LaToya Tonodeo has been preparing for acting stardom for years.
Even when she was a small child, long before she even knew what she was doing, the actress was preparing for a spot on the small screen. From the age of 9 or ten, she was making her own advertisements in the house.
“Whether I was brushing my teeth or cleaning up, like chores or whatever, I would always read the back of the toothpaste or the ingredients, and I acted out and mimicked the commercials that I saw,” she laughed. But her parents had an eye for how to help her get that energy out.
“I didn’t really understand what I was doing, but my mom and dad did. So they were like, ‘okay, we’re going to put this girl in some audition, some acting classes or something.’”
Fast-forward a decade or so, and Tonodeo is putting that energy to use on Starz’ hit Power spinoff, Power Book II: Ghost, the sequel chapter in the story of the St. Patrick family and their tangled ties to drugs and crime. As Tariq’s co-conspirator and potential love interest Diana, she brings softness and sensitivity to the twisted tale of revenge, murder, and criminal chess moves.
“I love how ambitious she is and how smart she is,” Tonodeo says of her character. “She’s both book and street smart, and I feel like I am similar in that area.”
Diana’s progress in the first half of season 2 is a testament to those book and street smarts. As we left off with the Tejada family in the mid-season finale, the seemingly meek youngest child has successfully schemed against her mother to break her father free from prison right under her nose, has regulated on her wild-card older brother to assist her crush, and is quietly plotting moves behind the scenes to escape from under the thumb of her family’s drug empire to fulfill her dream of attending college.
But perhaps the central arc for Diana is the big shift in her relationship with her mother Monét, portrayed by legendary singer and actress Mary J. Blige. No longer satisfied with doing her mother’s bidding without question, tensions and respect both rise between the two as Diana grows from a teen girl to a young woman, equipped with all the same street smarts and manipulation tactics her mother has imbued her with over the years.
“I feel like it’s so relatable for a lot of young women and their mothers,” Tonodeo says of their dynamic. “That push and pull, just to be able to bring that dynamic to life.”
Blige certainly helps Tonodeo breathe life in that all-too-familiar dynamic, both on-screen and off-camera. When we spoke with Blige at the beginning of the season, she gushed over Tonodeo’s eagerness to learn and ability to apply knowledge in real-time while filming.
“What I love about her is she isn’t afraid to ask and get the information, then apply it, Blige said of Tonodeo’s work ethic. “Like ‘wow, she did it!’”
“She’s just a boss and when she speaks, people listen. She knows how to move in this industry,” Tonodeo says of Blige’s impact and tutelage. “I mean, clearly, she’s a legend. So I feel like just being able to be around her, to get to know her, to get to learn from her is just a blessing. Who can say that their first TV mom is Mary J. Blige?”
As for what’s coming next in the remainder of the season, Tonodeo says she’s just as excited as the fans to see what’s coming up.
“There is an episode [in particular] later on in the season that I’m really excited to see because of course, we don’t watch the episodes until you guys do,” she shares. “So that anticipation, I can’t wait for that episode.”
And just like the fans, Tonodeo was floored when she caught that mid-season bombshell reveal about who Zeke truly is. “Reading those scripts when they came in, everyone was shocked!” she says.
Truly, Courtney A. Kemp’s creation has blossomed from a simple crime story concept into its own cinematic universe. With 4 spinoffs (and counting?) Power lives on for millions of fans. Tonodeo is just happy to have a hand in bringing the vision to life, especially in such a diverse manner that highlights so many different groups.
“It’s a great opportunity to have representation on screen and allow everybody of all shades to be seen,” she says. “ I always say it’s like Marvel. It’s a whole [universe] completely thought of by a black, powerful woman and I think that is just so commendable, so dope.”