‘Power Book II: Ghost’: Inspiration for Riley’s Character Came From Fans

Down to the last scene on the season finale, Power Book II: Ghost became a game of survival of the fittest, and some characters just weren’t fit. And the series is just getting warmed up.

Tariq is holding his own and winning people over — in the TV show and in the audience — proving that he can be the last man standing. That same notion seemingly applies to Saxe and his niece Riley, two peas in the same underhanded pod.

Many fans found Riley to be annoying but according to Power creator Courtney A. Kemp, it’s the fandom that birthed her as a character.

Tariq and Riley in 'Power Book II Ghost'
‘Power Book II: Ghost’ with Andrea Lee Christensen as Riley and Michael Rainey Jr as Tariq | Starz

A rundown of Riley Saxe-Merchant’s deeds

Riley was introduced in the early half of the season as Saxe’s weed-loving niece who needed his help to beat a minor drug charge. She was roped into his re-con mission to spy Tariq by way of Brayden, and from there, she showed their foolish-but-sly ways run in the family.

She infiltrated one Stansfield party that Uncle Nancy told her to observe, and she made a point to meet Tariq and Brayden face-to-face. After parlaying that into a relationship with Brayden, she went ham.

Riley drugged Tariq at his own birthday party, snooped through his phone, eavesdropped on his conversations, and snapped way too many pictures. Worst of all, she linked Tariq’s phone to hers to share its location.  

Basically, she was an unauthorized undercover agent/informant. Though Riley and Brayden had legit feelings for each other, things crumbled when Tariq found out the truth. But like Saxe, she lives to scheme another day.

RELATED: ‘Power Book II: Ghost’: Let’s Talk About That Blue Mustang and ‘All the Smoke’

Idea for Riley’s existence came from fans, says ‘Power’ showrunner

Kemp recently did a Q&A session with fans on Instagram Live and spent a moment talking about Riley in Power Book 2. She said that fans actually inspired the character and her role in the story.

“One of the things I think is interesting is the Riley character — it came out of an idea that came from you guys,” Kemp said to viewers. She brought up Holly from the first chapter of Power and how there were many fans who thought Holly was an undercover cop.

“She was not an undercover cop. However, I thought that was so interesting. ‘Wow, what if that person who was in Tariq’s life was kind of an undercover cop?’ And that’s where the idea for Riley came,” she shared.

Kemp — who keeps up with fan commentary about the series — mentioned she notices how viewers are finding parallels between Holly and Riley.

What do Riley and Holly have in common?

Longtime viewers may recall how Holly was a waitress at Truth when she met Tommy and got romantically involved him. After she learned James was Ghost, she gave that information up to Angela when she was hauled in for questioning.

She used it to blackmail Angela and continuously worked to drive a wedge between Tommy and Ghost. Riley is moving the same way. Tommy strangled Holly to death after she confessed to hiring the Jamaicans to assassinate Ghost.

It’s a miracle that Riley survived season 1, but that doesn’t mean she won’t insert herself into more risky business in season 2. She declared her love for Brayden, and if she’s as persistent as her uncle, she may decide to work harder at separating him from Tariq.

Eventually, Christmas could get canceled on her too.