Friday, January 21, 2022

Courtney A. Kemp Talks Multi-year Netflix Deal, Programming Plans

*“Power” creator Courtney A. Kemp is speaking out about her overall, multi-year deal with Netflix. 

Kemp and her End of Episode production company will create and develop new series and other projects at the streamer, as reported by THR.

“I am incredibly excited to join the Netflix family, and to continue to develop the kind of entertainment that End of Episode is known for — diverse, multilingual, watercooler, social-media fueled series that pack a serious punch,” Kemp said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working with Bela and her team, who really appreciate the voice and perspective that we bring to the table.”

Kemp will remain an exec producer on the Power franchise, alongside exec producers Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Mark Canton.

“Courtney is the real deal — a creative force and world-builder who makes great shows,” said Bela Bajaria, Netflix head of Global TV. “I really admire her clarity of vision and voice, and she has a great sense for what audiences want. Courtney has accomplished something really rare and extraordinary in television and we are thrilled to welcome her to Netflix.”

The showrunner opens up to the outlet about the pressure to deliver in her new deal and programming plans. Check out excerpts below from Kemp’s conversation with The Hollywood Reporter.

READ MORE: ‘Power’ Creator Courtney A. Kemp Inks Multiyear Deal at Netflix

Courtney Kemp -& ‘Power’ EP 50 Cent

I’m not sure what one says when somebody gets a new deal. Should I congratulate you?

People do say “Congratulations.” (Laughs.) I just think moving is great because it means new possibilities. But then — and I can’t help it because I’m a perfectionist — it’s like, “I’d better come up with something good.” They’re not hiring you because they think you’re nice and like your hairstyle. They’re hiring you to make hits.

You do hear from a lot of people who’ve made similar pacts that there’s a pressure to feel like you’re delivering immediately.

My experience as a showrunner is specific to me but true of a lot of people I know. We’ve been overachieving — because of trauma, nature, nurture or whatever — since we were kids. The perfectionism thing is really a big part of showrunning. You want to do people proud. At the same time, I trust that my track record is not so bad. I’ll come up with something.

Before leaving Lionsgate, you launched two Power spinoffs at Starz, and there are more coming. How involved do you plan to be?

I’m not completely divested from them, but Netflix is my focus. New business is my focus. As a sunflower turns toward the sun, we turn toward the development of new projects.

But there are people — Ryan Murphy and the American Story shows come to mind — who haven’t extricated themselves from old business. As a perfectionist, is it going to be easy for you to not write an episode here and there?

I’ll answer it this way: If I write an episode of one of those series, I’m actually taking money out of the pocket of writers on those series who would have been assigned and gotten paid to write it. I wouldn’t look to do that, no. I’m experiencing grief around leaving the franchise, of course, but it was necessary. That job had become so much about the business of the show, as opposed to being able to really tell stories. You get an empire, and it’s not the same anymore. At some point, Mrs. Fields stopped baking the cookies.

When you were looking to move shop, what did you find various platforms wanted from you?

When we pitched Power around town, a lot of places said no because a show with Black leads at that time was very much not what people wanted to buy. Now people have had the opportunity to see that they can make good money on those shows. I’ve said it before, but the color that matters in Hollywood is green. And I think people look to me to provide a certain demographic of viewer. I’m very committed to, BIPOC, LGBTQIA and women. Those are the areas where I’m committed to telling stories and amplifying voices — which isn’t to say that if you’re a straight white man, you can’t have a great story. But I’m pretty sure you’ll get that on [the air]. That door will open to you. Whereas if you are a queer woman of color, maybe people aren’t listening as much. They’re starting to listen more.

Power was huge, but the attention it got in Hollywood did not necessarily reflect that. Do you think that’s because it was seen as a “Black show” or because it was on Starz, which I’d argue has issues courting mainstream pop culture?

The fact that you’re asking me the question is the answer. I’ve been in multiple rooms full of showrunners and WGA members — before the pandemic, of course — and heard, “Oh, you’re a showrunner? Power? Never heard of it.” If your own peer group has never heard of your show, and it’s been on for six years and it’s the biggest hit on your network, it can’t just be because they’re not looking for it. It has to be a combination of factors. It has not been the universe’s will that we be acknowledged in the way that I would hope, on a mainstream level, and I’m so grateful to the Image Awards for acknowledging us as much as they have.

Were your Netflix execs specific about what they wanted from you before you signed on?

Of everyone I talked to when I was looking to leave Lionsgate, Netflix was the most supportive in terms of, “Whatever you want to do is cool. Go for it.” I have a lot of experience in a bunch of different genres. I came up as a legal procedural writer, but I write a show that is a legal drama, a cops-and-robbers drama, a soap, a romance, a comedy. … I’m kind of one-stop shopping. And I love sex and violence, which have a universal appeal. (Laughs.) I’m not trying to toot my own horn. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think picking me means that you are looking for something specific.

Read the full interview here.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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