Power Book II: Ghost’s Shane Johnson on Complexities of Cooper Saxe & Devoted Power Fans


The curtain is finally closed on one, Cooper Saxe.

Saxe has been here since the beginning, fighting the good fight, as he antagonized Angela and sought to get the drug dealers and murderers off the streets.

From Power to Power Book II: Ghost, Saxe has been much maligned as a thorn in many characters’ sides. However, his shocking death at the end of Power Book II: Ghost Season 3 Episode 8 will reverberate throughout the rest of the season.

Shane Johnson is a gem, and talking to the gifted actor was a great pleasure. He has such a unique and passionate perspective about Saxe, and we were lucky to speak with him about what led to Cooper’s demise and his experience in the Power Universe.

Saxe has been evading death for a very long time now. Why do you think his luck finally ran out? And how do you think he could do that for so long?

Well, I think that there are two things going on. One thing is that as the complexity of the character has evolved over time, we find more and more layers to Saxe.

In season one of Power, he was just a pain in the butt to Angela. And then, over time, he’s gained in complexity. He became somebody that was after James St. Patrick.

And then he became somebody who had a family, and then he became somebody who had a love interest. And then he kind of had this daughter-ish sort of energy with Riley. And then now he’s working with Davis (Method Man.)

So he’s been through a lot of different lives. And I think that the other thing in tandem with that is the fact that he’s never won. He’s just been catching L’s at every step of the game. And I think with that has been building this desperation to win. To find a way to make sense out of this world.

Because ultimately, one of the things I’ll say about Cooper Saxe is I think that he’s about justice. He really does feel like he’s doing the right thing.

And at first, it was by the book, and then it became a little bit more questionable. But ultimately, it was always for the right thing. He wanted justice. He’s never gone after anybody that was innocent.

He’s never been after somebody that was a good guy that should be out on the streets. So he was just trying to find a way to put people behind bars that should be behind bars.

And I think that over time what happens is that he gets sloppy. He gets messy and desperate, and his methods continue to erode to the point where he becomes dangerous to himself and the people around him. And I think that culminates in his demise ultimately. Does that ring true to you?

I was thinking about it while writing up the episode’s review. And I was thinking about Cooper throughout the whole series. He’s outlasted so many people. Ghost, Angela, Kanan, all these people.

And I was trying to figure out why that was. And I think you summed it up pretty well. There were different iterations of him and different complexities throughout the series. So how he was able to evade for so long, I think it was a little bit of luck.

I think it was a little bit of just who Cooper is. I think he was somebody who knew how to maneuver his way out of situations.

Yeah. I would totally agree with that. I think that he’s a survivor, of course. But I think one of the things that Courtney has always been — I believe; I’m not speaking for Courtney — but I feel like Courtney’s projection for the show is that ultimately, at a certain point, you’re going to come up against your own karma.

You’re going to get your just desserts.

And so you’re right. He has outlived some people that you’d think, like, I can’t believe Cooper Saxe is still around ten years later. But that being said, Cooper Saxe was after something. He was after justice. He was never out for himself.

He was never really out for, “Oh, I want the glory. I want to win some award of some kind, or a Purple Heart, or some sort of position of power.” He wasn’t really after that. He just wanted to see justice through. And his insanity, his real insanity, and his falling off the rails started when he kept losing and losing and losing and losing.

And I think that he got more and more dangerous. He put himself in more and more harm’s way. And he also was more willing to bend the rules and do stuff that is off the books and illegal, and willing to do whatever he had to do to get not revenge but in order to get justice.

I think that ultimately that’s what did him in, is that he was questioned in this last episode. Monique, who plays Blanca, says to him, “This could blow your cover. Are you ready for that?”

And he says, “Yeah.” And that to me was, even though it was just him saying, “Yeah,” I feel like ultimately that’s one of the most pivotal moments for Cooper Saxe because he was saying, “I’m ready to face whatever’s coming down the pike here because I have to get somewhere. I have to have some kind of win.”

What do you think was Saxe’s biggest regret?

I think that Saxe’s biggest regret of Ghost was probably that he put too much energy and stock into his relationship with Jenny. He was clearly lovesick and wanted something there that was just not there for her.

And I feel like, in large part, that was also part of his demise as well, in that he had this woman who he was willing to do basically whatever she needed to be done. He would do it. And in reality, let’s be real. If Jenny wasn’t in the picture, Cooper Saxe would still be alive. He would be figuring out some kind of new tactic with Davis.

He’d be figuring out a new angle. But the fact that he had his heart involved, which it’s, by the way, a very interesting lesson about life, I guess. The fact that he let his heart best his mind is ultimately the thing that did him in.

Yeah, it is. And that can be true to life. You’re right.

You were on the show, obviously, from the beginning. Is there anything you wish you’d gotten to do on the show that you didn’t?

Yeah. In my secret heart of hearts, I visualized Cooper Saxe becoming somebody that went to the other side and got his hands dirty and ended up becoming a bit of a ruthless, really smart advocate for Tariq and his organization, but also somebody that owed something to the dark side because he had crossed over.

That I thought would’ve been a really interesting track for Cooper Saxe, which, for instance, he accidentally or on purpose kills someone or needs somebody taken care of and goes to somebody and says, “I need this person dealt with.”

And then, all of a sudden, he’s engaged in this world that he’s not familiar with. But ultimately, I think the coolest thing would’ve been if Cooper Saxe got his hands dirty and had to turn to somebody like Tariq and say, “I need your help.” And him going like, “What? What the hell do you need from me?”

And he’s like, “I need you to make something go away.” And now, all of a sudden, they’re in business. I thought that could’ve been pretty interesting.

What’s it been like being part of the Power Universe? And what do you have to say to all of the fans of the universe, those who loved to hate Saxe?

This show has been the single most incredible blessing of my career, for sure. And to me, in the beginning, the hatred that Cooper Saxe got from the fans was very off-putting because I’m an actor, and I was going like, “Whoa, what is all this energy?”

But over time, it has really matriculated him into becoming the kind of thing that, whenever I get the hate, it sounds to me, what my ears hear is, “Dude, we love you. We love what you’re bringing to this.” And so I’ve been nothing but proud of what we’ve done with Cooper Saxe and Power and Ghost.

And I really feel like the audience interaction has been, especially since I caught on that, oh, hey, it’s okay that people say, “If I ever see you, I’ll kill you.” At first, I was taking that personally, like, “Whoa, hold on a second. You know I’m an actor, right?”

But it has really become something that I’m proud of. I feel like when somebody says, “I hate you. I can’t wait for you to die.” To me, what I hear is, “Dude, you are vibrant in this world and needed in this world, and you piss me off because you’re doing your job.”

And so that’s been a good journey for me and something I’m really proud of. And I love our fans. Our fans are so devoted. Our fans are so in. They’re so into the story, and they’re so into what we’re doing. I can’t believe that I get to be a part of this. It’s been an incredible, incredible journey for like a decade.

***This interview has been edited for length and clarity.***

You can watch Power Book II: Ghost Fridays at 8/9c on Starz and follow our weekly reviews here at TV Fanatic.

Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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