Method Man, née, Clifford “Cliff” Smith, has been playing no games as greedy lawyer Davis MacLean, who has no true ethical backbone on Power Book II: Ghost. And fans have noticed. “Sacrifice,” episode eight, which aired May 5, was especially gut-wrenching with Davis suffering both betrayal from his associate Cooper Saxe, one of the few holdovers from the very first Power, and heartbreak from his brother Theo. And yet, legal or not, he still had to find a way to get his clients and their close associates out of binds that could lead to lengthy prison sentences.
For the man who first made his mark on the mic as a force within the mighty Wu-Tang in the early ‘90s and went on to add his own successful solo career as well as a duo one with fellow rapper Redman to his list of accomplishments, Smith considers his role in the "Power" universe a breakthrough. That might sound surprising for an actor who has amassed over 60 acting credits over the past three decades; however, the actor admits that prior to his tenure as Davis MacLean, “nobody really cared about any of the roles I actually played in, with the exception of maybe The Wire.”
With Davis, he feels audiences are learning to respect his craft. “I remember the first season reading the tweets and it was like ‘Method Man, cringe,’ ‘Why is Method Man playing a lawyer?’ ‘Oh my God, they couldn’t get anybody better to play a lawyer?’ ‘Why did they pick him?’ Then that turned into ‘I hate Davis MacLean; I hope his ass go to jail,’ ‘How he gon' do Tariq like that?’, ‘Why would you team up with Saxe, Davis?’ And I love that because it went from them seeing me playing a character to me becoming the character and them believing in it,” he shares.
“That’s all you want when you are a name and you come into a show,” he continues. “You don’t want to take away from the storyline because people find it unbelievable that you could be this person or in this role. So kudos to the staff and kudos to me for doing the work. I did that.”
This season, Davis continued to work tirelessly to get his brother, Theo, out of jail. It’s a process Smith finds “kind of crazy [considering] that he could keep all his clients out of jail but can’t even help himself get his brother out of jail.” To make it even more personal for the “Bring the Pain” rapper, his How High partner-in-crime Redman appeared in a previous season as Davis’ brother Theo.
“That was the genius that is Courtney Kemp. It was a throwaway line about me even having a brother and when season two rolled around, she kind of asked me ‘What would you think about Redman?’ And before she could even finish the sentence, I was like ‘Yes!’ Next thing I know he was on the show. Great decision because we work well together.” As fans know, this season another actor, Jordan Mahome, took over the role.
Smith went on to share that he believes Davis’ relationship with Tariq sometimes mirrors the one he has with his brother. “Because Theo’s the older brother, Davis, at points and times, [has moments] where he embraces his moral code and helps this kid out. Maybe he sees some of Tariq in himself. Maybe it’s him trying to play the big brother like his brother did with him out of guilt,” he explains. “But all in all, at the end of the day, he doesn’t give a sh*t about that kid. It’s just what the kid brings. He’d rather him stay in trouble so he can keep milking the cow.”
He also doesn’t mince words about the shady lawyer’s dynamic with drug queen pin Monet Tejada, embodied by the icon Mary J. Blige, to whom he plays big brother in real life and recently delighted audiences by appearing with her at her Strength of a Woman Festival in Atlanta. “Monet can’t stand his ass because he reminds her of every bougie negro who has climbed up out of the mud and forgotten what it feels like,” he explains.
When quizzed about hip-hop's 50th anniversary and the fact that the genre is being celebrated internationally, the actor had this to say:
“This is a music form that we already knew could be as big as it is now. And the fact that it was started by kids, not just kids, but oppressed kids, and now it’s a multi-billion-dollar business that we started is incredible,” he says. “The fact that the origin of it came from us, I can be proud of that.”
The last two episodes of Power Book II: Ghost officially drop at midnight on May 19 and May 26.
Ronda Racha Penrice is the author of Black American History For Dummies and editor of Cracking The Wire During Black Lives Matter.