Anika Noni Rose sure was a helluva long way from a Disney princess on Power Sunday. Forget that Tony award, forget that shoo-be-doo-be-do-ing in Dreamgirls and forget that elegant turn in The Princess and the Frog. Homegirl was chilling and straight up scary as the villainous cop Jukebox, adding yet another dangerous, cray-cray character to Power's already explosive mix.
We know Jukebox is a monster right away, when in the episode's opening scene she coldly snuffs out one of the basic hoodlums she employed to carry out a robbery... and the shop owner too. It's just another day in the office for her! She goes home to her girlfriend — serving butch bad gal realness in some very Queen Latifiah-in-Set It Off-braids — and we see her put down the surveillance tape she swiped just in case we had any doubts she's thorough. Then, oh look! It's an extra crispy Cajun Kanan (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson), laid up in her house recovering. But is Jukebox trying to play sweet, sensitive night nurse? Not at all. She's irritated, and clearly not to be played with. Who is this lady?
"Jukebox is not a good cop," says showrunner Courtney Kemp in the understatement of the century. Being a small-sized black woman, she's "found safety" in her role and her badge; making the character gay was in part 50 Cent's decision. "When 50 and I first started talking about Jukebox," Kemp says, "in some small way she's based on his mom. He grew up in a household with a woman who slept with other women. So we took her sexuality from there. For him, he doesn't see [being gay] in that way you'd assume."
So why are we just now seeing Kanan? Because, DRAMA! that's why. "We wanted to remind the audience that Ghost (Omari Hardwick) thinks Kanan is dead," Kemp says. "So we wanted the audience to have that same experience. Not that they would think Kanan is dead, but so they would know something that Ghost didn't know. We allowed the world to get resettled and rebooted."
The revelation that Kanan took Jukebox, his cousin, into his home after her father kicked her out for being gay feels like a surprisingly compassionate move; this is a guy who shot his own son, after all. But family, at least in the traditional sense, doesn't necessarily beget loyalty for Kanan. What he and Jukebox share in common that he and Shawn didn't is a hardcore commitment to No Bitch Assness. You earn Kanan's loyalty by being down for anything, including murder, and showing him you won't let anything slide — not even from him.
"The second thing that we liked," says Kemp, "is the idea of someone that would be able to intimidate Kanan, and we decided that family would be an interesting thing to go to."
Though he'd never say it, Kanan is scared of Jukebox. And he should be. He's vulnerable and literally exposed in the rawest possible way, but she won't even give him pain medicine until he tells her who turned him into a flame broiled gangster and what happened to Shawn. She actually may be more savage than Kanan.
Though we see Jukebox shoot people and threaten her girlfriend as she wraps her fingers around her neck, Jukebox's scariest moment is when she doesn't flinch after Kanan tells her he shot Shawn. She's actually impressed her cousin killed his son, saying, "Shawn was a pawn," (I see what you did there, Power) and "You sacrifice pawns for the greater good."
We knew she felt that way when she popped two people the minute we met her, but as the episode progressed, her words feel foreboding and ominous. She keeps asking questions after Kanan reveals that it was Ghost who whooped and roasted his ass. She's not just curious; she's no doubt figuring out how much of a liability or potential asset Kanan is going to be, and what might be gained by the face-to-face meeting with Ghost that now feels inevitable. Would she help Kanan get revenge? Maybe, if something's in it for her. But if Kanan got in her way she'd probably light him up too and not think twice about it.
Power airs Sunday at 9/8c on Starz.