In Power Book 4: Force, Tommy Egan moves to Chicago to start a new life. While there, he meets some friendly faces, and some not so friendly faces. Among the former is Diamond Sampson, played by Isaac Keys, who’s another main character in the TV series.
Fresh out of jail, where he was held for 15 years, Diamond has aspirations of rebuilding his community, starting with a barbers he owns with his brother. However, some things have changed, and Diamond finds he can’t quite just settle back into being the leader of his crew like before. Then, Tommy shows up, and, well, you can imagine how things go.
Diamond may be new to Power, but he’s been around the block and then some, something that proves very useful to our Tommy. In our interview with actor Isaac Keys, we chat about tapping into the core of Diamond, why the racial elements of his storyline matter, and what it was like filming the spontaneous boxing fight that was his major “stunt scene”.
The Digital Fix: How did you become a part of Power Book and the Power universe?
Isaac Keys: I’ve always been a fan of Power. From day one, I’ve always been a fan. I’ve been watching Powers and seen the spin-offs and always been a fan of the characters and everything about it. So when I had the opportunity to be a part of it, it was just basically come in and audition for my agent.
And I was like, ‘OK, this is Power, OK, this is Power Book 4’. I auditioned for Ghosts for a character, and also auditioned for Raising Kanan. And I need to say, I’ve never gotten those parts. But when this one came up, OK, well, this is a new one. Oh, this is Tommy. Oh, this Tommy’s spin-off, it was different. [When] I left it was a little different, you know, because I’ve always been a fan of his character as well.
The audition process was just, the first one was just a self-tape. Send that in, and it’s like, ‘Oh, I got a callback. OK, let’s go, they’re feeling something. So let me just put a little more extra on to this one, but still stay in the pocket. I did that, and then it came to ‘Hey, we got a producer session with you’. And I’m like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, OK. But now it’s getting real.
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It’s just making sure that I keep bringing the authenticity to the character, and what I could bring, the uniqueness that I can bring to it, and not worrying about it because that’s what wrecks your brain, man, you try to think you’re gonna give them what they want. You really just got to give who you are. As you can see it worked out and just, you know, stars and the moon aligned, and here we are as Diamond Sampson. I’m here, and I ain’t trying to let it go.
An early moment that really endeared me to Diamond was when he just gets out of prison, and he rubs his hand along the puddle. He says that ‘It feels different’ now that he’s out. Can you tell me about developing that emotional core with the character?
It was very important to make sure that I really tapped into the emotions, to where Diamond is coming from, who he is, and the internal struggles that he’s having that scene where he comes out of prison. I talked to family members who’ve been incarcerated. I’ve talked to people from Chicago who have been incarcerated, so I can really understand what it feels like to be coming out of somewhere that you’ve been in for 15 years.
A lot of people can’t really relate to that. They say being in the house for Covid-19, ‘Oh, it’s like jail’. No, that’s not jail. That’s not prison. You know, unfortunately, we had to go through that, but coming out of somewhere after 15 years, you develop habits, you develop a lifestyle. So when those gates open, and I’m finally able to walk out of this prison, everything feels different. I’m finally able to walk out, and everything feels different.
The air is different, the environment is different, the smell is different. These are all different things that I’ve tapped into. Friends were telling me it’s like, your hearing is different. So I was glad I was able to show some type of emotion by actually touching something. And especially how cold it was, the cold was different [laughs] So yeah, man, I looked at friends, I looked at people I knew, and I just really tapped into what it feels like to really just have a new experience.
Your character develops a relationship with Tommy in the first three episodes, and I’m wondering, what was it like working with Joseph Sikora? Is he as cool as Tommy is?
I think you say he’s cooler, you know what I mean. We deem him as the captain, because he’s been in this and we all look for him for answers. We all look for him for guidance, because, I mean, we have all been fans of power. We’ve all watched him on TV. All of a sudden, we’re in a scene with him.
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There’s one scene where it’s him and I, and we’re talking, and he raised his eyebrow up, and I just continue to go into the scene. Afterwards, I said, Joseph, you hit me with the ‘Tommy eyebrow’. You raised an eyebrow mid-scene, and all I did was flashback to watching Power. But now I’m in the scene. I think that was my moment.
I really realised I’m in it. I’m not just watching it on TV, right? I’m a character that’s right here beside Tommy Egan played by Joseph Sikora, and I’m in it, and I think that was my moment. From that point on, I grabbed onto that moment like, OK, Diamond Sampson is a force to be reckoned with. And Joseph has done nothing but be a guidance to develop, continue to develop, the tone and the tempo of how the show goes.
Diamond has a very intense scene involving a racist cop. Do you think it’s important for shows like Power to really address that kind of racial bias and inequality, especially in the US?
