Luke Cage “is a hip-hop western”

Creator Cheo Hodari Coker and the cast of Luke Cage on what to expect

Netflix’s deliciously dark take on Marvel’s street-level heroics has already seen Daredevil and Jessica Jones unleashed on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Soon, it will be Luke Cage’s turn to land his own superhero spin-off, and showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker promises a unique approach to the genre; one that hasn’t been seen before on television.

Luke Cage has a different feel to Jessica Jones and Daredevil,” explains the self-confessed comic-book fan. “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room right now; it’s a black show. However, at the same time, it’s a different genre to the other shows to some extent, because Daredevil is a crime drama with superhero elements, and Jessica Jones is a psychological thriller, even though it has some classic ‘Sam Spade’ noir moments.”

“Our show is different because in our construction it’s a western,” he continues. “Luke Cage is a hip-hop western because it’s about a man with a mysterious past who would rather stay hidden; a man who moves to a new section of town, which has deteriorated over time. Instead of a saloon, we have a club named Harlem’s Paradise. And inside this ‘saloon’ there is another strong man who is controlling vice and – to some extent – has an amount of control in law enforcement [this would be Mahershala Ali’s crime lord Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes], so he gets away with everything.”

Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter are both reprising their roles from Jessica Jones for Luke Cage.

“Ultimately, when Luke Cage comes to town and he doesn’t like how things are going, he intervenes – even though he doesn’t want to,” Coker adds. “And that’s when things begin to happen. As things begin to happen, it puts Luke into a showdown with the central figure from the saloon – or in our case, Harlem’s hottest nightclub.”

Marvel is well-known for it’s top-secret approach, and that’s something Mike Colter came to learn first-hand when he was offered the role of the iconic superhero. “I basically had to take a leap of faith and trust [Marvel’s head of television] Jeph Loeb and [Jessica Jones showrunner] Melissa Rosenberg, because they pitched the character of Luke Cage to me, but they didn’t have much to show me.

“They told me about the overall arc of this character. They told me where he was going to go and who he was as a character, but there wasn’t a lot to pull from the pages of the script, because they only had scripts from two episodes of Jessica Jones that they were able to share at that time.”

“I signed on for a project that was going to take me onto my own series; a series that didn’t even have a showrunner at the time, so there were a lot of unknowns,” Colter continues. “But I had a gut feeling that this character would be someone that I could play and have fun with. I also felt like this character would have a journey that I was interested to discover.”

Simone Missick as Misty Knight.

Colter wasn’t the only person kept in the dark about the series; many of the auditioning actors weren’t informed that they were trying out for a Marvel television series. “I had no idea it was Marvel,” explains Simone Missick, who plays Misty Knight; a character with a rich back story in the comics. “I didn’t know that this character was a superhero and that her name was Misty; it was all shrouded in secrecy. They said the character’s name was Missy and the project was titled Tiara, which I’ve since discovered is a reference to Luke Cage when he goes through his transformation [in the comics]. At that point, he’s wearing a little crown; a tiara.”

While much is still being kept under wraps, Colter is happy to share the themes of the first season. “Luke Cage is about family and it’s about love,” the actor explains. “It’s about regret, romance and inner struggle. It’s about growing up, manhood and crime, and it’s also about karma. It’s about so many things. The themes don’t go in any one direction and stay there. We are not on one track; we are all over the place, but in a really good way.”

“Like Cheo said, it’s a hip-hop western,” Colter concludes. “But there’s also a lot of misdirection from the trailer. Don’t think that because the trailer comes out, everybody is going to know what the show is all about. There’s very, very good marketing in play here! Ultimately, we want you to show up and then we will surprise you. We’ll hook you in.”

Luke Cage will air worldwide on Netflix from 30 September 2016. You can download The 25 Greatest Marvel Comics digital edition from now. For more news about the biggest movies, pick up the new issue of SciFiNow.