The cast and crew of the upcoming Luke Cage series recently sat with Black Girl Nerds to talk about the show. We’ve been listening in and pulling out some interesting and relevant quotes and will be putting them out over the next several days. First up? Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker on what to expect from Season 1 and how his vision of Harlem and its hero was shaped.
Although Coker wasn’t responsible for the casting of Mike Colter – that responsibility went to Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg – he acknowledges just how perfect Colter is for the role. Speaking to BGN, Coker explained that the fact that Colter was just as invested as he was made him the right choice for Cage.
But the thing is that he just so embodies the character, and ultimately as a quarterback for the entire team he really leads by example. But at the same time, he knows his lines. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s so important that you have actors that are invested in the show and on everyone’s time, because when you don’t that’s when you get the delays….He’s just…. he’s next level.
As we learned with Cage’s debut in the first season of Jessica Jones, Cage made it clear that he didn’t have any intention of becoming a superhero. So going into Luke Cage, it’s safe to say he’ll be a bit of a reluctant hero.
The thing about this show is that season 1 is about how does one become a hero. I know that because of the conflict everyone’s thinking ‘Heroes for Hire’. But you have someone who is reluctant to even be a hero. What pulls somebody out of the shadows, and once their out of the shadows what are they gonna sacrifice, and even in sacrificing that thing what’s gonna keep them pushing forward?
With that said, what is it that keeps Luke going? In the trailer, as we noted in our trailer breakdown, it appeared that the loss of someone Cage cared about forced him to jump into the role of a hero. This is something Coker seems to touch on further below.
So Luke cage is a character that’s dealt with a lot of tragedy, there has to be an optimism there has to be something that propels him forward. So that’s really the thing that we do is like, I hate to say the Marvel cliche but it’s true, with great powers comes great responsibility.
One thing that Jeph Loeb always said is that Marvel heroes are reluctant from the standpoint of there not happy to have their powers. I mean Matt Murdock would much rather see and have his dad in his life. You know Jessica….is very ambivalent about being a superhero and Luke is no different. So this is really about how somebody without a mask and without a costume, is pushing forward in a community that really needs him.**
Also the thing we can’t forget…is the fact that Luke is a fugitive. You know there comes a sacrifice, for his power, to his freedom. The more people know about him, the more they can possibly find out the secret he harvests called Lucas, and as we explore in the first [set][background noise]….it adds a certain dynamic to everything that he does, because…he’s got a good reason to not want the attention. But that’s the thing…he does it anyway, and it’s really what happens, after episode 2 that compels him, despite it all, that he can not just lay back in the cut… he really has to accept the responsibility of heroism, and heroism is tough.
While some set noise made part of the interview tough to hear, it sounds like we’ll be diving right into the past life of Carl Lucas very early on!
Given that those involved with the series have been very vocal about Harlem acting as a secondary character in the series, it’s safe to say the neighborhood will play a large part in the story. As Coker puts it, it’s a place with a ton of history, which they look to be embracing on the series.
Well Harlem is, it’s amazing, it’s a place that’s filled with history. You know Adam Clayton Powell, it’s not just this old statue he actually walked the streets of Harlem as did Malcolm X…Martin Luther King. You’re left with political history, you’re left with musical history… crime. From the standpoint of Frank Lucas, Nicky Barnes, Bumpy Johnson… Probably 3 of the biggest crime figures…in terms of black history, all come from Harlem.
We really wanted to balance all these things because the one thing about the Marvel Universe that’s different is it takes place in Real New York. We wanted the cotton club of it all…which has always been a big influence on me. The Godfather is my favorite Coppola film, but Harlem’s paradise is kinda a mix of The Cotton Club, Lenox Lounge, and Shaft… you have underworld figures, politics, all in one mix (and if you add)…Wu-Tang…it’s on.
One of the most important parts of the podcast came when Coker was asked how they went about modernizing Cage and his story, as the comic is rooted in 70’s blaxploitation.
In terms of Luke Cage’s past whether it be the comics in the 70s or the Power Man and Iron Fist comics that I grew up with, there are elements of that there, the Sweet Christmas and Sweet Sister of it all, is definitely in the show, without spoiling everything, there is some chain belts and some tiaras somewhere, but at the same time really wanted something like Mike was saying was forward thinking, modern and adaptable to what’s happening today.
When people talk about blaxploitation….It was [the] filmmakers saying I want a black hero to do the same stuff that Steve McQueen and Sean Connery and John Wayne get to do… Walk in the middle of the screen, kiss the girl, kick-ass. Rather than be someone that’s always carrying water, or comic relief, or dies in the first 15 minutes… essentially it’s empowerment. It’s a show that unapologetically black, but at the same time it shows…there’s nothing to apologize for. Even if you not from the culture there’s so much energy that your gonna want to get into it. But if you’re from the culture it’s like…this has some attitude to it.
These comments from Coker aren’t doing me any favors. If I weren’t excited enough about this show, listening to the handle Coker has on Marvel heroes and his thoughts about bringing Luke Cage to 21st Century Harlem put me over the edge. The trailers have been so intense and, despite the show being about an unbreakable man, they give the appearance of the most reality-based series to date. In just over a month we’ll get a chance to see, but I’m going out on a limb and saying that what Coker and company have created here is going to be special and potentially transcendent.
Look for more from the podcast, including star Mike Colter‘s take on some of Coker’s thoughts from above, soon!