The future looks bright for writer/producer Courtney Kemp, even as her signature show, Starz’s drama series Power, ends its successful six-season run later this year. “There’s probably no one person that’s had a bigger impact on the Starz network than Courtney,” said Starz president and CEO Jeff Hirsch. “Power is our No. 1 show, and we will have a Power universe of spinoffs over the next few years.”
High praise for the Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award winner who initially wanted to make it big in the fashion world. “I wanted to be the first black female editor of Vogue,” Kemp said. “I loved clothes, I loved fashion and beauty, but clearly that didn’t happen.”
Kemp’s passion for writing initially led her to jobs at Mademoiselle and GQ. It was a GQ article on interracial dating that caught the eye of TV executives who wanted to turn it into a show.
“We pitched the show at HBO and it didn’t work out, but that’s how I started to figure out this could be a job,” she said.
Kemp in the late 2000s and early 2010s wrote for such series as Fox’s The Bernie Mac Show and The CW’s Beauty and the Beast, as well as CBS drama The Good Wife. During that time in her career, she said there were few women and people of color on the creative side of TV, which inspired her to make sure her shows would feature a diverse staff of writers.
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“That is how you change the world and teach the next generation,” she said, “by making those changes behind the scenes.”
Kemp teamed with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson to pitch Starz a series about a powerful drug dealer who wants to get out of the business and run a legitimate night club. Starz launched Power in 2014, and over six seasons it went on to become Starz’s most-watched series.
“If you can write a show that has universal themes, where the characters are understandable for the audience and resonate with people in their own lives, that’s the secret to your success,” she said. “That has nothing to do with who you cast and what the show looks like.”
Starz parent Lionsgate in 2018 signed Kemp to a multiyear development and production deal, which includes several Power spinoffs, one of which is already in development.
On top of being a successful content creator, Hirsch added that Kemp is a “phenomenal” human being. “She is smart and funny ... she has such a unique process that actually makes the show come to life off a board and makes it very easy to say, ‘OK, let’s do that,’ because she is so prepared and so into detail,” he said. “She makes it fun.”
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.