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Michael Rainey Jr. isn’t afraid of the future as ‘Power Book II: Ghost’ ends

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NEW YORK (AP) — Social media death threats may have been one of the best things to ever happen for Michael Rainey Jr. – professionally, that is.

“When everything started really going crazy, I was like 17, 18. And at first, I’m like, ‘Dang, people crazy, bro!’ I’m like this is just a show,” said the now-23-year-old ‘Power Book II: Ghost’ lead. Whether the threats during the latter part of his tenure on the original megahit series “Power” were literal or in jest, it was indicative of the love-hate relationship fans developed with Tariq, the once-adorable son of drug kingpin James “Ghost” St. Patrick. Tariq eventually followed in his father’s footsteps.

“Shout out to the supporters that reacted because y’all helped me build a storyline,” said Rainey, a cast member for all six seasons of the original series that ended in 2020. “(Writers) see how the supporters react, and if they get a certain reaction, they literally build off of that in the next script.”

Those scripts and storylines would lay the foundation for the ‘Ghost’ spinoff, premiering in 2020, focusing on Tariq attempting to juggle illegal activity while attending a (fictional) Ivy League school. Viewers’ polarized feelings were an indicator that a new “Power” series centered around Tariq was viable.

But after three seasons, the show — consistently one of Starz’s highest viewed programs — will premiere its fourth and final season June 7. While fans and critics have voiced disappointment over the show’s end, particularly as it’s been reported it’s tied to cost containment for the network, Rainey, a car enthusiast who’s preparing to launch a car-themed episodic YouTube channel, says it took him a while to come to terms with the decision.

“I feel like there was a few other directions that we could go,” he said. “At the same time, I feel like they wanted to just end it while people still cared.”

The aspiring music producer, who will have a song with wolfacejoeyy premiere on a mid-season episode, spoke with the AP about his future, mentorship from acting veterans and avoiding being typecast. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

AP: What’s it been like knowing it’s the final season?

RAINEY: It’s definitely bittersweet. It’s been 10-plus years working with these great people. It’s just like we became family … Now, it’s basically over. But at the end of the day, it’s still – you know, it’s a blessing. And I’m super excited for what’s to come for everybody – not just me – but everyone that was part of the cast.

AP: You’ve led this series since you were 19. Do you feel like you get the respect you deserve as a leading man?

RAINEY: I feel like I do. I mean, I really only care for the respect and the acknowledgment from my crew and cast, and they give that to me … all the other people on the outside, their opinion about me being a good No. 1 doesn’t really change anything for me.

AP: It seems like you’ve had a lot of support from veteran actors and co-stars like Larenz Tate and Omari Hardwick. What does that mean to you?

RAINEY: Just having them in my corner and them just looking out for me, rooting for me is crazy. Especially like Larenz … literally every day he’s on set, he’s coming to me with the most encouraging words I’ve ever heard from anybody in my life. He makes me feel like there’s literally nothing I can’t do, especially when it comes to the art of acting.

It’s definitely a blessing to have people like that in your corner because it’s very rare, especially to meet people that genuinely care about you and your career in this business.

AP: Are you worried about being typecast?

RAINEY: I’m super excited about stepping into the next chapter and really showcasing that I could be looked at in a way different light than … just Tariq or a kid that’s menacing.

I really want to do a rom-com or something where I’m like a nerd or something, something like completely different than what I’ve been portraying for the past 10 years.

AP: What have you learned from playing Tariq that you’ve been able to apply to your own life?

RAINEY: Don’t feel too entitled to where you deprive yourself. And I always say this because I feel like a lot of people, especially kids my age or younger, they need to really understand there’s a million other blessings in the world. Like, you think that this is the only blessing for you and it’s making you blind to 10,000-million other blessings that are literally waiting for you… That’s what I learned from 50 (Cent). I take that with me everywhere I go.

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Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at: @GaryGHamilton on all his social media platforms.

By GARY GERARD HAMILTON
Associated Press

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