Although Marvel Studios has yet to present in Hall H, SDCC has already proven to be huge for Marvel fans. Not only did we learn that Ghost Rider is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as he makes his way to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the show’s fourth season, but the Netflix panel on Thursday bombarded us with plenty of fantastic goods. We finally got an official teaser trailer for Luke Cage, along with a surprising look at Iron Fist, and a teaser for The Defenders. Not to mention, Daredevil also scored a season three pick-up. So it’s safe to say Marvel Television really left their mark on this year’s SDCC. However, as exciting as all of that is, most are still talking about the highly anticipated Luke Cage – after all, the show is set to debut in just a little over two months now!
After meeting up with the main cast to promote the series at SDCC, showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker and series star Mike Colter made the interview rounds and took some time out to discuss what we can expect from the show. While talking to the folks over at Collider, they explained their take on the character in this series as well as some of the boundaries they’ll be pushing.
Both Colter and Coker were asked about how they view Luke as a character and a person. According to them, he is no Tony Stark, someone that loves being in the spotlight. Instead, Luke prefers to stay quiet and do his work in the shadows so to speak. Whether they describe him as “humble” or “complicated,” he is now in a position to do good, whether he likes it or not.
Colter: He’s a guy that has been thrust into a place that he doesn’t really want to be. He’s a guy who’s been endowed with abilities, as they say. To him, it’s not positive. At least he doesn’t see it that way. He’s reluctant, and he’s the kind of guy who shies away from the spotlight. He’s a humble guy. He doesn’t want any part of this. But ultimately, it’s something that he’s going to have to deal with. It’s perfect for me because I don’t really like the spotlight either. I think with him, it feels like a glove.
Coker: He’s a complicated man who no one understands, but his woman, and his woman, in this case, happens to be dead. So, he basically deals with that. He deals with the fact that he has very few people that he can talk to. He wants to lay in the cut. He never wanted a spouse. He didn’t ask for this. Now that he has it, he doesn’t necessarily want the spotlight and the heat that comes from being different. But then, when things are out of his control that could have been in his control had he prevented certain things from happening, and there are consequences for not doing what he should have done in the first place, he feels a responsibility to come out of the shadows and be a hero. So, part of what the first season is about is, how does one accept the mantel of being a hero? There’s that pivotal line in the first episode when he says, “I’m not for hire man, but I’ve got you.” For Season 1, we’re looking at what it means to be a hero, the sacrifices that come from that, and how one gets to the point when you finally accept who you are.
One of the things that could be a hurdle to jump through as a member of the creative teams on properties such as Luke Cage is telling the story you want to tell but in a new and unique way. Many of these characters now being adapted onto the small or big screen have been around for years and have quite a lot of preexisting stories that people love. The challenge then becomes telling a new story in a way that coincides with what already exists or taking bits and pieces from stories and adapting them correctly. As for the approach taken by Coker, he wanted the show to stand on its own.
Coker: Not really. Daredevil is haunted by Frank Miller, from the standpoint of the Frank Miller run on Daredevil is so insurmountable. The only thing you can really do is match it, which the show has. Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Alias, in terms of what he did with Jessica Jones, it’s that the level of maturity and the deep themes of that comic translate perfectly into the series. With Luke Cage, the tone was never that deep or very heavy. With every single issue, there was Cottonmouth or Big Ben, or all these different people. At first, I thought that was a disadvantage, but it turns out it was a great advantage for our show. There’s been 30 to 40 years, where people really had to explore some of these characters, so we can reinterpret them and do it in such a way that definitely respected the spirit of the original comics from the ‘70s and all the different iterations, but at the same time, as a show, existed in its own space. I think what happens is that because they’re different, people will go back to the comics and experience that richness. The show really leans into race, in a way that hasn’t been done in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that you can really only do with a story like Luke Cage.
This new story is still one that exists within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and under the Marvel/Disney/Netflix umbrella. So far, Netflix has provided an outlet for Marvel to be more mature with their content, showing plenty of gruesome action and blood in Daredevil and sex scenes in both Jessica Jones and Daredevil. Colter has recently hinted at more superhero sex in the upcoming series, but Coker is also pushing the boundaries as far as language goes. Luke Cage will bring the ‘N’ word into the show, and they were asked if it was difficult to convince Disney and Marvel to use it.
Coker: Well, they had some trepidation. I’m not gonna front. But my whole thing was that, in using that word, I didn’t want it to be comfortable. I wanted every single time that it’s heard for people to think about it. But I also really wanted the show to live on its own terms, from the standpoint of, this is what it’s like when you eavesdrop on black people talking to each other. That word will come up, at times, in certain ways, so I wanted to explore the context with which it was used. Cottonmouth uses the word differently. In Episode 2, as Luke pushes forward to becoming a hero, the word is referred to in the very beginning of the episode, and at the end, there’s the history of Crispus Attucks. I wanted people to think about it in a way that they hadn’t thought about it before. And at the same time, every blaxploitation movie from Shaft to Hell Up in Harlem to Black Caesar deals with power and deals with these issues, so it needed to feel like that, too. When all else fails, if everyone gets mad, they can blame me.
Colter: We talked about it, early on. I remember talking to Cheo about it and I was adamant that Luke was not a person that used that language. He was not a person that used that word because he was bigger than that. First and foremost, he’s a superhero, but we’ve got to define this superhero in a bigger sense than just his powers. He needs to be someone we can aspire to be, and I felt like, if he was the kind of guy that used that language all the time, like someone on the street corner who didn’t respect themself or the people around them, then he had lost what he had given up. So, that was a high requirement. In this day and age, if you don’t want to use that word or you choose to not use that word, you’re walking a path on your own because it’s so accepted. Whereas for Luke, he wanted to be better than that. He’s trying to work on himself. He’s trying to change his path. So, when he does use it, it resonates because it’s out of frustration. He can’t deal with this issue right now. He’s going through so much. At this point, he wants to unleash and retaliate with venom and hatred. Sometimes you don’t know the effect of words until you hear it used on you.
Luke Cage will debut exclusively on Netflix at 12:01 a.m. PST on September 30th.