'It's exciting to be able to play something I've never played before,' the actress tells ET of her 'Book II: Ghost' character, Carrie.
In the most recent episode of Power Book II: Ghost, the Starz spinoff unearthed a shocking secret about one of its characters: Professor Carrie Milgram is a love-and-sex addict. The surprising revelation came out in what began as a seemingly normal conversation between Carrie and her friend about a complicated relationship with a fellow professor, but as it progressed, it was clear she was confiding in her sponsor.
"I never really understood sex addiction," Melanie Liburd, the actress who plays Carrie, confessed to ET of Carrie's secret. "Doing research and seeing how people suffer because of things that have happened to them -- abuse, childhood trauma or the way that they've grown up to see love in the world. How they have this emptiness that they feel they need to fill and never really truly understanding that only one's self can fill that void. Like all addiction, it's something you want to feel and get a quick high from, but then find yourself in such a dark, deep place and you go around in that spiral."
Ahead of Sunday's new episode, Liburd spoke with ET about playing a character she's never seen before on TV, how Carrie's love-and-sex addiction will unravel her future and if a return to This Is Us is in the cards.
ET: How has your life been in quarantine these last six months?
Melanie Liburd: At the beginning of pandemic, we were filming in New York, actually, and we had filmed seven episodes, I think it was. Then we were shut down and I remember thinking, "Do I stay in New York?" And then I thought, "No." I think just I had a feeling. My friend was with me and she said, "You know what? We could be in lockdown for two weeks or it could be months." And I thought, "What do you mean months?" But it was funny, just the idea of it being months, it seemed so ridiculous. But here we are, six months later. I remember going to the airport with her, we jumped in the cab to get a ticket with a carry-on and got back to L.A. and packed up my apartment virtually from L.A. and had all my stuff shipped back. I mean, there were very, very difficult, painful parts of the lockdown with protests and George Floyd. But yeah, it was a lot You learn who your friends are, who reaches out to each other. I realized it was a good time to reach out to people and see if they're okay and all of that. My family's in the U.K. Still haven't seen them in fact, but lots of Zooming, lots of Facetime. Thank goodness for FaceTime.
Have you allowed yourself to be more introspective during this time?
Oh, always. I'm quite an introspective person anyway. I spend time on my own quite comfortably, so it wasn't that much of a crazy shock. I know people that were just so completely uncomfortable with it. I remember when California was shut down officially and I wasn't going anywhere, it was like this fear in the air and the streets were empty. It was eerie. There was something quite comforting about being in your little world of sanctuary, and I'd get up and I'd meditate in the morning, do some stretching, do a workout, walk my dog. Just very simple. Cook. I mean, I cooked every day and it was quite comforting. And I realized everyone felt the same. Everyone felt so grateful for what they had, thinking of people that couldn't just do that. People that have to go up to work to feed their kids. What a privilege to be able to have a job and money in the bank. Just this awareness of life and how people live and to be thankful for everything I've had. Truly.
How did the Power spinoff find its way to you?
I had come back from London and I got a call from my agent saying that [creator] Courtney Kemp wanted to have a conversation. And I thought, "Wow, Courtney Kemp of Power. She wants to speak to me." And she just said, "Look, I've seen some of your work and I would love to know what you think about this role." I spoke to her on the phone for over an hour and we talked about the character, Carrie, and the complexities of the character and how you don't see many characters like this -- women of color, specifically, on television with love-and-sex addiction. And I was just all for it. It was really exciting to be able to play something I've never played before and to really delve into something that I haven't seen on TV.
What did you find intriguing about Carrie?
I never really understood sex addiction. Is it a thing? Is love addiction actually a thing? I've always questioned it, like, what's that about? Doing research and seeing how people suffer because of things that have happened to them -- abuse, childhood trauma or the way that they've grown up to see love in the world. How they have this emptiness that they feel they need to fill and never really truly understanding that only one's self can fill that void. Like all addiction, it's something you want to feel and get a quick high from, but then find yourself in such a dark, deep place and you go around in that spiral. Also, what I love about Courtney is she writes characters that are in the midst of turmoil and making bad decisions and a mess -- and f**king up all over the place, excuse my French. It's quite interesting to play someone in this whirlwind. It's quite interesting to see what happens to Carrie as we go along.
Last week's episode revealed Carrie's sex addiction secret. Was there a specific scene that you circled?
I really enjoy the scenes where the students come into the office. I have a scene with Michael Rainey Jr., who plays Tariq -- he comes in and we talk about his life and his relationship with his father. And Carrie gets way too involved with her students -- to the point of it being slightly inappropriate. All these aspects of the character, you're just like, "What is she doing? Who does that?" And then unraveling why she does those kinds of crazy things. Carrie just can't help herself. She wants to help everyone. But they're all fun to play. Having Zeke come into the office, played by Daniel Bellomy, is really funny. We have scenes where we couldn't stop laughing. Every scene's different and we'll get very serious scenes. That's what I love about the dynamics of the show.
During Carrie's conversation with her sponsor, she's asking if Jabari's the one for her. What can you tease in terms of what awaits her the rest of the season?
It's interesting how Carrie is -- 99 percent of the time -- the smartest individual in a room, yet some of the choices she makes in her personal life are really questionable. So what's interesting is to see what she gets herself into, the mistakes she makes and how she has to pay for those mistakes or maybe cover up those mistakes. It's just the beginning. There's so much more that goes on, and how the different worlds collide in a way. We'll see how the different worlds mix, which is really interesting.
Is the door still open for you to return to This is Us at some point down the line?
We had [talked about it]. There was a conflicting scheduling issue, but yeah we couldn't make it work at the end of the last season of This is Us. But Zoe's very much in the family, which is so lovely. Obviously I'd love to go back and see those guys and pop up and revisit Zoe and Kevin's relationship and see the kids growing up. I'm so attached to that show. It was so wonderful [to be a part of], such a joy to play.
And now Kevin is the father of twins. How does Zoe feel about that?
Zoe's so cool, free-spirited. She'd be cool with it. She doesn't really hold grudges. She's just all about being free, love, and she cares about Kevin. So I think as long as he's okay, she'd be cool. She wouldn't even have kids, that's why she left.
The Oscars recently implemented new guidelines for diversity in front of and behind the camera, and it appears Hollywood is starting to take the necessary steps to ensure that opportunities are afforded to everyone. Are you satisfied with the progress that's been made thus far?
I think so, and that's all we can hope for -- just to see people's work and just to recognize good work on TV. There's wonderful work that's been missed and I think with everything that happened in the summer and the awareness of what's happening in the system and how people, without even knowing, have a vision of what they... If you grew up and you live in a predominantly white neighborhood or a neighborhood that is not diverse, then you see the world differently. And what I love is people being aware of that. When people say, "Oh my God, I didn't realize that. That really affects how I cast or how I write, because I didn't grow up with a diverse community." It's having that awareness and responsibility that really will change everything. And think it's happening, absolutely, and it has been a long time coming, but we can only be hopeful and open and available to talk about issues and conversations and not shut people down when they want to learn about something and talk about something. I think that's really important.
Power Book II: Ghost airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.
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