CHICAGO — Sept. 1 will be a big day for Joseph Sikora.
He has been awaiting the day, actually Friday night at 7 p.m. CT, for a long time, ever since he completed shooting the final scenes of the second season of the Starz series “Power Book IV: Force.”
Those scenes were shot in Chicago, all over Chicago. If you watched Season 1 last year, and millions of you did, you saw the city in a vibrant, non-cliched fashion, which reminded many of the gritty feel of the Dennis Farina-led “Crime Story” series that aired in the mid-1980s.
I was planning to talk to Sikora about this new season. He had told me many months ago that he was extremely pleased with how it had turned out. In his typically generous fashion, he lavished praise on his co-stars and all the other people involved in the production, from the people working the lights to those doing makeup and hair.
But he now stands in solidarity with those in the SAG-AFTRA strike and is not available for interviews to help promote his show.
He did tell me long ago, when he first began his “Power” association in 2014, “Parts like this just don’t come around often, if ever. The first time I read the script I really, really wanted it. I knew I could murder this role.”
He did five auditions to get the part.
“Even getting this role was like realizing a dream for me,” he said. “I have always believed that my dreams would come true. I knew something like this was going to happen, believed in my heart.”
He is Chicago born and was raised in the Norwood and Jefferson Park neighborhoods with his parents, Barbara and Albin, and two brothers, Chris and Albin. He was 11 when he first expressed a desire to act and so his mother took him to an audition for a role in the Goodman Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”
“I didn’t get a part because I couldn’t sing,” he told me long ago. “And that began a lifetime of rejection.”
He laughed but it is true that any actor’s career is filled with rejection. Still, Sikora has had an enviable career.
His first professional job was as the title character in a production of Touchstone Theatre’s “The Little Prince” at Barat College in Lake Forest. He did some work in commercials (one with Michael Jordan), but by the time he entered Notre Dame High School for Boys in Niles, his focus was drifting.
“I got into a lot of mischief,” he said. “My grandmother died and that rocked me.”
That led him into the world of graffiti writers and some minor troubles. But he would eventually graduate from Columbia College with a degree in theater and find work on local stages at the Goodman, Lookingglass and Shattered Globe, where he remains an ensemble member. In 2000 he began to seek work in New York and Los Angeles and, was cast in some small TV and movie roles.
Perhaps you saw him in “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Criminal Minds,” “Without a Trace,” “CSI: Miami” and a two-part “Law & Order: SVU” in 2010? What about the movie “Safe” (starring Jason Statham), “Jack Reacher” (with Tom Cruise) or “Shutter Island” (featuring Leonardo DiCaprio)?
Martin Scorsese, who directed “Shutter Island,” cast Sikora in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.” And then in 2014 came “Power.”
He was cast as Tommy, a major New York City drug dealer in partnership with his longtime friend, James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), who is trying to go legit by becoming a nightclub impresario. They operate in a world filled with much violence but also a lot of heart.
The cast also included rapper-entrepreneur 50 Cent (aka Curtis James Jackson III), who was also one of the series’ creators and executive producers.
It was a big hit. It debuted to 500,000-some households, according to Nielsen ratings. Add in the numbers from Starz’s digital-based streaming service, and “Power” averaged roughly 10 million viewers per episode, making it the network’s most-watched show ever during its run. As a result, after its sixth and final season, three spinoffs sprouted: “Power Book II: Ghost,” focused on Ghost’s son Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.); “Power Book III: Raising Kanan,” which provides the back story for drug lord Kanan Stark (played by Jackson); and “Power Book IV: Force.”
The first “Force” season starred Sikora as his Tommy character who, on his way to the West Coast, makes a stop in a snow-covered Chicago to revisit his murky past. “In short time,” as I wrote, “he gets involved with some of our local gangsters and, sensing an opportunity, decides to stay, his ambition to become the city’s biggest drug dealer.
I wrote that it had “a palpable feel for some of Chicago’s meaner streets, accompanied by striking visuals.” And it was good to see many local actors involved, among them Guy Van Swearingen, a longtime veteran of many stage roles, founding artistic director of A Red Orchid and recently retired after many years as a lieutenant for the Chicago Fire Department.
He told me at the time, “We worked really hard, were deeply committed in ways that some other shows just aren’t. We were collectively hungrier, but in a good way. I’ve got a meaty role, a character that evolves through this first season. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we get to do more.”
I am happy to tell you that Van Swearingen is in the second season and I wish I could tell you more but the new season was not available for advance viewing. I do know that there will be 10 episodes and that the trailer for it is stunning and compelling.
Some people got a look at the first episode Tuesday night at a private premiere screening, followed by a West Loop cocktail reception. Joseph’s younger brother Albin was there along with some of his friends. The star was not there — solidarity and all that — but Joseph Sikora will be watching on Sept. 1, at home with his wife in Brooklyn.