In the season premiere of Power Book IV: Force, Isaac Keys (Beyond the Lights, Jurassic World) is a strong presence as Diamond, the former leader of one of Chicago’s most promising crews. We meet him at the end of a 15-year prison sentence, where he’s spent his time educating himself and making plans that may not be accepted by those he left behind.
In an exclusive interview with The Root, Keys opened up about joining the popular franchise, Diamond’s motivations and making the transition from professional football to acting.
After a stand-out collegiate football career at Morehouse College, the now 43-year-old went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals. He found his commitment to the NFL so all-consuming that he didn’t really have time to think about his life beyond the field. However, once he decided to step away from football and move on to the next chapter of his life, he didn’t necessarily know acting was in his future. He just knew he wanted to do something impactful.
“I did know that I couldn’t be confined to a desk job or something that was mundane or redundant,” he told The Root. “Sitting behind a desk from nine to five, going to the same place and doing the same things. I knew that would be a disservice to me and I would not enjoy that at all. I needed to have something that excited me every day.”
As it turns out, having the opportunity to build a character from scratch is what would draw him into acting.
“When I met other actors, I enjoyed how they were able to become a character, whether it was something really in-depth or something surface level,” Keys said. “Now can I take this language that someone’s given me and incorporate that into my personality or the character’s personality? The creative process of being able to make things happen is fun to me.”
Despite his extensive criminal background, Keys thinks audiences will identify with his character Diamond and his motivations.
“What you’ll like about Diamond is he’s a reflection of what a lot of people are going through. Struggling with the evolution of who they are,” he said. “He’s simple, yet complex. He cares about his community, he cares about the southside of Chicago, but at the same time, he’s also involved in making money off selling drugs.
“He wants to change some things, do things a little differently, but the streets don’t always allow you to do things differently. Just because you evolved doesn’t mean everybody else has evolved, and I think he struggles with that back and forth. With the love he has for his brother, the love he has for his neighborhood, but also is that love going to be detrimental to his life and well-being.”
As we see in the first episode of Power Book IV: Force, Diamond plans to be a barber and live a normal life, but his brother is still in the drug game. And knowing Power, Diamond’s nice, quiet existence won’t last long.
“Diamond is looking for balance, he’s looking for something to ground himself. He’s not looking to be well-known. He’s looking for the loyalty in his family and to just have his organization thrive,” Keys said. “Also, not to be seen as a bad person anymore. Not do the things that he used to do or had to do, and he’s battling with that because everything else is pulling him back into old ways. They want to see the old Diamond [...] but is he making the right steps to get out of it? I don’t know.”
As for the Power of it all, Keys admits he definitely keeps track of the other stories on the series, as he feels it helps him build Diamond’s arc.
“Our cast is so amazing that I’m […] the biggest fan of what’s going on with their characters and storylines. Because like life, you get caught up in your own world of Diamond, but really there’s a whole world out there,” he said. “It can help Diamond, but also help me when you start understanding what other people are going through.”
Keys isn’t worried about Power fans getting invested in Force, because they’re still going to get all the franchise’s signature moments, especially backstabbing and betrayal.
“With this cast, fans are really going to enjoy seeing the storylines and seeing how each person acts and reacts to situations and circumstances that’s presented to them,” he said. “The great thing about the Power Universe is everyone has a motive or agenda. Even though you could be family, you could be a friend, that motive or agenda can circumvent that relationship. It’s like everybody for themselves. Even though you’re part of some organization or crew, sometimes it boils down to that deceit or betrayal. It pulls on all your emotional strings.”
Power Book IV: Force airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz, and streams on the Starz app.