As Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson prepares to release his new album Street King Immortal in September, there’s another project currently occupying his mind—the hip-hop drama, Power.
If the first season of the show was about making wise choices, then season 2 forces each character to deal with the consequences of their decisions. For Kanan, Jackson’s character, that means figuring out how to get his business back without exposing his plans to destroy protégées Ghost (Omari Hardwick) and Tommy (Joseph Sikora) in the process. “It’s complete excitement,” Jackson told EW ahead of the June 6 premiere of Power. “The show will meet everyone’s standards. It’s definitely better than the things that I’m seeing out now.”
Power centers on Ghost’s struggle to break away from drug dealing and focus on his legitimate business—a story that Jackson knows well. He sold drugs during his teen years and has since established himself as a successful rapper, businessman, and entrepreneur. But that doesn’t mean Jackson has forgotten his middle-class upbringing in Jamaica, Queens, surrounded by gang culture. “I’ve never actually been in a gang, but I grew up in an environment where all of those things were around for you to involve yourself in. It’s really desperation and people wanting to be a part of something, like finding a family outside of their family,” he said.
Even though Jackson doesn’t play Ghost, there are several parallels between the rapper and the show’s lead. As Tasha (Naturi Naughton) explained in season 1, Ghost proposed to her after she hid his gun in her purse during a traffic stop. Jackson—who was shot nine times on the afternoon of May 24, 2000, outside his grandmother’s house in Queens—had a similar scenario play out after his recovery.
“I would keep [a gun] around me because it would make me feel comfortable,” Jackson said of the aftermath of his shooting (a bullet fragment remained lodged in his tongue). And after he was pulled over one time, Jackson recalled how his son’s mother volunteered to take the gun—just like Tasha.
“This is how that portion of it ended up in the story, but it just doesn’t happen to have the same intentions,” Jackson said. “Because she’s saying ‘give it to me,’ not because she’s so loyal or she loves me so much. She’s saying ‘give it to me’ because if I go to jail, who’s going to take care of everything?”
That key moment, which happens off screen in Power, is the reason Tasha and Ghost get married, and it’s this sort of character development Jackson says is one of the show’s biggest assets. “The show takes time to establish who’s who and I think people are really going to be invested in these characters because of that.” Unlike, say, Empire.
“They did everything that we did in our entire season in their first episode,” Jackson said of the hit Fox series. “So if you missed an episode of Empire, you probably came back on seeing characters, not knowing what’s going on.” But despite his criticisms of the show, Jackson said there’s no ill will between him and the Empire crew. Just two weeks ago, in fact, Jackson joked with Timbaland, the show’s music supervisor, about how Empire reminded the rapper of another Fox hit.
“I said, ‘Yo, the show remind me of Glee because y’all drop the ambiance of the room out [during the songs],'” Jackson said with a laugh.
Laughing is part of Jackson’s summer, too. He’s got a small appearance in Paul Feig’s Spy, which marks his first comedic role in a major motion picture. For some, it would be a nerve-racking experience—the cast includes Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham—but Jackson says he was prepared for the part.
“I knew what was required for the role in this project. I didn’t need anyone to help me with that. Whenever you’re around comedians, it teaches you to get faster or for you to take a mental ass whooping because they’re so witty,” he said. “They think so quick and on their feet that if you’re around, the shots will go across the room and they’ll always land on you because you don’t think fast enough to respond.”
And who exactly gave him a “mental ass whooping”? His former girlfriend, Chelsea Handler. (The two dated briefly in 2010.) “She’s really smart, thinks on her feet real fast. And the things that she says, if you’re not really watching her, then she’s going to get away with saying some stuff to you that you wouldn’t be comfortable with,” Jackson said. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Spy heads to theaters June 5 and Power’s second season premieres June 6 at 9 p.m. on Starz.