How would the world change if women and girls were able to tip the power scales? And by power, I mean both in the traditional social sense as well as literal powers emanating from their bodies. That’s what is happening in The Power, a new Prime Video series based on Naomi Alderman’s bestselling book of the same name. It is a universe much like ours, except teen girls suddenly gain the ability to shoot electricity from their fingertips. We explore a few of their journeys alongside adult women in positions of power who leverage their status to effect global change. Nerdist caught up with showrunner Raelle Tucker to chat about the show’s epic cinematic style, building a women-led writers’ room, the ways this power will challenge the gender binary, and more.
Nerdist: The Power book has such a cinematic writing style and epic scale to its story. I’d love for you to talk about what your vision was in terms of bringing that to the format and pacing of television.
Raelle Tucker: You are right to say that Naomi Alderman’s book is written to be television… It’s so epic, it’s so cinematic. You can picture every character, you can picture the world that she’s created, it jumps off the page and I think that’s why we’re all here. For me, I love television and the reason I’ve been [in my career] for as long as I have, specifically TV, is that propulsive feeling when you get to an end of an episode and you’re like, “I have to know what the F is going to happen, and that’s why I do what I do. That’s the dream.”
When I came on board to this show, it was all about finding that within it because there was incredible character work. There’s incredible cinematic scope, and then it’s like, “Okay, we need an engine underneath this and we need to feel that movement.” You want to feel that every character, as disparate as they all are, particularly in the first half of the season, they are being moved slowly towards each other. You want to feel that gravitational pull, that destiny, that these people are going to change the world and we’re going to get to watch them do it and we can’t stop watching them do it. That was the dream. That’s what I came on board to try to do.
Love it. Speaking of the show’s powerful characters, you have the framework of the book to give you a foundational base for them, of course, but how did you expand and redevelop them for the television show?
Tucker: The book covers such a huge arc over so many years, and the show is more about finding the small moments. You want to find human moments that people can connect to and see themselves within. It was really about taking [the characters’] experiences and bringing really amazing writers in many writers’ rooms that happened on this show and getting a variety of really true personal raw experiences and breaking those down into scenes and moments that we could connect to an audience with. It is taking massive scale and shrinking it down to human moments.
And we really get such a strong foundation for these characters in the first few episodes. You mentioned your writers’ room and I know that it was powered solely by women. What were some of the qualities you wanted to craft the right collective of people?
Tucker: The crazy thing about this project is that it happened over many years in many different writers’ rooms. Initially there were writers’ rooms that I wasn’t a part of. There was a whole level of work that happened before I ever got here. When I came on board, I needed people that know how to make something propulsive, that know how to work with genre, but also have a really strong character foundation. I’m always also looking for diversity of background and people’s own personal experiences and what they can bring to the show.
It was important to have people from all walks of life, from all cultures. It was really important to have queer writers in the room, trans writers, people who could speak to [those experiences]. We definitely had a really inclusive writers’ room. I wouldn’t say that having no men was helpful, [but] it maybe allowed a place for people to be a little bit more honest and raw and vulnerable…
That diversity is just so important, especially with a story like this. From what we can tell so far, it seems that this power comes through a binary viewpoint in terms of who can and cannot attain it. Like you mentioned, there’s trans writers in the room and we also meet Sister Maria, a trans character on the show. Do you have any plans to explore how the power works for people who aren’t cisgender?
Tucker: Absolutely! This show is incredibly inclusive. We are telling a variety of stories from a variety of people’s points of view… Our trans character will relate to the power and you will get to see that if you stick with [the show].
Wonderful. I look forward to seeing how the power manifests for her. Of course, this show explores actual physical powers, but there’s also a larger conversation about what happens when you gain power of any variety and how it can lead towards corruption. How will this show explore that concept?
Tucker: Power is such a big word to talk about… There’s so many different kinds of power and not all of it is negative. We all exist in this world within some degree of power structure, so anyone can look at the show and identify some part of themselves and how they relate to power. One of the things that’s exciting about the show is the wish fulfillment of watching people that have historically not had power get to acquire it. You get to watch what they would do with that power, but you also get to watch the darker, more insidious and dangerous aspects of power itself.
