Former North Sider Joseph Sikora is a Chicago-born actor who admittedly once rubbed shoulders with local gangsters. He swears he has never been a thug, but he knew a few while growing up.
Perhaps that’s why he so masterfully portrays the well-dressed, hard-bodied, neighborhood-scrappy, drug-dealing, coke-sniffing character of Tommy Egan, who is one-half of the hot-guy-in-a-lead-role reason why Power opened the season as the No. 1 cable show for adults (for the other half, see: Omari Hardwick). Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the show’s created by hip-hop mogul 50 Cent and has an award-winning, Sopranos-esque script.
This season has shown Sikora digging deep to portray a character who is a multi-faceted, high-end drug dealer in New York City. Plus, in a show touted for its diversity (Latino, black, white, and Asian characters abound in this universe), Sikora might be the only white guy on TV who can (kinda, sorta) get away with affectionately using the n-word in character and have very few people bat an eye.
Put it like this: when this reporter told her friends she was interviewing the guy who portrays Tommy on Power, all the friends asked: “Did he grow up in a black neighborhood? He must have. Ask him that.”
The show, currently in its third run, has been renewed for two more seasons—a testament to the Game of Thrones-esque thrall it holds over the viewers.
Sikora, who recently threw out the first pitch at a Sox game, used to belong to a local boxing club, he says. He got married at a church downtown. He lives in New York now, though his parents are in Streeterville. Here’s what else he had to say.
So… did you grow up in a black neighborhood?
I grew up in Jefferson Park and in Norwood Park. I’m supposed to be a fireman right now. [Sikora’s dad used to work at a church in Auburn Gresham, where he says he still has close family friends now.]
There’s a picture floating around the interwebs of you throwing up the pitchfork, a gang sign.
Well, that was the Soldado Nation [a gang from the TV series]. It has nothing to do with Chicago gang-banging or anything like that. It has everything to do with the show. By chance if you notice the Soldado Nation in there uses the pitchfork symbol, and to me, obviously, coming from Chicago I was like, “Oh that’s crazy, that’s funny," and not realizing in our first season that if I had done that [hand motion] that picture might go viral, so it was kind of like Derrick Rose syndrome.
Right? Yikes. Everyone thought you were a lifelong member of a major gang.
Yeah, so it was a lesson learned, I will say. Listen, I have all respect for growth and development. I have no affiliations with them.
When you were in high school you were part of a graffiti crew, so you got to know all kinds of people, huh?
My crew, what I mean by my crew, is really my graffiti crew. A lot of the guys are still tight. It’s a great and diverse group of guys that actually, when I was growing up, consisted of guys who were very strait-laced to very involved gangbangers, and gangbangers on both sides. Folks and People, but they were all in the same graffiti crew. The subculture of graffiti was a strange and unique opportunity to bring people together.
Where’d you go to high school?
Niles. Notre Dame High School for Boys.
Do you still go to church?
Yes. In Brooklyn, and I also go to Our Lady of Mount Lebanon which is a Catholic Orthodox church, so they’re part of the Holy See, S-E-E. It was just interesting because they celebrate the Mass a little bit differently and I was like, oh this is interesting. We sing. I listen to them sing in Arabic and Aramaic and just kind of expanding my Catholicism. I’m a believer, you know? People always ask why, and I have friends who make fun of me, and I just say it works of me.
Can’t argue with that.
I’ll tell you what, the scenes with Tommy in the church, I think some of that bleeds through. There’s kind of an innate reverence with him, even though he’s cursing at the priest.
Are you married?
How does your wife deal with your rather passionate sex scenes? Tommy is such a big character. How do you turn him off?
He’s very passionate, as am I. [Tommy] is not tolerated in my home. Also, I have the lucky kind of the thing with the sex scenes because they’re not love scenes. It’s like bang, bang, bang, bang. Whereas Omari [Hardwick, the co-star who portrays the central character of Ghost, another major drug dealer-turned-legit businessman] has got to be in the throes of passion, which calls for a totally different focus of alternate reality.
You started in The Little Prince at Touchstone Theatre, then the Goodman, and now your cable show blew all the way up. Can you walk down the street unmolested?
I can walk down the street easier than Omari, that’s for sure. However, if I’m in Brooklyn or when we go down to visit our friends, like the family that I grew up with on the South Side, they’re over at 89th and Wallace. When I’m at that neighborhood, the whole neighborhood comes out.
Impressive neighborhood reach. A lot of Chicagoans don’t get out much.
My dad used to work at the parish on 87th and May. That’s where my parents met actually. His best friend is this woman who’s kind of the matriarch of that entire neighborhood, and to see that kind of dynamic [growing up], is influential. My parents didn’t raise me in fear and ignorance.
What can you tell us about the season finale? Who else will die?
I will say I think that there’s a necessary yin and yang. The four pillars are Ghost, Tommy, Angela, and Tasha. It’s like when you steal a car tire. You have to put a cinder block underneath, otherwise everything’s going to drop out and you’re going to get caught.
When you’re letting the air out of the car tire, it’s going to fall down onto something so you can get the lug nuts off. Not that I’ve ever done that.
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