More power to 'Tariq'

More power to 'Tariq'

Actor Michael Rainey Jr visits Jamaica

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

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IF Tariq St Patrick, central character from the long-running American drama Power and its spin off Power Book II: Ghost, had a favourite Jamaican artiste, it would be Tommy Lee Sparta.

That's the view of Michael Rainey Jr, the Jamaican American actor who plays the character. He is currently in Jamaica for a well-needed holiday break, and the Jamaica Observer caught up with him to talk Rainey Jr, Power and the new series which he helms.

“Yeah man,” he declared in an authentic Jamaican accident. “Tommy Lee would definitely be Tariq kinda artiste. Tariq have a edge, so the hardcore deejay ting would definitely be him style,” he shared before bursting into laughter.

While not significantly different from his character in terms of musical taste, Rainey noted that he loves his Jamaican music and reeled off a long list of her personal favourite dancehall acts.

“We listen to everybody: Vybz Kartel, Masicka, Tommy Lee, Skillibeng, Popcaan, Rytikal, Jahvilani and we caan lef' out Rygin King. But Kartel, Masicka and Tommy Lee would definitely be my top three. Masicka just makes me feel unstoppable. He makes me just want to go out there and do my thing and be on my own stuff. Tommy Lee gives me a kinda easy, chill vibe and yuh done know Kartel do tune fi everybody. So whatever mood I'm in there is a Kartel tune,” said Rainey.

Music aside, Rainey has stepped into the big leagues as he is now the lead character in the spin-off series and, therefore, a lot of responsibility now rests on the shoulders of the 20-year-old. He shared that he is prepared to take on this new task. However, he did admit that it came as a surprise.

“It was crazy at first, because as you will understand this is a big jump. I was a little nervous at first but that went away during the first week of shoot when I realised that I was working with the same people, in terms of the crew and some of the cast. So that really made me more comfortable and boosted my confidence,” he said.

“The first person who really told me of the new series was 50 Cent. It was about season six, and one day he said to me: 'Get ready, as we are gonna do a spin off and it's gonna be all about you.' I was like 'whatever'. With 50 Cent, he's always joking around, so you never know when to take him serious. It wasn't until Courtney Kemp [the show's creator] sat me down some time later and told me that I realised a big tings dis… But good big tings,” Rainey continued.

Power Book II: Ghost, which premièred in September on the cable network Starz, picks up the narrative just days after the Power finale. The sequel then follows Rainey's character, Tariq, navigating his new life, in which his desire to shed his father's legacy comes up against the mounting pressure to save his family.

“It's a big shift for both me and how I portray the character. We get to see Tariq in different scenarios: in school, in the streets, in the courtroom, with all the drama with his family. So we get to see the many different dimensions… the smart kid in school to the tough guy in the streets. I now have to work to tap into all these traits in the character and bring authenticity to what I do… it's really cool,” he said.

Rainey has been a constant character for all six seasons and 63 episodes of the hit television series. Starting when he was 12 years old, he has grown up on the show and so has his character. There is a love/hate relationship for his character and it has even been reported that he has received numerous death threats resulting from his role in Power.

He jokes about a particular incident which happened a few years ago, but still sticks in his mind.

“This was about season four when Tariq starts acting out and getting bad. I was leaving an event with my friends. As I was exiting the building, this guy shouts, 'Tariq why did you do that?' and steps to me like he wants to fight. The people around me got cautious and were ready to come to my defence. I had to calm the situation really quickly and let them know that he was just being a fan and caught up in the emotion of the character. I really appreciated the fact that I was able to get that reaction out of a fan. It's why I act. To bring a character to life and make a connection with my audience.”

Rainey and his Jamaican mother, Shauna Small, are in Jamaica for the holidays. He noted that he has a number of projects in the works that he cannot speak about at this time, but looks forward to continuing the work.

“Coming home to Jamaica means a lot to me. There is a feeling of being free when I'm here and that nothing can stop me. Then there is so much love from my Jamaican people… that's why it feels like home… it is home,” Rainey added.


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