Yes, I think it’s important for us to show the inadequacies of how racism is placed upon us and the biases of how, as an African American man, I can be profiled, or I’m looked at differently or I’m treated differently, and situations, still to this day in 2022. I think, in our community where we’ve had so much police brutality, and we have so many incidents where unnecessary force has been placed upon people who definitely didn’t deem that type of force, training needs to be given to certain cops.
And I also want to put ties on when it comes to the training of cops, why is this cop coming with this type of intention? Where is that coming from? Where’s he coming from? What’s going on at home? Why isn’t he in a decompressed place? Why aren’t we training our cops, if they’re going through something, can we relieve them of that, so therefore they can come into work and have a clear state of mind.
So it shows that one person, whatever they’re going through, how they can transition that onto another person. Diamond, at this point, he’s just fresh out of jail, he’s doing some illegal shit again. And he’s also like, ‘I’m not going back to jail’, and also, ‘I’m not trying to die right here in this moment for this shit that’s happening’. I’m so happy that they put the scene in because it meant a lot to me personally, and a lot to me community wise, and racially.
We had to portray something, because when it comes down to it, it’s about understanding for you to see this thing, and for us to see the same thing. It’s understanding what an African-American man goes through in some situations, what he’s building, and what sometimes happens. It’s important because it’s understanding, can you understand what another person’s plight is, how it is to walk in their shoes, and vice versa. So I decided to be a part of that scene, and I hope it resonates. I hope it goes a long way and into all our homes from our younger men and women to everybody up, and that’s across the board, any race.
Likewise, you have a scene with Tommy Flanagan. It’s on a similar wavelength without the racism that Diamond is surrounded by. How did you put together that scene with Tommy and Joseph, did you run it, to define that intensity?
In that scene, I think the intensity starts off being read. When you’re dealing with some amazing actors, such as Tommy Flanagan and Joseph Sikora, it’s going to jump off the page. There was some, in a respect aspect, there was reservation at times, at just how deep and the depth, we will go with some of the racism. I wanted to make sure everybody in the room felt comfortable about going there, and going to a place because not only was it going to help me in response to it, I think that it was going to help the fans really attach to it.
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There was also a vulnerability that as actors, we’re always protective of our brand, or who we are as a person, not just as characters. But they did such an amazing job, which is, just creating that scene and making sure the intensity was shown, not just for the scene, but what society portrays in Chicago. Chicago is a city that is based upon sections and areas.
People know Chicago as being the divisional city, and the world doesn’t know what it’s like. You have the Latin area, you have the south side. Different areas that are known, the Irish community and the Polish community, I mean, different areas that are divisional. When it comes to this, this series shows that division and shows why there’s no crossed lines and why people don’t work with one another. And I think that scene helps really put an emphasis on that.
You have a boxing match with your on-screen brother. With your athletic background, did you help them choreograph that and find that physicality with Diamond?
I was excited because I wanted a stunt scene by Diamond. Yes, he’s a former Golden Glove Boston champion, but now he’s older. It’s 15 years later. And it’s like, OK, does he still kind of have it? And he does. There was a lot of choreography put into that. There was training prior to it, I come from boxing where I use boxing as a form of training to stay in shape, to come out of playing football just for that part of training. So I was already familiar with it which helped.
We did training, myself and Kris D Lofton, who plays my brother, we both had training on the side, on top of our other workouts. We were sore, we were tired, and we wanted to shoot our own stunts. We wanted to be as authentic as possible. We wanted people to really see the grit and we didn’t think anybody could portray that more than we could, whether it’s the facial expressions, the grunts, they know, the actual movement of throwing each other across this ring, right? I’m glad we were able to do that, and thanks to production, and everybody for allowing us to be able to do it. It was a great experience.
This is the fourth Power spin-off – what is it about the world of Power that people keep coming back to?
It’s addictive, man, the franchise is addictive. From Courtney [A Kemp] to 50 Cent, especially 50, he just knows how to really tie-in and get people involved, on the social standpoint. He created a team, brought Courtney in, then she created more people, and the producers and everybody involved to Mark [Canton] to you know, everybody, there’s so many people involved.
And I think that what they do is that they create these storylines and these emotions that people gravitate to, and they want to be a part of it. They see themselves and either they love or they hate, they just want to be involved or just see what happens. There are so many cliffhangers and so much lies, deceit and drama, that that’s what people want in their lives, you know, they don’t necessarily want it that close, but they want to watch it.
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So it’s important, I think that’s what they’ve done, they created these characters that people really can just latch on to and ride the wave man. I think that’s what Power Book is, it’s just a big wave that people are riding on and I’m glad to be a part of and I’m glad to ride with those people.
Right on, thanks for your time, hopefully chat to you for season 2!
I hope so, from your mouth to God’s ears!
Power Book IV: Force premieres February 6 on STARZPLAY