Yesterday we ran a post collecting various quotes from Luke Cage showrunner, Cheo Hodari Coker, who took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Black Girl Nerds about the upcoming series. (If you missed it, you can catch those quotes here.) Now today, taking a deeper look into the upcoming Netflix series, Luke Cage, Black Girl Nerds was able to sit down with the head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb to get his thoughts on what we can expect from Luke Cage and how it will connect to the audience, along with some interesting points on how Luke Cage fits into the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While we know that Mahershala Ali, who plays Cornell Stokes/Cottonmouth on the series, is set to be the main villain of the show, he isn’t the only bad guy. Joining Ali’s Cottonmouth is actor Theo Rossi who plays villain Shades Alvarez. As we’ve already seen in the first trailer, as well as the first officially released stills, Rossi’s Shades seems to be working closely alongside Stokes. And much like we’ve seen with the villains in the other Netflix shows, we can expect to see a more fleshed out character rather than a run of the mill villain. Talking about Rossi’s casting, Loeb acknowledged that the actor brought a certain presence to the character.
31:08 Jeph: The first question that everybody asked is who is gonna play Shades? At the same time, it was important for us to allow the character to grow, to be integrated, and when Theo came in it wasn’t a question of who’s playing the part. When you look at the way Mike is playing Luke, he is a larger than life personality and presence, so we needed somebody who was not intimidated by that. What was fascinating about what Theo brought to the role was no, I’m actually the hero of the story, and it’s not a problem for me that this person is a disturbance in what I need to get done. We’ll just eliminate that person and then continue the story.
To find those types of villains that are not super-powered yet are also not going to back down to the titular hero is always a challenge for story-telling, but Rossi appears to have a strong handle on the role. Jeph went on to express his desire to do something for the fans while bringing life to Harlem and NYC.
30:45 Jeph: I think sorta when we started out to talk about Luke and how that world was gonna be revealed to everybody, it’s always best to stay as grounded as you can. While there is a long history with this character, I think starting out we wanted to be able to bring to life someone for Luke Cage fans.
40:27 Jeph: We’ve said from the very beginning there is really 5 Defenders….Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and then there’s NYC it was always intended to be that way. We’re all over the city. We’re on rooftops, in subways, Harlem, down at the docks.
Theo: Long Island City (part of Queens).
Jeph: Everywhere that you can go.
As we know all of the Defenders have had a portion of New York that they call their own, each space being unique with its own feel. We have already seen this in Daredevil and Jessica Jones with how grounded they are in NYC. Luke Cage will be similar but with the experience of how he fits into Harlem.
32:54 Jeph: I think that’s what’s true of all our shows, but especially Marvel Netflix, is that it does come from a real and grounded place. It’s the story of a man that has to accept responsibility for who he is. If you’re caught up in that story, and ‘oh, by the way he can also bench press a car’, that’s great but that’s the icing on the cake.
33:24 Jeph: If you start from a place of he’s got superpowers, and he’s bulletproof, and there is gonna be huge action, you’ll hit an audience they’ll be happy with you…
Theo: But they probably can’t tell you what the story was they just saw, it’s just a lot of action and then they don’t remember. What was the story, what was the point?
Long gone are the days when superhero shows and movies made story-telling the weakest part of the experience. It’s the exact opposite when it comes to the Netflix model, which makes it a point to present well-written, fleshed out stories that just so happen to feature a superpowered being at the forefront.
34:12 Jeph: When we would talk to our directors, it was the thing we tried to always make sure that they understood, was that…what happens in this scene has nothing to do with being on a superhero show. For all intents and purposes, you’re watching a crime drama or a story of redemption. If you can get those points to come across, then everything else will work out fine. The audience will forget and all of the sudden – oh my gosh – a fight broke out in the middle of a soap opera.
36:20 Jeph: We have a responsibility to tell stories that will exist on their own. If you’ve seen Jessica Jones and you met Luke Cage in Jessica Jones, awesome we think that’s great. But we can’t bet on that, we have to be able to tell a story, that when you come into this, you’ve never met him before. You don’t know what his story is, what his past is. Some of that we purposely left out of Jessica Jones. But the reason why Luke was in Jessica Jones is because that’s their story. Now he comes to Harlem in order to figure out his life. We’re gonna be able to see the world from his point of view.
At times it feels like Netflix has cornered the market on the binge watching craze, presenting what feels like a series of movies to tell one story. That is no easy feat, especially in a world that houses The Avengers, but it can also be a positive.
37:25 Jeph: At the end of the day, the Avengers are here to save the universe, these street level heroes are here to save the neighborhood, and in some cases, themselves. On many levels, you can empathize with what’s going on even more so than the giant, epic, roller coaster, wonderfulness, that are the Marvel movies. A lot of that is because we are on television, that has always been something you invite into your home. It’s a very intimate experience…if it’s going to be that intimate it better be compelling. They have to stay and watch for 13 hours and you’re driven to get to the next episode, and hopefully when you get to the end you want to go back and watch it all over again.
Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker has placed his mark on the show and Jeph was very positive on how that will come across to viewers.
42:50 Jeph on Cheo: The word that we always come back to is the musicality of it. There’s a rhythm to Harlem that is different than anywhere else in NYC, and it infected and affected the way that we were making the show, and that was all Cheo from the very beginning.
Although we already got a taste of Luke Cage in Jessica Jones, it will be interesting when we can expand on his world and how different it is. We will continue to break down more for the cast and crew in the next few days. All 13 episodes of Luke Cage will premiere on Netflix on September 30th.