‘Power Book II: Ghost’ Actor Shane Johnson On Cooper Saxe’s ‘Power’ Legacy And Where He Went Wrong

(WARNING: Spoilers for the latest Power Book II: Ghost episode will be found below.)

Nine seasons. That’s how long Shane Johnson played the role of Cooper Saxe in both the Power and Power Book II: Ghost series. Through it all, Saxe was a character that viewers hoped to see fall into his demise at any point in the last decade, and there were a few times that he tumbled to the delight of Power fans. He was fired, rehired, and fired again as U.S. Attorney in New York on the show, all during the pursuit of his No. 1 career goal: putting James St. Patrick in jail.

As we all know, Saxe was never able to achieve this, and his failure to do so created his lifelong hate for the St. Patrick family and their associates. It was created in the original Power series and it transferred in new ways and reached new heights in Power Book II: Ghost, even though Saxe was supposed to be working as Tariq St. Patrick’s defense attorney. Saxe’s pursuit to take down Tariq led to him working with prosecutor Jenny Sullivan, who he was also in love with, in stealing documents, lying to his co-workers, and more. Most notably, led to Cooper Saxe’s death. Tariq and Davis MacLean both found out that Saxe was working with Sullivan to build a case against Tariq. This information found its way to Davis’ brother Theo who took it upon himself to kill Saxe.

Following the shocking events of Power Book II: Ghost season 3, episode 8, we caught up with Shane Johnson to talk about everything Cooper Saxe: his flaws, the fun moments, and what his Power legacy will be.

Well, we must pay our condolences to the one and only Cooper Saxe. When did you find out that Saxe would be killed off in this episode and what was your first reaction?

Well listen, it’s one of those things that, as you can imagine being Cooper Saxe, for years and years and years, I was kind of like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was always expecting that well, has my time come? So, the fact that I survived a decade on the show has honestly been such a huge blessing and really incredible. That being said, when I found out I was getting it, it was like a mix of things. At first, I was in shock because they do this thing where they don’t necessarily want to tell you too far in advance because they don’t want it to affect how you perform. They don’t want to affect your psyche too much and I appreciate that, I do. I found out maybe a month ahead of time, and we were already filming. So I was like going like, “Wait, hold on a second.” As an actor, the other thing is, you’re kind of going “Oh, so I’m looking for another job now.”

Being somebody that also really just loves and cares about this Power Universe that we’re in, I had all kinds of ideas. In my mind, I thought Cooper Saxe could go off and be a really dangerous asset to Davis MacLean (Method Man). In my mind, there definitely was a future for Cooper Saxe. To have it cut short like this, was exciting for sure but, I’ll be real, it was unexpected for me too.

Since the original Power series, Saxe has been chasing the St. Patricks and while there were small wins along the way, he was never able to fully take them down. Why do you think that Saxe never gave up?

I think the reality is Saxe racked up so many losses along the way. Never really being able to get a foothold with the cases that he was trying to pursue, and never really winning, I feel like what happened was that as he continued to build up losses, he also continued to change his tactics. He got riskier, a little bit more illegal, a little bit more off the books, and a little bit more willing to put it all out there in order to get justice/revenge. He got sloppy and he got messy. He’s somebody that I’m very proud of the trajectory that we created with Cooper Saxe, but at the end of the day, he wasn’t going to make it out of this Power Universe. He can’t win, this dude can’t win. If he wins, what? He puts everybody in jail and the show’s over, you know what I mean? I’m really happy man, I’m satisfied with how things ended.

This season we see Saxe work more closely than ever with Jenny Sullivan to backdoor Tariq and the Tejadas into RICO. Is Saxe’s decision to work with Jenny rooted more in his feelings for her or through this long-lasting desire to take down the St. Patricks?

I would say 50% of the sloppiness, came from the fact that he had love for Jenny Sullivan. He was willing to do things for her, because of her, that he wouldn’t have done previously. As I said, they’re sloppy and messy, and he allowed her to have leverage over him that, to me, didn’t really seem like leverage. She was like, “Oh, well, you told me that one story that one time and I’ll tell people that you told me that story.” It’s like, okay, whatever, then I’ll just say you’re full of sh*t. I think that his heart, his care for her, his wanting to have a family, and his wanting to be a human being that was outside of this dark world they’re in were part of his weakness. If Cooper Saxe was a ruthless motherf*cker that was like, “This is how it’s gonna go. I don’t care about anything. I’m getting this. Jenny doesn’t matter, the Tejadas and the St. Patricks don’t matter,” I think he probably would have been more successful. But, he allowed his heart to affect some of his choices along the way. Ultimately, I think his heart might be his demise.

'Power: Ghost' Cooper Saxe Jenny Sullivan

What would you say are the similarities and differences in characteristics and personalities between Cooper Saxe and Shane Johnson?

One of the things that I’m very proud of is the sense of humor I brought to Cooper Saxe. I feel like Cooper Saxe added a much-needed, but also very personal for me, sense of humor to the show. Not because it’s a comedy, but because even tragedy has comedy to it. Tragedy has a sense of humor to it, and it’s the way we let steam out and it’s the way we survive. Cooper Saxe was that note for me in this show and I’m very proud of that. I don’t know anything about law, Shane Johnson, I don’t know anything about courtrooms. I grew up in. I grew up in a trailer park man in a little farm town in Washington State. I am completely the opposite of Cooper Saxe.

What are your interactions like with Power fans when you run into them in public?

Usually, things start off with like, “Oh my god, I hate this guy,” “I can’t wait for him to die,” “You need to die,” and “I’ll kill you if I ever see you.” The thing that’s really cool about the fans, man, our fans are so involved. It’ll go from “I hate you, I can’t wait for you to die. I’ll kill you myself,” to me going, “Oh, hey, that’s so sweet of you to say,” and they’ll respond like, “Oh my god, you responded! I’m such a huge fan. I love your character on the show.” To me, that speaks volumes about the universe that we’ve created because people are engaged, people care, and I love the fact that people have access to us. I love the fact that people can engage with me, that I can respond to them, and we can commiserate over the fact that this universe means something to us. Listen, they know that I’m not Cooper Saxe, but it’s fun to kind of pretend that Shane Johnson and Cooper Saxe are like the same person.

What would you say Saxe’s overall Power legacy is?

I would say that he’s kind of the relentless do-gooder that just can never seem to win. I would like to think that, on a selfish level, if people said, “Hey, what did Cooper Saxe bring to the Power Universe?” that people will go, “Dude, that guy was funny. He made me laugh. I loved his antics and I loved his take on things.” That would be the thing that I’m probably most proud of, that I brought that energy to something that could have been very straight. Cooper Saxe could have been like a straight-laced, serious kind of guy. He, instead, was somebody that had a lot of sardonic humor and a lot of levity. I feel like our audience really appreciated that.

New episodes of ‘Power Book II: Ghost’ are available on the STARZ app on Fridays at 12:00 am EST and on the STARZ TV channel at 8:00 pm EST.