screen brother, Kamaal Tate, on the show. He says he’s very fortunate and appreciative of showrunner Courtney Kemp and the rest of the Power team for making something so momentous happen. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 07: Larenz Tate, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Lahmard Tate attend the Power Series Finale Episode Screening at Paley Center on February 07, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for STARZ)

“Shoutout to Courtney Kemp for valuing what I bring to the table, valuing my career, and utilizing me on the show,” he said. “I also have to shout her out and everyone who had a part in bringing my brother Lahmard Tate in who plays Kamaal. It’s really nice to work with my brother. I’m really fulfilled.”

Through the longevity of his career, the ageless Tate is in the rare position of being a heartthrob and sex symbol for multiple generations of women. He’s been a fixture in cultural movie classics for nearly 30 years at this point. When asked how he feels about having everyone from grandmothers to college kids attracted to him, he says he takes it all in stride.

“I’m grateful to be considered in that space, and what can I say?” he blushes. “It’s been a fantastic journey to be on a show that continues to push the envelope and continues to elevate the storytelling. I’m happy to continue to do what I love to do.”  

Johnson noted that acting alongside him, he sees that Tate’s longevity as an object of on-screen attraction is a testament to his acting ability.

“This guy really carves up a scene and elevates the material, and really elevates everyone around him,” Johnson said of Tate’s ability. “He may be sexy and all that stuff, but he can act. And that’s what impresses me because lots of people can look good, but not lots of people can throw down.”

Power Book II: Ghost airs Sundays on Starz.