It’s not just power that corrupts [people]. What often corrupts [us] is the path to getting power. What did you have to go through to get to the point where you had ownership over your life, over your own body, and not to mention the rest of the people around you? When you do acquire that, that’s a huge responsibility. Knowing how to work with that and do something good in the world is incredibly challenging for anybody. None of these people [in The Power] are perfect people and it’s not a simple thing to have power over anyone.
Absolutely. As far as the electrical power, we get an explanation of how it works pretty early on in the series. Why was it important to do that upfront instead of extending that mystery to future episodes?
Tucker: An audience wants to be able to go on a ride with these characters. They want to go on an adventure. I love a mystery, I love a whodunit, but that’s not what this show is about. This is about the world being transformed by the emergence of this power. We need everybody to get on board and understand what we’re dealing with so that you can connect with these characters’ journeys and watch what they do with it, which is really the most interesting aspect of the show. It’s not so much about electricity and the organ that’s causing it and why. That’s not the s**t I’m interested in! I’m interested in what it does to human beings.
It certainly shifts all of their lives in major ways. I love the ensemble of women and girls in the series, but Allie is exceptionally interesting, especially in these early episodes. She’s like this Biblical figure who goes through strife and is then pushed towards something greater by a calling, which in her case is The Voice. Is The Voice representative of something specific or do you want to leave it more to the viewer’s interpretation?
Tucker: Now you’re talking about mysteries that we actually will have some degree of answers to eventually! But you’re going to have to hang in there and wait for it… Right now, The Voice is incredibly mysterious… We should be wondering, “Is Allie talking to God? Some kind of new God? Is she being driven by voices in her head in another way? Is there a degree of trauma that has caused this?”
I think all of those questions are part of what Allie’s journey is about… You want to watch Allie and the incredible arc that she goes through. And you want her to find safety and to eventually be able to help others and spread a positive message. At the same time, this voice in her head, spoilers, might not always be leading her towards the most benevolent place, and that’s part of the journey.
I cannot wait to see what happens next for Allie! In the first three episodes of The Power, we also get to know Jos, a girl with powers, and her mom Margot, who is the mayor of Seattle. Of course, Margot wants to defend Jos but she also cares about what’s happening with young women and girls around the world. At the end of episode three, she actually makes the bold decision to tell the world what they really know about the power. Why did you decide to take her story in that route and how does it further cement her future character arc?
Tucker: Margot’s a fascinating character. I find her [to be] very brave and her ambition really exciting. We don’t often let women and mothers be ambitious, and when they are ambitious, we tend to punish them for their ambition. That’s something we talked a lot about not doing with Margot because she ultimately wants to make the world a better place. She’s driven by a desire to actually change the world for good, which is why she comes out publicly and spills the beans and puts her own career at risk in a huge way. She’s driven by altruism, ultimately.
However, power is an unwieldy thing. And one of the things that I find really interesting is the exploration of someone who wants to do good, sets out to do good, and is suddenly handed this platform and responsibility and is forced to be the voice for a lot of people. That forces you to make some really difficult decisions that might not please everyone or make anyone happy. It ultimately dismantles her family in a huge way. The question is, what would you do if you were given the opportunity to do something for the greater good, but it hurts your own family in the process? That’s a very tricky position to be in.
For sure. And speaking of scenarios, I wonder what you would do if you had access to this life-changing, electrical power.
I am not a very aggressive person. I’m fierce, but I’m not violent, right? So I couldn’t imagine myself going out and just randomly kicking a** with it. I would say I would love very much to walk through the world without a sense of physical jeopardy that so many of us feel. I would love to know that I could just walk…
At night…or any time!
Yes! That I could just walk into a place and not think, “Okay, I better be under the streetlight. I better not look at that man too long. I better not wear that…” If I could just not have that feeling every day, just removing that weight. That’s the wish fulfillment for me of this is to imagine a world where we don’t have to be afraid.