'Raising Kanan' Showrunner Sascha Penn on Unexpected Surprises in Season 2 (Exclusive)

Raising Kanan is back for a second season, and has already been green-lit for a third season ahead of its Aug. 14 release on STARZ. The third series in the Power Universe family centers on the original story of the fan-favorite character, Kanan Stark, and follows his coming of age in South Jamaica, Queens. Set in the 1980s and raised by a single mother, who ruthlessly runs the family's emerging criminal empire using her son at the helm, Kanan charts out a path through some of the city's most volatile streets while, at the same time, navigating his way through adolescence, which has its own dangers and pitfalls. In its forthcoming second season, Raq expands her territory by partnering with the dangerous Mafia territory as she struggles to keep control over Kanan. 

Much of the show's success can be attributed to showrunner and executive producer, Sascha Penn. PopCulture.com spoke with Penn about the twists and turns to come in season 2. Check out the full video interview above.

PC: Congratulations on, obviously, season two of the show. Fans are super duper excited. So what would you say would be your biggest challenge or pressure that you felt going from season one to season two?

SP: I think just, on a certain level, raising the stakes but not raising them in a way that feels crazy, that feels unearned or inorganic. I think that's the big challenge is that the Power audience, they're used to a certain rhythm and flow of the series, and so we want to give them that, and yet at the same time, we want to make sure that everything feels, like I said, earned and that we don't jump the shark, so to speak, and that we keep everything grounded. So that's a real challenge. But also, I think the central challenge is always to just keep getting better as storytellers, as filmmakers, just to keep raising the stakes for ourselves creatively is always the goal and the challenge.

PC: Well, it's interesting that you said that the audience is used to a certain flow. I would argue that we actually are not, we never know what's going to happen episode to episode, which -

SP: But that's the flow, that's the flow right there.

PC: I guess that is the flow. It's a roller-coaster. We're just like, "Okay, who's going to die next episode?"

SP: Right.

PC: "Who's popping back up?" So with Power Universe, they're infamous for killing off characters. What can you tease about? Who stays, and who goes this time around?

SP: I mean, look, I think the Power mantra has always been, "No one is safe," and I think that's pretty consistent here. Obviously, we know that there are two characters who are going to live, right? We know Kanan's going to live, and we know Jukebox is going to live. I think everyone else, it's always a question mark. And I will say... what I think a lot of viewers don't understand is how hard it is on a personal level to kill off characters. These actors become almost like family members, and the idea of not having them around is, for me, personally, painful, and I have to have the conversation with any actor. So it's a heartbreaking thing that we do, and yet we sort of have to do it because, yeah, I mean, that's part of the Powerverse to a certain extent. And I think it's part of contemporary television in general that no one is safe.

PC: What would you say that you anticipate the audience being the most shocked by season two?

SP: I think they're going to be most shocked by sort of the new alliances that are formed and the old ones that are sort of broken. And I also think they'll be shocked by sort of the family drama of it all because I think the relationships between the family members are like really, really tested this season, and I think anyone who's seen season one knows that the season ended in a pretty precarious spot and so that obviously is going to have a real seismic impact on our central relationship, which is really Raq and Kanan.

PC: And speaking on the way that the show ended on season one, we know that Kanan shot Malcolm. What can you tell us about how this impacts his character development and his mental state in season two? Because I'm assuming that's the complete takeover of season two.

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SP: Yeah. I mean, obviously, we know if you've seen the trailer that Howard lives, so that becomes a real challenge for Raq, right? He's dealing with this guy. But yeah, I mean, I think for Kanan, what becomes very, very challenging is that his mother, who was sort of the sun that he orbits and whom he trusts above any other, may be untrustworthy. And that for him is really, really difficult to sort of process and understand because when this person that you sort of live your life for betrays you in a way, that's a real shock to the system, and I think it does speak to Kanan's journey and how Kanan ends up being the Kanan of Power. And so I think that's the fun of the series, but also very much integral to season two.