The SoulBounce Q&A: ‘Power Book III: Raising Kanan’ Stars Hailey Kilgore, Aliyah Turner & Liv Symone Talk ‘Butta’ & What It Was Like To Form A Girl Group For The Gritty Drama

Photo Credit: Power Book III: Raising Kanan/Instagram

If you, like millions of others, tuned in to Season 3 of the hit STARZ show Power Book III: Raising Kanan, then you’ve been treated to the show’s high-stakes drama as it takes us back to the early ’90s upbringing of Power character Kanan Stark (Mekai Curtis) and his drug kingpin mother Raquel Thomas (Tony Award-winning actress Patina Miller). While the main focus has been on them, we’ve also gotten to know Kanan’s cousin Jukebox (played by Hailey Kilgore) and her bandmates Krystal (Aliyah Turner) and Iesha (Liv Symone), who form the fledgling girl group Butta during this season in an attempt to make it big.

If you saw the explosive season finale, then you know that the fate of Butta is up in the air for now. While fans of the series wait to see if things get resolved in Season 4, we got a chance to chat with Hailey, Aliyah and Liv about what it took to bring Butta to life, the ’90s girl groups they looked to for inspiration and whether or not we’ll be seeing the trio jump from the screen to the stage in real life.

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The character of Jukebox was originated by Anika Noni Rose on the original Power. What was it like to step into a role created by such an iconic actress and make it your own?

Hailey Kilgore: She was the only reason I wanted to do it! I grew up watching and admiring her in Dreamgirls, Princess and the Frog, Caroline Or Change… the list goes on. She’s a true actress. A true performer [and] true visionary. I was so excited. I remember reading the character description — “Jukebox” wasn’t the title for the audition. It was like “Kayla” or something like that. But it said “Kanan’s cousin,” and I was like, “I think that’s the Anika Noni Rose character. And I was like, yeah, I’m all in. I love her, I adore her.

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And how did you ladies have this opportunity come about to be on the show?

Liv Symone: I signed with a new manager and agent and was assembling my Avengers team, you know? Maybe like three weeks after us getting together, I got the audition. My manager sent it to me and immediately I was like, “Oh yeah!” Because I had been raving about Raising Kanan. All of the shows in the Power universe are great, but Raising Kanan? That’s that one, you know? And so when I got it, I remember I was leaving a hair appointment and I saw the email. I dropped in immediately, like, “OK, this is going to be mine.” There’s no way that I love this show the way I do, and I have this audition that’s so on the nose for singing, dancing. All of that, and having a theater background. It just seemed too perfect, you know? And the rest is history, I guess.

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Aliyah Turner: I remember when I first got the audition from my manager, it was actually under a different name, because they’re so sensitive, right? So my mom and my brother, it was their favorite show. I dropped it on and sometimes, but they loved it [and] watched every episode. So I’m like, “Doesn’t sound familiar? Because they say it’s this but I’m thinking it’s this.” They’re like, “Oh man, they’re playing with you, they’re playing with you.” So when I found out what it was, it was really exciting. And I love the character. They had Liv and I sing, dance and act and send in multiple tapes. I would say it was a challenging process, but it was fun.

What was the process like for you guys to actually form Butta as a group and make this believable for the camera?

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Hailey: I’ve been training since I was nine years old. I started working when I was 12. So you know, for years and years and years, just like Victoria Monét was talking about at the GRAMMYs, you know. I was this seed that had all this brilliant soil of all these incredible artists and teachers and trainers. So now, as I book more roles — whether it’s Power, whether it’s Respect, whether it’s Cinnamon, whether, you know, the list goes on and on and on. Talent and preparedness meets opportunity. That’s where the magic happens. It was a little bit of an adjustment. [But] we have an incredible creative team led by [Raising Kanan creator/showrunner] Sascha Penn and so they make it really easy for us to step into the role. Especially, I have to shout out [costume designer] Tsigie White and [the makeup and hair team] because I think once I get an outfit and the braids and the skin, I’m just really able to transform. So it’s definitely not on me. I have to give credit to them for sure.

