Words: Chris Law
Photography: Othello Banaci
Fashion: ‘A Guy and A Girl’
Creative: Chris Sandford
Location: Life Time Athletic at Sky
Before he was Tommy, Ghosts’ right-hand man on hit show, Power, Joseph Sikora was a Catholic from Chicago who had guest-star roles on your favorite shows. Now he’s filming sex scenes we envy, murder scenes we can’t look away from, and becoming the actor we root for.
WARNING: This article may contain some spoilers, so don’t say we didn’t warn you.
It’s Friday morning and I’m waiting for our phone interview to begin. After a few minutes, I hear a “Hello,” and I’m instantly shook. I know that voice all too well. The deep yet raspy “I’ll fuck you up” voice that pours out of television sets across the nation every Sunday at 9pm. Although he sounds like Tommy, the psychotic yet lovable guy we’ve grown to love and respect – it’s not him. It’s Joseph Sikora, serious actor, husband, and the subject of our cover. By the time this issue prints, season four will have ended and filming for season five will have just begun. Currently, Power is the second most watched show on premium-cable behind Game of Thrones. The show has captivated audiences nationwide with its gritty scenes, rollercoaster-ride writing, and cliffhangers that leave us wanting more.
While his role on Power is probably his biggest break to date, it’s certainly not the only role he has played. From his first commercial with Michael Jordan as a kid, to playing a pregnant man on Grey’s Anatomy, Sikora’s ability to transform and act alongside some of the greatest in the industry must be acknowledged.
Sikora grew up in Northwest Chicago, and much like any other adult, the question of, “What will I be when I grow up?” starts with little signs during childhood. To no surprise, his answer was to act on television. The actor recalls, “When I was ten or eleven years old, I liked the show called Kids Incorporated (a Disney TV show about children that performed hit songs—think Glee but cooler). Being a rock star seemed like a fun thing to do. My mom said, ‘That’s sweet,’ and asked me in a month, ‘You still want to be an actor?’ A month later I said, ‘I still want to be an actor.’” His mom opened the Yellow Pages (this was pre Google folks), started calling some theatres, and soon in a suburb about an hour away, he was cast in his first play. “I learned the discipline early and how much time goes into stuff.”
As a teenager, Sikora took weekend classes at the Piven Theatre Workshop, fulfilling a promise he had made to his mom. However, acting wasn’t the only art that he was interested in. He was also a graffiti artist and had a crew he rolled with. He would even tag trains during his commute to the theater.
It wasn’t always fun times on the train and in the theater for Sikora. He, like so many, suffered from being bullied. Recalling his boxing days Sikora says, “I was an angry young man. My anger came out of fear from growing up in Chicago and getting beaten up or pushed around, and finally having enough. When you street fight less, you don’t need it. You want to save your hands and face for the ring. It makes it easier to walk away from fights. When people call you names—you know that [laughs]—you have confidence like, ‘this is not worth my time,’ This new found confidence not only helped me on the street but in school as well.”
Sikora graduated high school and started college, although he had some complications along the way. “I got kicked out of the program because I couldn’t see eye-to-eye with how they taught acting, and I made it known!,” says Sikora. “The theater school didn’t like that I was still boxing competitively. That’s another thing about acting, You [still] gotta live, you have to be a human being. If you’re not a human being, what are you are going to bring to these characters?”
Sikora graduated from Columbia College and for the next few years, he split his time between New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, although he is not a fan of the latter. “L.A. was a disaster for me,” Sikora explains. “It was too lonely, it was too different. I said, ‘the next job that brings me back to New York, I’m just gonna stay back.’” Leaving Los Angeles proved to the best option for him. Sikora quietly began to book tons of work on television and theater. From acting alongside Matthew McConaughey in True Detective, to guest work on Boardwalk Empire, Blue Bloods, and more, his ability to command the screen has garnered him critical acclaim. While his roles have proven to be varied, Sikora certainly would not call himself a character. “’Character actor’ doesn’t exist anymore—not as we knew it.
There are wonderful actors like Sean Penn and Denzel [Washington], —who are leading men that are carrying films. They’re not always sexy or romantic as we think of Cary Grant, like, back in the day. I think ‘character’ actor is the pinnacle of acting. It’s what expected.”
Speaking of expectations, Sikora has far exceeded our own with his portrayal of Tommy, the loyal sociopath, drug dealer and user who we root for every week even though we shouldn’t. His performance is so believable that the audience isn’t sure if he’s just a good actor or actually Tommy in real life. Sikora says, “You have to find that part of yourself to make that character true. There’s a significant amount of me in Tommy and there’s also aspects that aren’t me. Like I never moved copious amounts of weight. I never killed anybody.”
One of the similarities Sikora has with Tommy is his love for Lucy Walters, who played arguably the most-hated character, Holly, on the show. The scene where he kills her is not only the scene he’s most proud of, but the hardest scene for him to do Sikora explains. “It was hard because I knew my friend wasn’t going to be on the show anymore. To lose a scene partner and someone you care for was hard. Staying in that— I mean we shot that all day long. That’s, like, 10 hours of that scene. I’m overly judgmental of my performances so believe me, for anyone who hates on me, I’ve said far worse things about myself to myself.
When I saw that scene I thought, ‘That’s true and present.’ Tommy looked possessed and I think that’s the only legitimate way he could have killed her. I found truth in that and as an actor I think that’s a moment to be proud of.”
Sikora is the only white lead on the show. When he first appeared on screen, there were a lot of comparisons to him and Eminem—mostly because of the hair and the 50 Cent connection. However, Sikora is adamant that Tommy and Eminem are totally different. Sikora points out, “Tommy and Eminem are incredibly different people. First off, Em is from a lower socially-economic background–not from an all-black neighborhood. The idea that Tommy is one of few [white men] is something that’s pretty extreme and true. I think it’s important and socially responsible… There’s an archetype that we present in America, and that is the black hoodlum. I think to put a white character in [that role] and have the black character as a more moralistically responsible character—that’s definitely more intelligent and savvy. I think it’s cool to see the white guy in that role because it’s true, and is an aspect that’s not often shown.”
So many times we have actors we follow on a show and then when the show ends, we never see them again. Thankfully, that won’t be the case because Sikora already knows what’s next. Sikora reveals, “Man, I can’t wait to get back on the boards. I would love to keeping acting with the Irish Rep Theatre in NYC and the Shattered Globe Theater in Chicago. I would love to get back on Broadway. I love doing films. I just finished a film-motivated seller with Michael Ealy, Megan Good, and Dennis Quaid, coming out early next year. I love acting and exploring different characters, and learning more about myself through the human condition.”