When LaLa Anthony slides her hands down the sides of the smooth, bare, chocolate skin of her co-star Sinqua Walls on Power on Saturday night, you will practically hear the gasping, howling, and screaming from audiences everywhere.
As the camera closes in on her face, her eyes pop open, she smiles and eventually disrobes and straddles her younger lover. Fans of the saucy, sexy Starz drama have been waiting for this moment ever since it leaked a few weeks ago that Anthony would have such a meaty storyline in Season 2 — that sex scene, in which she is topless, included.
"Being a person that people already know, I know the scrutiny is going to be even more," Anthony told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview. Her husband, New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony "doesn't want to watch it," she recently said on Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club. But, she added, "He understands that it's my job."
For Anthony, who has an airtight scandal-free reputation, the scene on Power indicates she's ready to push the boundaries in regards to her acting career.
"I just feel like if I am taking acting seriously — and this is what I'm doing — then how can I be an actress that has never had a love scene or a sex scene? It seems a little unrealistic," Anthony told BuzzFeed News. "If you look at all the great actresses, the people who are doing great work, they've all had sex scenes or love scenes. I just thought career-wise, it made sense. It's something I felt was great and something that I wanted to do. But any time you take your clothes off, anybody's going to be nervous about that."
Anthony rose to prominence as an MTV VJ in 2001 (co-hosting Direct Effect and Total Request Live), was in a long term relationship with one of the NBA's best athletes, had a must-watch reality show on VH1, and counts celebrities like Kim Kardashian West, Ciara, and Kelly Rowland among her best friends. She landed a role in the 2012 ensemble film Think Like A Man, comfortably playing the sidekick best friend to a tragically single Meagan Good — it was familiar territory. But with Power, Anthony was ready to really dive in and go places her longtime fans couldn't ever have imagined her going.
She plays LaKeisha, the childhood best friend (though at times, frenemy) of Tasha (Naturi Naughton) — and in Power's inaugural season, it was business as usual for Anthony, who didn't venture too far outside the confines of what we've seen her doing before.
"I knew that the character would want to go somewhere. I liked that there was always room for her to continue to grow," Anthony said of her initial interest in the role. "Sometimes people want to come out the gates doing so much, but a lot of times on shows like Power, it becomes a quick burn. You're there, and then all of a sudden you're gone. With my character, I like that they're easing her in and giving her more and more to do as you go. I was intrigued by that."
Power creator Courtney Kemp Agboh was impressed by how game Anthony was to do something she'd never done before: seduce Shawn (Walls), who, by the way, is likely in love with the married Tasha.
"She's a really great actress. She's really good. She's really capable of so many things. But when you're famous already and you transition into acting, I think people have a pretty strong dose of skepticism," Kemp Agboh told BuzzFeed News, sitting on a couch inside of her Los Angeles office. "She came to the writers room to hang out, and talked about what she always wanted to do, and challenges she hadn't faced yet as an actor. With LaLa, she's become someone I feel really passionate about in terms of promoting her talent. She's an exceptionally talented woman, and she has the total package."
Anthony knows viewers will focus on her lack of clothing when the episode of Power airs, but she's hopeful that the audience will also realize she's entering a new phase as an actor, one who fully commits to the craft.
"I think people who get it will get that, while other people will just say, 'Oh. LaLa's naked,' and that will be the story," she said. "But people that look deeper will really see there's some real vulnerability going on; there's some real acting happening; there's a real connection, a real struggle internally what I'm doing and the person I'm doing it with. If they can get past, 'LaLa's boobs are out!' ... then they can see that."