As the premiere of Luke Cage steadily approaches and positive early reviews keep pouring in, the latest collaboration between Marvel Television and Netflix seems primed to get people talking. Whether that be about the racial/ political implications of the show or just how awesome the action looks, Luke Cage is sure to generate some serious watercooler talk. Speaking to Decider.com, showrunner, Cheo Hodari Coker, addressed the visual of seeing a bulletproof black man but also how at heart the show is meant to be fun as well as poignant.
Coker said, “Trust me, it’s like I wish that it wasn’t as politically relevant because I wish the world was in a better place. I wish that these things weren’t happening to give everything that we’re trying to do a political bent.” “Luke, being bulletproof and walking through [redacted for spoilers] was really more influenced by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s invading the police station in Terminator. And we shot it that way. But when you see the images of a bulletproof black man in a hoodie walking forward…it just has like the symbolic meaning that I don’t think we even anticipated.” He added, “I think that people will read about it as political and see my quote, but I think when they see the show, they’re going to go, ‘Aw man, this show is fun as hell.’”
While there have been numerous superhero adaptations, for Coker, Luke’s low-key presentation and easy to relate to worldview help make him an interesting hero. Combined with Mike Colter’s charm and charisma, Luke really comes to life.
Decider: Of all the Marvel superheroes, what is it specifically about Luke Cage that speaks to you?
Coker: It isn’t just that he’s African-American. I think the thing about Luke Cage that I love is the fact that he’s not just jumping into being a hero. He’s a person first. That was the thing that appealed to me about the comic books. He was “the Hero for Hire.” It’s the fact that he’s like, “Look, maybe I should get paid for this?” Not in a bad way. He’s never like malevolent about it. I always thought that was kind of interesting. It made you think, “Like wait a minute: does Spider-Man have health insurance?” It’s the kind of stuff in the real world context, like what would that be like? Now in my mind — we don’t go into Heroes for Hire in Season One of Luke Cage* — Luke Cage Season One is ultimately about the evolution of a hero. I think what’s appealing about Luke is the fact that he’s just somebody who’s just your normal, average guy. He presents himself that way. He’s not pretentious, but then at the same time, feels a responsibility to kind of push forward. And really, the most appealing thing personally is Mike Colter. I mean, mind you, Mike Colter wasn’t cast when I started working on this. Basically they were trying to find the guy. I got hired and about a month a half [later], they found Mike. Once I saw Mike, I was like, “Good God, this is the best casting since Sean Connery was cast as James Bond.”
Decider: Yeah, I’ve met him in person and it’s so overwhelming because he’s so handsome and charming. And you’re like, “You’re Luke Cage!” (laughs)
Coker: You know, he makes grown men giggle. (laughing) You know what I’m saying? There’s just something about this dude that’s like, “Man.” He’s so charismatic, you really feel like, “Good God, this man really is Luke Cage!”
Decider: Actually, I was curious about that because I know his first appearance is in Jessica Jones. So who was more involved in the casting? Was it for that show or were you the one kind of leading the charge and deciding who would play Luke Cage?
Coker: Nah, you know, it’s entirely [Jessica Jones showrunner] Melissa [Rosenberg]’s fault. I wish I could claim any kind of veto or any kind of credit for casting him. You know, that was kind of the blind risk that you take in coming into a Marvel property. Ultimately, it’s theirs. It’s their decision in terms of who gets cast. I had to trust Jeph Loeb with his judgment and Jeph is somebody that I trust implicitly. Ultimately, they said, before they pulled the trigger, “What do you think of this guy?” And I said, “Yeah, he looks great.” But it wasn’t like I was like sitting down in the audition room or anything like that.
Out of any aspect of Marvel’s productions, the one thing that is always solid is casting. Mike Colter‘s role in Jessica Jones was electric. And if early reviews are any indication, he’s bringing his A-game to Luke Cage. Part of that praise has to do with having the space a solo series affords to explore deeper aspects of the character and their surrounding.
Decider: This show feels like a magic trick. On the one hand it’s a Marvel show, but on the other, it’s one of the deepest meditations on the Black experience I’ve ever seen – mainly because you have a symphony of voices on the topic that keep coming in and out. How important was it to showcase all these different points of view?
Coker: My whole thing is I didn’t want Luke Cage to be a hero who happened to be black. I mean, he’s black the way that I’m black. You know, I wake up black, I go to sleep black. Some people will say, “Oh, I’m a showrunner first and not a black showrunner.” No, fuck that. (laughs) Like, I’m me. But that doesn’t mean that my experience is so colored by my race that it limits my ability to tell a compelling story that will appeal to everyone. I wanted a show that could be what I call “inclusively black.” And what I mean by that anybody who watches the show could eavesdrop on what it’s like to be part of the Black experience, and all of its nuance and contradictions — and beauty. But at the same time, not feel excluded by that.
Having a show that presents an authentic representation of what it means to be black in America while still being accessible to everyone is surely a feat that few would have expected from a superhero show, even five years ago. Like Jessica Jones showing the traumas of being a rape victim, these Netflix shows are aiming to elevate the genre. Where it goes from here remains to be seen. But there is one more series to debut before all of these street level heroes team-up in the Defenders. We’ve yet to see Danny Rand, the Iron Fist.
Decider: Everyone is talking about the Iron Fist series and how it would tie in with Luke Cage — I know you’re not doing “Heroes for Hire” this season — but if there is a Season Two, is that a storyline you’re hoping to work towards? And to bring Finn Jones into the mix?
Coker: Well, I mean Finn Jones will be in the mix for The Defenders. In terms of Luke Cage, Netflix has to order a second season first. And trust me, I don’t take any of this for granted because I mean there was no more sure thing than Vinyl (ed note: HBO‘s drama was cancelled after one season). We’re not treating it as a one-off, and I’m confident people will dig the show, but, trust me, like Season Two, I’ve got a few ideas. But we really won’t get ready until Netflix sees the viewership, and hopefully the subscriptions that will come from this show, and then they’ll say, “Let’s get into it.”
While a second season seems likely given the great early reception of the series, we’ll have to wait until September 30th to see Luke Cage hit the small screen.