Anika Noni Rose has traded in her tiara for a police belt.
At 44, the Tony Award-winning actress is enjoying a drastic change of roles, most recently portraying lesbian cop LaVerne “Jukebox” Thomas in the Starz crime drama Power.
Known for her earlier work as Lorrell Maya Robinson in Dreamgirls and Tiana in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, Rose takes on a completely different persona in Power — and it’s one that she says has been completely worthwhile.
“It has been one of the joys of my career. I really liked the show, I liked writing, I like how New York it is,” Rose tells PEOPLE of her decision to join the series. “I get to be completely unhinged and open. I get to be completely against the ties, completely against what we have been brought up to be as good girls. Completely against from what people assume of me when they see me.”
Rose’s initial involvement with the show began after a fleeting suggestion from friend and show creator Courtney Kemp Agboh years before Power premiered. It wasn’t until the third season, however, that it finally came to fruition.
“When she called and asked me if I wanted to do this character, I was thrilled about it,” the Dreamgirls star explains of Agboh’s decision to cast her as a recurring role. “She was like, ‘What would you do that nobody lets you do?’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I would be a badass. I’d be on a motorcycle.’ I had all sorts of fun and crazy things that you don’t see when you see little me.”
Rose has stuck to that affirmation, portraying villainous police officer Jukebox. Prior to filming, she trained with a fire arms expert but quickly realized that handling the guns wasn’t the most difficult aspect of playing a cop.
“The uniform and that belt! That belt is so heavy and unwieldy; I had bruises on my hips when I was shooting,” Rose says. “But the flip side of that is it really informs the character when she’s wearing it. I never wanted to take it off as much as my body wanted me to because it’s so much a part of who she is. It informs her movement and how she carries herself and I love that part of her.”
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Something else that surprised Rose? The amount of fun she had working with 50 Cent, who she says was amused by her petite, 5-ft., 2-in. stature and fiery personality.
“He would be like, ‘How y’all gonna let this little woman be in charge of you and run s— on the set like this?'” she says of her 6-ft. tall costar. “We would laugh a lot because really, when we’re next to each other, we’re like the Jolly Green Giant and Sprout.”
“I had a ball on set with him,” Rose continues. “He was so lovely and he always has a little twinkle in his eye. He is ready to play and excited about the craft of what we do.”
But it was also the rapper’s humility that stood out to the actress.
“He is an executive producer, he’s a co-creator, but he doesn’t move through the room like that,” she adds. “He doesn’t bowl you over with that; there was always room for anything I had to say. It was really a joy to work with him.”
Fans of Power can expect an “exciting” episode on Sunday when more of Jukebox’s backstory will be revealed along with her connection to Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.) and 50 Cent’s Kanan.
“We learn something new about Jukebox and what she comes from and how she turned into the person that she is. You get to see some different sides of her,” Rose says. “You get to see her connection, even though it isn’t really a positive connection that she has with Tariq — but where and why they connect. And the connection between she and Kanan … some really, really exciting things happen out of that.”
Power airs Sundays (9 p.m. ET) on Starz.