When East Orange, N.J., native Naturi Naughton isn’t watching herself on season two of the Starz breakout hit Power, she’ll be catching up on her summer reading. The singer, dancer and actress, who splits her time between Los Angeles and Brooklyn, N.Y., where the show tapes, is an avid reader who keeps several titles at the ready for that rare free moment.
EBONY sat down in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with Naughton for a picnic lunch and wide-ranging conversation about her favorite authors, her character’s next move—and how she prepares her parents to see their baby girl in some steamy love scenes.
EBONY: What can we expect to see between Tasha and Ghost this season on Power? Things seem like they can take a dark turn.
Naturi Naughton: Exactly right. You’ll see people who were once allies start to show they can’t be trusted. Everybody isn’t going to make it.
EBONY: Wait, someone’s going to get killed this season?
NN: All I’m saying is that this season is about raising the stakes and realizing who is really a friend and who isn’t.
EBONY: Your character is a mother and wife, loyal to the end. But does she have a breaking point?
NN: She does, like all women. And she’s the type of ride-or-die woman who gets serious when she feels like someone’s not being as loyal to her as she is to that person. Then she becomes very, “I don’t give a … whatever.”
EBONY: Power is returning after Empire has garnered huge success on network television. What does this mean for your show’s upcoming season?
NN: It means nothing but good things. They are totally different shows. Our show came out last season, and we’re being talked about quite a bit. I think the fans of Empire will be watching it. We can all eat and live. It’s kind of ridiculous to have to even ask that question—like there can’t be more than one urban Black show on the air at a time.
Right! It’s really a good time in the industry. Let me tell you something: All of my friends of color are working right now—all of them, specifically in television. There is definitely a resurgence happening and it’s a beautiful thing. There’s room for plenty of our stories.
EBONY: Similar to actresses like KeKe Palmer, we’ve watched you grow up since your days in the musical group 3LW. Palmer has mentioned how hard it is for people to let go and accept her as an adult. Did you have that issue as well?
NN: Not in the same way. I wasn’t on a Disney show. I was in a girl’s group. But it did help that when I left the group, I actually went to college at Seton Hall University. It was weird to have a video on MTV and I’m sitting in an Intro to Political Science class. But I’m glad I did it. I left college in my junior year to do Broadway but I still benefited from it. I got to be a regular girl and do regular girl stuff.
EBONY: On Power, your character has to deal with some major drama with her husband. Is that something you can relate to in your own relationships?
NN: Not necessarily in relationships. But when I was in 3LW, I made a decision to fight for myself and leave. I had to say, “I choose me. I’m worth more than anything happening with this group right now.” Many opportunities opened up for me when I said, “I choose me” and walked away. So my character, Tasha, may have that moment—or she may not.
EBONY: Regarding making time for yourself, let’s talk about what you’re going to be reading this summer. Is there any author at the top of your list?
NN: ReShonda Tate Billingsley. What I love about her is that she makes relatable stories about us. I read them and I feel transported to a conversation with my girlfriends. I’m in the film adaption of one of her books, Let the Church Say Amen, directed by Regina King, and I’m really excited about that. I’ve been waiting to read What’s Done in the Dark since it came out last year and now I’m finally going to make it a point this summer to dig in!
EBONY: Now these are some racy books. You’re no stranger to having to play a character who is… comfortable with sexuality, yet you grew up in a church-going household. How do your parents deal with roles like Lil’ Kim in Notorious and your more suggestive scenes in Power?
NN: I warned them before I did Notorious, especially since that was my first film. They knew I was auditioning for it, but they didn’t know it was that risqué. I showed them the nude scene beforehand, and thank goodness they supported me. I was so nervous. They knew it was a role and I was playing a character, so they got it. And I love them for it.
EBONY: The intimate scenes are just as intense on Power. And you’re doing them with Omari Hardwick…
NN: [Laughs] I know. My friends are very jealous. But our sex scenes are so choreographed. It’s NOT sexy on set. Trust me. It’s like, “I’m going to be on top. Then you grab my back here. And make sure you lift my leg that way because that’s the better camera angle and then touch my boob.” [Laughs] But it works. We make it spicy.
EBONY: This is our Sexy issue, so we have to ask, are you keeping it spicy in your personal life?
NN: Well, I’ll say this: I’m very happy. I’m in a relationship. I’m 31 years old. I’m grown. I feel sexy. And things are very spicy. It’s not choreographed in real life!
EBONY: This issue also embraces the theme of “sexy at any age.” Is there an actress whom you aim to model as you get older?
NN: Angela Bassett! Her skin is beautiful, her body is so toned. That woman makes me want to drop down and do squats every time I see her! I’m going to do some right now. Well, after we finish this food. [Laughs]
Naturi Naughton, shot exclusively for EBONY on May 11, in New York City by Luis Antonio Thompson. Catered picnic and basket provided by Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in NYC. Call (212) 258-9595 to place an order.
To read more stories, pick up the July 2015 issue of EBONY on stands now!