While most of you may recognize Michael Rainey Jr. from his role as Ghost’s son, Tariq, on 50 Cent’s critically-acclaimed show Power on Starz, the 19-year-old has actually been acting for a long time prior to the show.
From the young age of 8-years-old, acting somehow randomly fell into Michael’s lap. A night out in the city with his mother, a lady from an agency for pre-teens at the time asked “is this your song?
Is he into acting or modeling?” The next day, he had a meeting with the entire staff at their office. That same week, he was auditioning for commercials for “Price Chopper” and “Sesame Street,” “Law & Order” and a music video he did for an Italian singer, which went crazy on MTV.
Italian director Silvio Muccino then scouted Michael, reaching out to his mother saying “this is my Charlie, I need him to be in a movie.” Next thing you know, he’s in Italy visiting, eventually even moving there for a year and some change.
Fast forward to 2020, he’s somehow lasted through 6 seasons of “Power” which is crazy as “nobody’s safe.” With that comes a genuine relationship with 50 Cent, who frequently posts Michael on his iconic Instagram page.
The new spinoff, “GHOST” picks up where “Power” left off, after Rainey (Tariq) kills off his own dad, Ghost.
AllHipHop caught up with Michael. Read below as we discuss the moment 50 asked him if he’s ready to lead his own show, and love for Max B.
AllHipHop: You were out in Italy at 9 years old acting, how was that?
Michael Rainey Jr.: I didn’t even know the movie was filmed in full Italian. I went to Italy for 10 days, visited, got to know everybody. I went back and ended up living there for a year and 2 months. I had to get used to the country and the language, because all of my lines were in Italian. I had to get acclimated to all that. That’s how everything got started. After that first movie, I did the movie Love with Common. From there, it just happened. [laughs]
AllHipHop: How was working with Common?
Michael Rainey Jr.: It was dope. It was amazing, my first movie in America. Super cool rapper, I always knew his music. Always knew who he was. When they told me he’s going to be on it, I’m like “damn, this is pretty cool.”
AllHipHop: How’s it feel to live through 6 seasons of Power?
Michael Rainey Jr.: It’s crazy because in the world of Power, nobody’s safe. Anybody can go at any time. Making it through 6 seasons and being the last one standing is a blessing. How I started on the show, I never would’ve thought I would end up in this position with a recurring role. It was more a hi and a bye type of character at first. Throughout Season 3, 4, 5, that’s when they really started writing my storyline and creating a story for Tariq himself. It’s insane going from how I started on the show to now. I don’t even know how it happened, it’s wild. [laughs] It’s crazy.
AllHipHop: What are you most excited for as the premiere arrives this Sunday?
Michael Rainey Jr.: For people to see the whole new energy in the world of Power because now, Tariq’s a kid. He’s in school, he’s around more people his age. People get to see Tariq be a kid and not just a villain in the show. They could see him being a kid and making decisions for his mother and family. It’s just a whole new energy to the world of Power. It’s still gritty, real, violent but it has another side that’s playful, joking around. More youthful energy.
AllHipHop: How does it feel to be the lead of such a hit show?
Michael Rainey Jr.: It’s unreal honestly. It’s crazy. They had told me when we were in the middle of filming Season 6. One day 50 Cent came on set, we’re chopping it up for a little bit. Out of nowhere, he says “yo, you’re going to have to get ready soon. You about to be the lead of your own show after this.” I’m like “yeah, whatever.” 50 Cent’s always joking around. A week or 2 after that, Courtney told me I was going to be taking over the lead role of the new show. Oh s##t, this is real.
I got a little nervous like, “how am I about to do this?” As it got closer for the time to start shooting, I calmed down. “I got this.” The first week was super dope because everyone I met, all the new faces on the cast super cool. Everyone has good chemistry. Even when we’re not filming on set, we’re all hanging out. Being on set was very comfortable. At first I thought “damn, I gotta make this transition to be the new lead role.” I still have a lot of responsibilities of course, but having even the old faces from the crew from the original come back made it a lot more easier and comfortable for me. Made my transition very easy, so I appreciate my crew and my cast.
AllHipHop: Did people hate you for the dumb stuff your character did?
Michael Rainey Jr.: Is that even a question?! Oh my God, the amount of hate messages, death threats, it’s crazy. It’s so funny to me. Damn, these people are really into the show. Really tuned in. I never really looked at it as a bad thing. Obviously sometimes, people go too far. The reaction I got from everybody, it’s pretty dope. This is what I do it for, for people to watch and react. The fact I got such a reaction out of so many people, what more could I ask for? I’m thankful for it honestly.
AllHipHop: The character Tariq has to balance family, school, and running a drug empire. How much can you relate in your real life, having grown up in the spotlight of a hit show?
Michael Rainey Jr.: It doesn’t really relate too much because I’m not running a drug empire, or killed my father. [laughs]. As far as the character Tariq, the hardships he went through with his family, I relate. Me and my father didn’t have a great relationship growing up. Now we’re super cool, but we had a lot of ups and downs. I use that as far as Tariq and Ghost, their relationship is rocky. I used the stuff I was going through in my life and put that towards work. I guess it worked. I’m pretty thankful for everything I went through in life, good or bad.
AllHipHop: Any teasers from POWER BOOK II: GHOST?
Michael Rainey Jr.: See, I don’t want Courtney Kemp calling my phone tomorrow like “what the h### did you say?” Mary J Blige is in it. Method Man is in it. It’s a new energy, going to be dope. Going to be huge. I’m excited. Since we started filming, I’m like “I can’t wait to see this.” My excitement is through the roof.
AllHipHop: What was the dynamic working with Mary?
Michael Rainey Jr.: Obviously Mary J Blige, that’s huge. Growing up, my mom would be cleaning the house on a Sunday listening to Mary and Alicia Keys, that type of music. Mary was always in my ears from when I was young. Even Method Man too, because my father listened to them. My father grew up with Method Man. Their neighborhoods were parallel, my dad lived in Stapleton and Method Man lived next door. They’re literally right next to each other so they have a history together. From that to working with him is dope. Been cool with each other, now me and him are on the same show. It’s dope, especially because we’re both from Staten Island. Staten Island is the forgotten borough of New York. Us being on the show, we’re representing two people from Staten Island. We’re working, I love it.
AllHipHop: Can we expect an appearance from 50 on the new show?
Michael Rainey Jr.: Oh, Who knows? You know Power, anything can happen at any time. In the last episode of last season, Kanan came out of nowhere and had that little talk with Tariq. It’s a big chance of it happening again. Y’all going to have to watch, I don’t even know. [laughs]
AllHipHop: What rapper makes you want to spit bars?
Michael Rainey Jr.: 50 Cent, of course. That’s my favorite rapper since I was 9, I’ve always looked up to him. I don’t really listen to too many rappers other than 50 Cent and Max B right now. Free the Wave!
AllHipHop: What do you like about Max?
Michael Rainey Jr.: Everything about Max, he’s just cool. His swag is yeah, I’m wavy baby (laughs).
AllHipHop: Anything else we can look forward to?
AllHipHop: I really want everyone to tune in, September 6th. Power Book II: Ghost. We airing, it’s lit.