- LOS ANGELES (AP)
With his characteristic bravado, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson believed in "Power" so much that he predicted the series would become a massive hit to cast members even before the first episode aired five years ago.
Since then, Jackson has joyfully watched as his words have come to fruition. The original series has become a ratings juggernaut and Starz network says it is the most-watched show in the cable network's history.
"Power" kicks off its sixth and final season Sunday night, but the gritty series isn't going anywhere. Starz has at least two spinoffs in the works.
"I like anticipating success," said Jackson, the show's executive producer who also played the role of Kanan. "I don't work on projects feeling like there's a possibility for failure, because I don't think you can work hard on a project feeling like it can just fail."
"Power" stars Omari Hardwick as James "Ghost" St. Patrick who is trying to escape his life as a drug kingpin and go legit with a legal business, but his gangster-mentality wife and best friend still want him to run their drug operation. He struggles with the double life he's created by dating a federal prosecutor.
Jackson was already a rap star who then tried to parlay his success into a film and television career. At first, he wasn't taken seriously. He stumbled with some other projects, but he remained so confident in "Power" that it rubbed off on everyone else, and ultimately millions of viewers.
"When people say, 'Are you shocked about how popular this show is?' — I was less shocked because he told us it would be this," said Joseph Sikora of Jackson's vision for the series. Sikora plays Tommy Egan, the lifelong best friend and business partner of Ghost, who find themselves at odds after Tommy shot Ghost's girlfriend in the previous season.
"Omari and I met him at the same time, he gave us a big hug and basically broke everything down," Sikora recalled. "He didn't say, 'I think this is going to happen.' He said, 'This is going to happen and this will, too.' Then everything happened. ... He spoke it into existence."
"Power" built a cult following for its take on the glamorous and gung-ho gangster lifestyle, twisted love triangles and violent drug deals gone wrong.
Hardwick said the story line in "Power" resonated with viewers the same way HBO's "Game of Thrones" did.
"But they have books," he said. "I'm proud that we were able to create the book. There was no book. We created it with the help of incredible writing and fellow cast mates."
Hardwick said fans of the series' characters have a love-hate relationship toward them. He acknowledged that his character has received mixed praise, but his other cast mates including Lela Loren — who plays his girlfriend Angela Valdes — have faced blatant threats over the years that sent her into therapy.
"How many times have Tommy and Ghost been mentioned in a song?" he asked. "It was culturally shifting. But there's another side. For people to follow Lela in the bathroom, it was sometimes negative. We have an 18-year-old on the cast who started at 12, and he's getting hate mail at that level. ... But that's how much people are invested in this show."
Starz is banking on viewers to invest even more.
"'Power' has been an absolute monster. There's nothing else bigger on television right now," said Starz COO Jeffrey Hirsch, who noted the series helped build the network as a destination to watch original content. He gave credit to Jackson and the show's creator Courtney Kemp, whom he says helped lead a team to keep "the audience in every episode with cliffhangers."
"Power" will air its final season in two parts. The first 10-episode installment begins Sunday and the concluding five episodes will start airing in January.
The series will come to an end, but several spinoffs are planned to be part of a collection of new shows inspired by the world of "Power." The first is titled "Power Book II: Ghost," which will feature Grammy-winning singer and actress Mary J. Blige.
Jackson said "Power Book II" will pick up soon after "Power" ends. He said in the new version "we'll see the aftermath of what happens in the season six finale."
Jackson is also planning other "Power" prequels including "Raising Kanan," based on his popular character Kanan who was killed in season five.
"It will show the influences from the '90s, where Kanan was growing up and how the activities in the neighborhood groomed him into who he was in 'Power,'" he said.
Along with "Power" spinoffs, Jackson wants to develop a project on Starz focused on the Black Mafia Family. The story would delve into the backstory of Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory, who started the drug trafficking and money laundering organization in Detroit before intersecting it with the hip-hop music scene.
The plethora of shows is a part of Jackson's plan to take over Starz.
"As (Starz) becomes a household necessity like HBO, you'll see faces that look like ours consistently on it," he said. "It'll become more of a diverse leading cast than what you would find on HBO. They want to house that content here. It'll become the place that people who enjoy 'Power' and enjoy the programming on Starz."
Associated Press writer Gary Gerard Hamilton contributed to this report from New York.