Liv: We had a lot of rehearsal. We were so lucky to have [choreographer] Karla Garcia. Living in New York and being in the theater world, I have known who Karla was for years and had been following her, but never got to work with her. So I remember when Sascha [Penn], the showrunner, told us it was supposed to be someone else. But, you know, he recommended this woman named Karla. And I was like, “Oh my God, this is the opportunity!” So she and her associate, everything that you saw, they worked that thing down to the bone. They’re so professional, so creative, great at what they do and great at transferring their knowledge and the information they want us to receive. It’s all them. I mean, of course, it’s us. But they really got us together and we were so lucky to have them.

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This [season] takes place in 1992 and there is a wealth of people to inspire the group from that time. Did you guys look to any particular groups to make sure that you had that vibe going?

Aliyah: Yeah, I think, um, TLC. A lot of the fans are saying it’s giving TLC, and that was kind of the inspiration with the fashion and the style and bringing [these] different personalities to a group.

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Hailey: We really honed in on En Vogue and SWV. That’s who we really, when we were kind of creating the Butta dynamic, that’s really who we were looking at. And I think you can see it with wardrobe and choreography and styling. That really got us there in a specific way, but it was so different. You know, because when we’re looking at these new girl groups like FLO —  I have to shout them out all the time because I absolutely adore that group — things are different now. And so it’s really fun to step back into that ’90s step-touch [kind of vibe].

Photo Credit: Power Book III: Raising Kanan/Instagram

Butta has three songs on the soundtrack — “Something,” “Rolling With You” and “Now You’re Gone.” What was it like recording those three songs for you?

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Liv: Oh, so fun. Everyone was just so talented. All the girls, we all sang our parts and brought our own little flair and flavor to it. It’s fun to be able to be like “stream my song” to people, you know what I mean? People have been writing me all the time telling me how much they love the songs. People are like, “We know you’re an actor. But can y’all drop an album for real?”

Aliyah: It’s nice because we weren’t sure how people were gonna react. There hasn’t been too much female music on the show prior. So it’s nice to see that people are taking a liking to it for sure. 

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Of the three songs that you guys contributed to the soundtrack, do you have a favorite? Is there one that you gravitate to more or do you or do you love them all?

Hailey: “Now You’re Gone.” I love that song. It’s my favorite song of the three that we recorded.

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You guys have this natural chemistry and I know that you said people were asking when the album is coming out. Are we going to see more of the three of you together? Maybe performing these songs outside of the show?

Aliyah: I would love that!

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Liv: That would be so nice!

Aliyah: We would love it, but we have no idea. We couldn’t tell you.

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We would love to maybe see just a one-off performance…or two or three or five.

Liv: I mean, you know Usher just announced his tour so… [laughs]. I’m saying!

Photo Credit: Power Book III: Raising Kanan/Instagram

Hailey, you’re already pursuing musical ventures outside of the show, right?

Hailey: Yeah! I started releasing music last year. I dropped my debut EP last March called Desire And Devotion. And this spring I’ll be releasing my first album, Heartbreak And Healing, which is a follow-up to Desire And Devotion and I’m really excited about it.

The internet has been going nuts about you all on the show. Is there anything you would like to say to the people who love you guys so much?

Liv: Just thank you for tuning in and loving us. I didn’t know what the response was gonna be, but it’s been a lot different than I expected. So just thank you guys for showing your support and for streaming the songs. And to all the people that are sending me covers of them singing the songs … some of y’all make me cry like that. That means a lot, you know, especially having been that little girl growing up like doing covers of people’s songs. 

Aliyah: People have been doing drawings and making up their own dances to the songs. It’s been amazing. So, thank you to everybody. And also, please give Krystal a chance [laughs]. Give her a chance. She’ll come around, maybe.

Hailey: Just thank you for the support. Thank you for the love. And I hope I’m making you guys proud.

All seasons of Power Book III: Raising Kanan are available to watch now on STARZ, the STARZ app or by bundling STARZ with Hulu or Prime Video.

This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

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