Some new series falter in their sophomore seasons, but that is not the case with Starz drama “Boss,” which pumps up the action for its return on Friday, August 17. In Season 2, Chicago Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) realizes his time in office may be even more limited than he originally thought. The result is for him to take ruthless action against the corrupt political machine that he built, but which is now standing in the way of the legacy he hopes to fulfill before Lewy Body Disease ends his reign.
Season 2 opens with Kane’s most trusted political advisor Ezra Stone (Martin Donovan) having been murdered after betraying the mayor; Kitty (Kathleen Robertson) appearing to have quit her job; Kane’s daughter Emma (Hannah Ware) in jail — he sacrificed her to save his position of power; and his wife Meredith (Connie Nielsen) playing a more important role in his life — despite her betrayal — as she is one of the trusted few who knows his diagnosis.
“There are some pretty shocking things that happen very much right off the bat,” says creator and executive producer Farhad Safinia. “This man is now even more progressed in his fall from physical and mental capabilities. The web of treachery around him that he has to keep a tight grip on is slipping, and continues to slip the weaker he becomes… The skeletons buried all over town are going to come back to him in a big way. He’s had many of them in more than 22 years of rule — so [the question becomes] how can he maintain control when he’s losing faculties — mental and physical?”
Watch an Extended Preview of “Boss” Season 2:
Intrigued? So check out the reasons you need to watch Season 2 of “Boss,” according to Safinia and Grammer:
New cast members: With the loss of his two most trusted advisors — Ezra and Kitty, Kane is forced to add two new members to his staff. First up is Ian Todd (Jonathan Groff), who is young, smart and very ambitious; and second is Mona Fredericks (Sanaa Lathan), Alderman Ross’ [James Vincent Meredith] politically savvy Chief of Staff, who decides she can do more good with Kane. But can Kane trust them?
” It’s about how he can control and manipulate them,” says Safinia. “When he knows that he knows something about someone that could be to their detriment should he ever use it on them, he knows he’s got them. And in that case, it’s interesting to find out what he may or may not have on either of these new staffers.
Adds Grammer, “He knows he needs help. He recognizes something in each of them that he can use. That is what he is good at. He knows how to use people. There is a mystery about the kid, so he wants him closer to him; there is a purity about the woman, so he wants that closer to him — something that he doesn’t understand.”
Also joining the series are Tip Harris, aka as rapper T.I., who will guest star as Trey, a former gangbanger looking to make a name for himself in City Hall; and Amy Morton, playing Senator Catherine Walsh, who is running for Governor against Kane’s candidate Ben Zajac (Jeff Hephner).
Kane’s wife Meredith: Kane is forced to put some trust into Meredith as the season begins and she helps him keep his secret, but then something out of his control, forces him to face the issue of whether or not he loves her. “It’s interesting to think about why, whether what he’s experiencing toward her is actually love or need, and, I think, they’re often not the same thing,” reveals Safinia. “Sometimes they are, sometimes they’re intertwined: I need and I love you. You are the person who is everything to me. But sometimes those two can be separate. Exploring the two tracks is fascinating, particularly with his relationship with Meredith. There’s no doubt that the weaker he becomes of mind and capability, the more he’s going to need her skills, but can he trust her? That’s a big question.”
He threw his daughter Emma under the bus and she was arrested for possession of illegal drugs. Will she forgive him? “He had to survive to stay in power. It was unfortunate that she had to be a casualty of staying in power,” says Grammer. “He does believe that he can fix that. He does love his daughter.”
Continues Safinia, “How can you come back from that? If there’s anyone in the world who has the chutzpah and the balls to try to come back from that, it’s Tom Kane. He’s going to try. I think there’s something both tragic about that and also admirable. Putting yourself out there, going to someone you’ve wronged deeply and trying to make amends is… there’s an amount of grace in that that I think is admirable, so I think we’ll see some of that happen between him and Emma.”
How does he get away with being such a corrupt politician in this day and age?: In earlier days, the press rarely reported on bad behavior by politicians, such as the fact that John F. Kennedy was a womanizer. But in this day and age, no holds are barred when it comes to media exposure. Just ask the likes of John Edwards, Anthony Wiener, Eliot Spitzer, and the list goes on. “What is great about Chicago is it actually allows us this … there is sort of a love they have for that culture,” admits Grammer. “They embrace it. There is corruption and they like it as long as something is getting done. There is a quid pro quo that we always talk about on the show. As long as the applecart doesn’t get overturned, everybody kind of turns a blind eye. I do believe that that is more realistic than we want to believe it is.”
Says Safinia, “I think you get to a position where you believe not only that perhaps the rules don’t apply to you but that you can get away with things in your public life. I think that level of hubris, which is what it’s about, afflicts all of us to a small extent, but people of power to a particularly large degree. I don’t know if Kane will not get caught, but I think the question is: Did John Edwards think he wasn’t going to get caught when he did it? What we’re studying with Kane is people who think they’re not going to get caught. We shall wait and see.”
What role is Kitty going to play this season? When Season 2 begins, Kitty is no longer working for Mayor Kane. In fact, she is home and hiding the fact that she is pregnant. But as the season unfolds, she decides to get back in the game — but not in a way one might expect. “Kitty’s journey in season two is absolutely fascinating because she starts off from a base of being a borderline traitor to Kane,” says Safinia. “She knows what he’s capable of. To see how she maneuvers and manipulates the waters, it’s awe inspiring To see Kitty do [what she does] is perhaps a little bit sad — that she goes for that option as opposed to trying to aspire to something better. What I mean by that is something morally more admirable than some of things she will do in Season 2 because they are very questionable.”
When Kane is delusional and sees dead people, does that indicate that he may actually have a guilty conscious? One of the symptoms of the medication taken for Lewy Body Disease is that it produces hallucinations. Kane may control many things in his life, but these hallucinations are not among them. “He sees many things as a result of his disease,” says Safinia. “Some of them may be real. We don’t know. Certainly, he is a human being. His guilt is the consequences of the decisions he is facing. Even if it is a part of the disease, it is something he is facing.”
Might Kane consider suicide as opposed to becoming powerless over his disease? Says Safinia, “I, thankfully, have no direct experience with it, but I think specifically people who have been so incredibly powerful and in control in their lives being faced with something that renders you so helpless and so reliant upon those around you to keep you going, during the time in which they still have their mental capacities, it may lead them to have that question: Should I clock out? I don’t know. I hope not. I think life is always valuable. In terms of Kane, I can certainly tell you this, we’re not going to get there for a while, and while we get there, it’s going to be more about watching him deal with the loss of power than anything else. It’s going to be a more fun ride than the seriousness of that particular question.”
“Boss” premiers its second season on Friday, August 17 at 9/8c on STARZ.