Get Rich Stories Or Die Tryin': Meet Courtney Kemp, The Woman Behind 'Power'

July 17th 2018

Starz’s hit television show Power became a staple in multiple black households faster than you can say, "I hate Tariq." Now in its fifth season, Power stars Omari Hardwick, Joseph Sikora, Tommy Egan, Naturi Naughton, Lela Loren, Rotimi, La La Anthony, 50 Cent and Michael Rainey Jr., among others. The executive producer list is strong and mighty, with names such as David Knoller, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Mark Canton, Randall Emmett, Marty Carlin and Courtney Kemp Agboh (credited as Courtney A. Kemp). While 50 Cent may be the “face” of Power, he is not the showrunner, contrary to popular belief. Behind the show that has boasted “the second highest-rated show on cable television,” stands its nucleus: a composite of femme influence named Courtney Kemp Agboh.

As such, Kemp Agboh deserves her flowers today, and she shall not be “ghosted.” Her name is one you will need to remember for years to come, and her extensive background complements that. As with any journey toward the top, Kemp Agboh didn’t come out of thin air; she climbed ferociously.

Writing a GQ article entitled “How to Date a Black Woman,” Kemp Agboh attracted two comedy producers. Though their particular project didn’t advance, Kemp Agboh caught the industry bug and wrote a spec script for The Bernie Mac Show. That script landed her a spot as a writer on the series in 2015. Kemp Agboh then pivoted out of comedy for a hot minute by penning a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation spec and snatched herself a writing staff gig on the momentary police procedural In Justice (2016). She racked up other writing credits for shows such as Justice (a comedy not be confused with In Justice), Eli Stone, My Own Worst Enemy and Happy Town. Her “big moment” came in 2010 with CBS’ legal and political drama The Good Wife, where she learned the meat and bones of running a show. Around this timeKemp Agboh also dived into the producing role with the Hawaii Five-0 TV remake and The CW’s Beauty & the Beast.  

In a pitch meeting story straight out of a Hollywood hopeful's fantasies, Kemp Agboh power-walked herself right into the executive-filled room with her male partner-in-crime, 50 Cent, and led the pitch of her first series. “It was me and 50 and a ton of people, but I was the only one talking, so it was quite scary,” she told Drama Quarterly. “I don’t read a pitch; I only go in with cards with a few keywords on them. It’s a performance. You get passionate and excited about it and tell them the story. At the second meeting, 50 brought music so as I was pitching he was playing tracks from the show.” Sold!

It's significant to note just how collaborative storytelling is, especially in the film and television industry. “He really helped me build Ghost,” Kemp Agboh told The New York Times in a 2014 interview during the show’s genesis. “Because I am not actually a super-rich, urban human. I’m kind of middle of the road.” As a great leader, Kemp Agboh took all of the contributive pieces of the pie and created an edible gold masterpiece. Ghost (Hardwick) is the perfect mixture of 50 Cent and Kemp Agboh’s late father, Herbert Kemp Jr., and as the showrunner recalled about 50, “He really helped me create this idea of what it’s like to go home with Jay-Z and Beyoncé.”

As the optimistically cautious list of current black women showrunners continues to grow -- such as the likes of Ava DuVernay, LaToya MorganShonda Rhimes and Mara Brock Akil  -- Kemp Agboh holds her own. “Writers are, for the most part, crazy people,” noted Kemp Agboh. “We’re like Hephaestus of the forge. We’re gnarled; we’re curled over; we walk with a limp. And then you take that person and say, ‘Hey, writer person, you had a great idea. Go manage a thousand people.’ The two skill sets are not compatible whatsoever.”

Kemp Agboh’s shine is sparkling to blinding levels, so you better put on your shades. Besides, it’s a more powerful look. With the way her trajectory is moving, it’s going to be hard to forget her name. She probably won’t let you anyway.

by Tonja Renée Stidhum on July 17th 2018

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