Courtney Kemp Agboh makes being a television show runner look effortless but any veteran in the industry—a white male, dominated and lucrative field—will tell you the honest and raw truth and that it’s not an easy task and those who excel must approach the job with measured passion. 


It’s not news to anyone that women and non-white writers continue to be grossly underrepresented, in television, as compared with their numbers in the general public. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) release yearly reports tracking such sad factual numbers. On recent findings female writers, African Americans, Latino, Asian-Americans and Native Americans were underrepresented, respectively by a factor of 2-to-1, African-Americans by 6-1, Latinos by 9-1, Asian-Americans by 4-1 and Native Americans by 12-1.


To help bridge the glaring gap many solid writer programs have taken root and produced some of the finest writers/show creators, of color, which has begun to change the color of a writers room.  To become a show-runner — the next step out of the writers’ room — is not a job made to be filled by many.  To that end, the WGA created the Show-runner Training Program (SRTP) to address the delicate skills needed to even be considered and even then, for people of color and women, the numbers that actual hold that post is rare.


SRTP is conducted in partnership with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and the extensive training program is designed to help senior-level writer-producers and recent creators hone the skills necessary to become successful show-runners in today’s television landscape. To qualify a candidate must be an active WGAW or WGAE member in good standing with “Producer” level credit or above on a current, dramatic (comedy or drama) television series and/or an active studio or network pilot or pilot script commitment. A recommandation must be submitted on the writer’s behalf by a current or recent (2013-2016) show-runner, or executive producer, or a network or studio executive (from the development or current departments).


Hopefully, you get a glimpse on how high the mountain top is from the bottom.  To climb this terrain, reach the top and thrive requires the strength and skill. 


Some of the alumni that has been benefited from SRTP include Cheo Hodari Coker (Luke Cage), Malcolm Spellman and, Courtney Kemp.


On June 25 Starz’s Power, created by Courtney A. Kemp serves as showrunner and executive producer of Power. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Mark Canton, Randall Emmett and Gary Lennon serve as executive producers.


Starting their 4th year, Power follows James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), a drug kingpin living a double life who in season 4 seeks to find redemption. The 10-episode fourth season picks up on the heels of James’ highly publicized arrest by his ex-girlfriend, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Valdes (Lela Loren), for the murder of FBI Agent Greg Knox—a crime he did not commit. Ghost can’t outrun his past choices and mounting enemies this season, which threaten his freedom and his family’s safety at every turn. His fight for redemption brings him face-to-face with the Feds, the media, new allies, and old foes. But the biggest obstacle for Ghost remains himself and his internal struggle between the man he wants to be and the one he really is.


Since the launch of Starz’s Power the main stream media chatter, comparing the series to Fox’s Empire, has been kicked up to provide all the necessary ingredients for a “cat fight”


offering up a ridiculous question on how “can the market place maintain interest in following the lives of complex African-American characters with two different shows?”  Incredulous and infuriating at which Courtney Kemp Agboh spoke the truth:   “This would never have been asked to a white producer” and she’s absolutely correct.


In 2015, when I had the opportunity to ask Kemp Agboh about her day, this is what she offered to share: 


“A typical day in the writers room is like an improv performance, because we are all talking all the time, shooting out ideas — this that and the other,” reveled Agboh who, underscoring her point, snapped her slender fingers in a fast, syncopated beat. “In order to write for television, you must be able to come up with an idea, really fast, have a conversation and understand why it works, or doesn’t work (and) understand its’ greater implications.”


Case in point, Agboh brought up the second episode, of the first season, which she wrote, where she placed a key chain into the story, she added that this series is “very well plotted and for an audience that pays attention, it’s [the key chain] a gift, to be appreciated and understood later.”


Looking back over three seasons of Power, it’s easy to, now, fully appreciate her level of detail: hindsight being 20/20.  She continued, “It’s a little thing for them [Ghost and Angela, played by Lela Loren] stealing something, together, as kids, but then we ask [creatively] ‘what does that mean later?’ — I learned a lot of lessons, while writing for the Good Wife — when you drop, some little tiny hint, you always try to connect that later.  It’s a gift for an audience, that’s paying attention, but it’s also about the fact that the whole show is about the domino effect, how one decision — made over here — will carry over here.”


More with Courtney Kemp Agboh and the 4th season of Power in June.

Category: Cover Stories