Cagey Business

Emma Pearson meets the crew behind Netflix’s latest Marvel series Luke Cage

Cagey Business
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e’s the bulletproof former convict who fights crime on the streets of Harlem, New York, and he’s back, bigger and burlier than ever.

We’re talking about Luke Cage and the second season of Netflix’s Marvel machine that just keeps chugging along, and this time, we’re not complaining.

In this series, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) has become a celebrity on the streets of Harlem with a reputation as bulletproof as his skin.

But his new-found notoriety isn’t without its problems and the pressure he feels to protect the community is completely off the charts – and that’s before the villains get involved.

In this series we’re introduced to a whole string of new baddies and with the rise of a formidable new foe, Luke is forced to confront the fine line that separates superhero and villain.

Writer and producer Cheo Hodari Coker says, “It was really important in season two to put Luke Cage at the centre of things from a standpoint of ‘who is he? How’s he dealing with being exposed as being a hero?’

“He was so reluctant in season one to be a hero and now that the cat’s out of the bag and everyone knows his name, knows where to find him, how does he react to that? What happens to his ego, what happens to his relationships? There was a quote Mike Tyson had about boxing that was ‘Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit in the face’ and that was really one of the themes for this season.

The returning cast includes Rosario Dawson as love interest Claire Temple, Simone Missick as cop Misty Knight, Alfre Woodard as disgraced councilwoman Mariah Dillard and Theo Rossi as criminal supervillain Shades.

New cast members include Mustafa Shakir and Gabrielle Dennis, among others.

The first episode in season two is directed by actress and new director Lucy Liu who was a massive fan of season one.

Liu says, “This was a wonderful opportunity, because Cheo and I worked together on (TV series) Southland. That was a very specific show that was off the cuff. We shot with three cameras, we had a very small crew and I learned a lot from that.

“Having the opportunity to work with Cheo again was so special and he also said to me ‘I really want you to bring your own creative essence to this’ so as a director that’s what we want, you don’t want to feel like you don’t have the ability to have your own eye.

“You’re not coming in and trying to change the show but you want to add to it or you want to add an element of style that you can bring that’s not going to shift and make it seem like a different show.

“This was the first time I’ve done a show that was the premiere episode of the season so that was really exciting and connecting with everyone on that level was wonderful.”

Although the show is based on a fantasy world where heroes and villains run amok, the makers insist that the content has never been more relevant in the real-world – especially when it comes to inclusion and authentic representation Coker says, “One of the reasons why I was so keen on having the opportunity to do Luke Cage was the fact that it was the opportunity to do a Marvel show that was inclusively black, culturally, musically as well as having superpowers and having their opportunity to take it everywhere – the face that it dropped everywhere I think really kind of set the stage for a lot of things, so I was really excited by the reception.

“We don’t water down culture at all, it’s done in such a way that even if you’re not from Hip Hop culture or African American culture; there’s a window into the show and the thing I love about the worldwide reception is that a lot of people that aren’t from the African American experience resonate with the show so it proves people around the world just want a good show. While culture is certainly a part of the show, at the same time it’s inclusive and open in a way that people kind of just get into it – and that’s always been the goal.”

This season also has a much stronger female influence, thanks to the addition of several female directors.

Coker says, “Gender has nothing to do with taste and where you place the camera, it’s all about passion and vision. In the past there were always questions on what African American writers can do and accomplish about female sensibility. It’s not about that. It’s about your vision for the characters on the show, that’s the number one criteria.

Liu adds, “As a woman it’s really fantastic to have the opportunity to be a part of this culture. I did not grow up in television and film, I grew up in a very different kind of environment, it was more of a fantasy world, so this is really a dream come true.

“To take all of these experiences and apply it as a director is incredibly special. I think it’s time for women to have the opportunity.”
Luke Cage is now on Netflix.

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