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“Raising Kanan”'s Mekai Curtis Says Executive Producer 50 Cent Has ‘Handed the Baton Off’ on “Power Book III” (Exclusive)

Curtis, who plays a younger Kanan Stark in the 'Power' prequel series, tells PEOPLE the show has "taken on a life of its own" at the season 3 premiere in NYC

<p>Manny Carabel/WireImage, Arturo Holmes/Getty </p>

Manny Carabel/WireImage, Arturo Holmes/Getty

'Raising Kanan' star Mekai Curtis talks about the role executive producer 50 Cent plays in the 'Power' prequel series

Kanan Stark’s story may have originated with Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, but the rapper has since passed the torch for the character — and the younger version is in charge of himself these days.

Mekai Curtis, who stars as a young Kanan Stark in the Starz’s Power spinoff, Power Book III: Raising Kanan, says that when it comes to his character’s arc, he’s taken the reins and 50 Cent has “handed the baton off.”

“It’s kind of taken on a life and shape of its own,” Curtis, 23, tells PEOPLE about the success of the series — which explores the tense teenage years of Kanan Stark, showing viewers the origin behind the controversial Power villain — at the season 3 premiere in New York City. “It’s really fun,” he adds.

Speaking to the role that executive producer 50 Cent, 48, serves in the ongoing prequel series, the actor says the show is in his own hands now. “He trusts us enough to kind of know what's going on,” Curtis says of the rapper. “He's handed the baton, and he trusts us to keep doing what we're doing.”

<p>Starz</p> Mekai Curtis as Kanan Stark in season 3, episode 1 of Starz's 'Power Book III: Raising Kanan'

Starz

Mekai Curtis as Kanan Stark in season 3, episode 1 of Starz's 'Power Book III: Raising Kanan'

What they’re doing is certainly working, as the show got picked up for a fourth season prior to last week's premiere.

As for season 3, Curtis teases that the episodes are “explosive.”

Patina Miller, who plays Kanan’s mother and the neighborhood’s feared drug dealer, Raq, reiterates Curtis’ statement about what’s to come in season 3 as she says that "every episode" is a surprise. “What kind of sums it up for me is my character is ever-evolving,” she says of the power-hungry character.

Miller, 39, adds that Raq, who helps shape Kanan into the antagonist viewers see 50 Cent portray in Power, “shifts and changes all the time, and you cannot put her in a box. And after season 3, we'll see what happens. That's the one thing I love about her. You just never know what's going to happen.”

Related: 50 Cent Announces the Final Lap Tour: 'You've Waited Long Enough'

Season 3 picks up right where the season 2 finale left off, with tensions between Kanan and his parents peaking, loyalties being put to the test and the tease of a surprising new romance between two of Southside Jamaica, Queens, drug kingpins — Raq and Unique (Joey Bada$$).

As Antonio Ortiz, who plays Kanan's best friend, Famous, tells PEOPLE, fans are going to need one thing after they watch this season: "Therapy."

"You're going to need a tissue box," adds Malcolm Mays, who plays Raq's younger brother and second-in-command, Lou Lou. For the premiere episode in particular, which aired Dec. 1, Mays says, "You might need a strong drink to watch this opening."

<p>Myles Aronowitz/CBS/Starz!/Kobal/Shutterstock </p> 50 Cent as Kanan Stark in season 4 of Starz's 'Power' (2017)

Myles Aronowitz/CBS/Starz!/Kobal/Shutterstock

50 Cent as Kanan Stark in season 4 of Starz's 'Power' (2017)

As the new season kicks off, Kanan and Raq find themselves at greater odds than ever as Kanan continues to struggle to forgive his mom for her ruthlessness, and the discovery he made last season about his father's true identity continues to haunt them both.

There's "a lot of just conflict and issues and family drama," Mays says. He adds that a jaw-dropping twist comes in basically "every other episode" of the season.

Ortiz, 24, puts it simply, "Whatever you see at first, that's not what it's going to be [a few] episodes later."

Related: 'Raising Kanan' 's Patina Miller Was 'Laughing' at the Sight of Her Character's '80s Mullet Wig

<p>Starz</p> Kanan Stark (Mekai Curtis), Detective Malcolm Howard (Omar Epps) and Raquel 'Raq' Thomas (Patina Miller) in season 3, episode 1 of 'Power Book III: Raising Kanan'

Starz

Kanan Stark (Mekai Curtis), Detective Malcolm Howard (Omar Epps) and Raquel 'Raq' Thomas (Patina Miller) in season 3, episode 1 of 'Power Book III: Raising Kanan'

For Miller, despite the ups-and-downs of Kanan and Raq’s relationship — and its particularly icy start in the season 3 premiere — the show at heart is a story about family.

“At the core of it, this is a mother who loves her son more than anything in this world,” Miller tells PEOPLE. “And take the job aside, all she's ever wanted for him is that she could provide him with a better life. Now, is she doing the right thing? Who knows.”

Showrunner Sascha Penn echoes Miller's statement. "It's a family drama, so a lot of our themes are family oriented. It's betrayal, alliances, loyalty — that's really sort of the heart of this show and this series," he says.

Touching on the emerging tensions between Raq and her son in season 3, Miller says, “She is now juggling [a] high stakes career, while also juggling a 16-year-old who is starting to become aware of his surroundings. He's not as naive anymore. And she's lied enough to him and now he's over it. He knows. He sees her for who she is now. So she has to come to terms with that.”

<p>Jamie McCarthy/Getty</p> The cast of 'Power Book III: Raising Kanan' pose on the red carpet at the season 3 premiere in New York City

Jamie McCarthy/Getty

The cast of 'Power Book III: Raising Kanan' pose on the red carpet at the season 3 premiere in New York City

In the midst of all of the power struggles and deadly drama, Miller says that Raq is a character she’s had the “best time” portraying. “What I love about being a mother is a mother's love is always a mother's love — and she's going to always, always fight for that relationship. And him her, no matter how testy it is,” she explains.

“I've had the best time just finding all the colors I can of this character. And she's flawed, and she's human. And so for all the toughness, she's vulnerable and she's real and raw. And I think that's what people like about it,” she continues.

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New episodes of Raising Kanan season 3 air Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.

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