Patina Miller's 'Power'-filled premium cable debut packs a punch (and a pistol).
Patina Miller began her career in musical theater on Broadway and in London's West End, but her new role as a pistol-packing drug kingpin in "Power Book III: Raising Kanan" takes her in a completely different direction.
The Tony Award-winning star goes all out in the cable drama, which premieres Sunday on Starz and is produced by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson. It is set in 1991 South Jamaica, Queens, and is set in a rough and tumble era.
Miller describes her role as Raquel "Raq" Thomas — loosely based on Jackson's late drug-dealing mother — as a "beast of a character."
“I read the script and immediately put it down, thinking, 'OK, I can't do this.' As in, 'this character is me, and I have to play this character,'" the 36-year-old native of Pageland, South Carolina, told the Daily News. “And it just clicked, you know what I'm saying? Something about reading that script, where there is a lot of material that a Black female actress never gets.”
“You're constantly on the lookout for three-dimensional roles in which to sink your teeth, roles that truly showcase all of the different things you do,” she explained. “All the things you associate with being a Black woman, this character had to do. And I was like, "I'm going to have to do it."
The opening scenes provide an indication of Raq's cold-bloodedness: Rather than console her only child following his beating and robbery at the hands of neighborhood bullies, the marijuana-smoking, Toyota Supra-driving mama returns him to the playground to exact revenge — this time armed with a lethal homemade weapon comprised of batteries inside a tube sock.
“Deal with them or deal with me, but when you deal with me, there is nowhere to run,” she warns her son, Kanan Stark. “Get yours, young man.” Wearing the era's ghetto-fabulous, hip hop-inspired attire, the menacing matriarch watches approvingly — smoking a menthol cigarette through neon green nail-polished fingers — as the boy inflicts physical havoc on the perpetrators.
“What I love about this character is that she reminds me a little bit of my mother,” Miller said of her mother, who was a single teen mother in the South. “She reminds me a little of a lot of people's mothers... It's the story of a single Black female who makes it work. And she happens to be in the criminal enterprise.”
The third "Power" spinoff, which was renewed for a second season prior to the first episode airing, is a prequel chronicling the early years of the now-deceased murderous character portrayed by Jackson, the Grammy Award-winning hip hop superstar who also serves as the show's narrator.
Miller described the hour-long series based on 50 Cent's life before he became wealthy and famous as a "mother-son tale." “It's about the unbreakable bond of love that exists between these two individuals. And I believe that is the story we are telling. Yes, this is a crime drama, but it is also a family drama.”
After performing groovy showtunes on both sides of the Atlantic as Deloris Von Cartier in "Sister Act," the Carnegie Mellon University alumna made a splash on Broadway as the Leading Player in the 2013 revival of "Pippin." Men have traditionally played the circus artist role, most notably Ben Vereen, who created the role in 1972.
Miller and Vereen became the first actors to win the Tony Award for best leading actor and leading actress in a musical for the same role with their wins for "Pippin."
Her award was one of four given to African American actors at the 2013 Tony Awards ceremony. Cicely Tyson won the award for best actress in a play, Courtney B. Vance won the award for best actor in a featured role in a play, and Billy Porter, Miller's mentor, won the award for best actor in a musical.
She joined the cast of the blockbuster "Hunger Games" franchise as Commander Paylor in both "Mockingjay" sequels from The Great White Way.