LaToya Tonodeo stars as Diana Tejada, the daughter of Mary J. Blige’s queenpin, Monet, in the Power spinoff, Power Book II: Ghost. For LaToya, playing Diana is a dream come true all around. Not only is she working alongside an icon, she’s been a Power fan since the original series began.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with LaToya about what’s ahead in Book II. She teased Diana and Monet’s “push and pull” dynamic. Even though Diana wants to rebel against her mother, she still wants to please her. The actress also opened up about what she’s learned from working with the Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated actress.
Were you a Power fan before you were cast in the spinoff?
LaToya Tonodeo: Yes, from the very first day. I love, love, love the show. I had no idea that this would be my reality. I was just a fan. Like, of course, I’m an actress but I don’t think I’ve fully thought it all the way out that this would be my time, that I would be a part of this whole Power universe. I actually have — I’ll say it again because I think it’s so cool — a vision board. In the center is my acting stuff and then around it is what I want to do with my life. I have stars that I put in my little acting area. And that’s from 2017 that I still have because all of those things that I have on my vision board still apply today, so I didn’t change it.
Why were you drawn to the role of Diana?
LaToya Tonodeo: I really love Diana’s character. As far as the casting process, my team sent it over and I read it. I actually had to put myself on tape for it. Sometimes those can be a little nerve-wracking because it’s different. You kind of have to police yourself and direct yourself rather than when you’re in a casting room they’ll tell you how they want you to do it. So I broke down the character. Diana is like the baby of the family. I would say she’s the princess of the Tejada family. She’s ambitious, she’s stylish, she’s intelligent, she’s street savvy. A lot of the things that I would say I have. So I felt like it was easy to draw from. I put myself on tape, and they sent it over. I told myself I wasn’t going to think about it, and then I got a callback. I felt like I killed it. Like I remember walking out of the room saying, “Listen, if I don’t get it, it’s okay because I put it all out there.” And then I found out that I booked it so, of course, I cried.
What was your reaction when you found out you were going to be playing Mary J. Blige’s daughter?
LaToya Tonodeo: At the table read was the first time I actually found out that Mary J. Blige was going to play my mom. I had no idea. So I booked it, we all came to New York, and then at the table read is when Courtney [A. Kemp] taps me as I’m highlighting my lines. She was like, “Let me introduce you to your mom.” I’m like, “My mom?” I was so caught off guard. I turned around and I’m like, “What in the world?” I found out on that day.
What was your first interaction like?
LaToya Tonodeo: When we first met, it was so many people introducing themselves. I was nervous. I was like, “Okay, I don’t know her. Do I give her a hug? What do I do?” She was so nice. She was like, “You’re so pretty.” I was like, “Thank you. You are too.” It was just really sweet. She’s so sweet. And then working with her, she’s so easygoing. She just felt prepared. I just love her energy.
What is Diana’s relationship like with her mother?
LaToya Tonodeo: I would say it’s a very push and pull relationship like a lot of mother and daughter relationships that we see today. Diana seems like she knows it all, but her mom is like, I am the mom. It’s that struggle of Diana wants to rebel but deep down inside she still wants to please her mom.
What can you tease about Diana’s journey over the course of the season?
LaToya Tonodeo: She’s grappling with different choices and definitely navigating through being the daughter and also trying to find a way to stand on her own. There’s a lot of discovery that’s going to happen with her personality-wise, I feel like she starts to learn a lot about herself just from her surroundings, whether it be new or current.
Is there anything you’ve taken away from working with Mary this season and that you want to use in the future?
LaToya Tonodeo: I realized how laid back Mary is, even if she was nervous. You can’t see it, so I don’t even know if she’s ever nervous. With me, I’m always nervous. I feel like I can definitely pick up on that and learn from just to be able to just sit with yourself and just relax and find your process or whatever you need to do to just completely relax and be at ease. She’s so laid back and then she goes and kills it.