Season 1 of Power Book III: Raising Kanan left fans shocked, delighted, and craving more of the backstory on one of the Power Universe‘s most notorious villains. As with most crime dramas, police officers are typically seen as a threat or opposing force to our story’s heroes.
As Howard and Burke respectively, Omar Epps and Shanley Caswell are exploring the nuances of what drives characters like these to target crime in certain communities, and the full breadth of their humanity.
“At the end of the day, cops are not role models. They’re human beings, they’ve got families like everyone else,” Epps told ESSENCE exclusively about his complicated character. “It’s just the job. For me, I look at it the same as being a nurse, doctor, or fireman. People who take on a job that the nature of it is danger.”
“Yes, we have problems with the police, but underneath it all, from a psyche point of view, cops are only dealing with humans when they’re in need, when there’s danger,” he continued. “They do the best of their abilities, and they’re human, so when you say ‘humanized,’ I take that as a compliment.”
For Epps’ character, that human experience found him running the gamut of emotions while still trying to run the streets of Queens from both inside an outside his precinct.
“For Howard, his entire identity is based around control, whether in the department or on the street. At the end of season one, the rug was pulled from under his feet,” Epps said of his character’s journey. Fans of season one will know that not only did Howard find out he had a terminal case of leukemia, but that he likely fathered a child he had no idea about with the local drug queen pin, needs him for a potential bone marrow transplant and was also nearly shot dead by him.
“Externally, he’s trying hold on to that power that defines him, but internally, he’s dealing with a vulnerability he’s never experienced before.”
Caswell’s character, Officer Shannon Burke, comes from a police family, but as a woman, feels she has even more to prove to follow in her family’s footsteps. This leads to a zeal that could prove much more dangerous for herself and for the force than she realizes.
“You definitely see her getting a little wiser. I’d say, almost too wise to what’s going on around her. She starts seeing some stuff and asking a lot of questions that she shouldn’t be asking,” Caswell said of season 2. “People keep trying to put her back in her place, but she keeps trying to push the envelope.”
Power Book III: Raising Kanan airs Sunday nights on STARZ.