Carl Lucas / Luke Cage
Former inmate Carl Lucas (played by Mike Colter), now known as Luke Cage, battles crime with his enhanced physical abilities and indestructible skin.
By November 2014, three actors—Lance Gross, Colter, and Cleo Anthony—were in the running for the role of Luke Cage on Marvel’s Jessica Jones and its spinoff, Luke Cage. The following month, Colter was officially added to the cast as a series regular on both shows.
He agreed to appear on both series without first viewing a screenplay. Although Colter was aware with the character from the comics, he was initially hesitant to take the role because of the comics’ portrayal of the character: “when I saw the tiara, all the 1970s blacksploitation stuff, I was like, ‘oh my God.'” They reassured me, though, saying, “…we’re making a current day version.”
Upon being asked about the discrepancies between his portrayals in the two shows, Colter explained, “You’re not always the same person around everyone you know… you might not always behave the same way around your mom as you would with your wife or your boss or your fraternity mates.” Although Cage was defenceless and “in a bit of a freefall” in Jessica Jones, he is now “trying to regroup and trying to figure out what’s his next move” in Luke Cage.
What happens in the first few episodes gets him going and propels him into action. Colter remarked, “The approach with the character for me is more about the human traits and the things that make Luke Cage tick… the authors have to then decide to bring in the race of the character if there’s an angle there.” But I don’t treat it as something that requires special preparation; rather, it’s an afterthought. Colter bulked up for the part, gaining 30 lb. (14 kg). Two actors, David Austin, and Clifton Cutrary, play younger and older versions of Lucas.
Cage is a local hero, strongly associated with both New York and Jessica Jones,” Colter said of him. Although the MCU includes Iron Man and Thor, Luke Cage is a far darker, grittier, and more tangible character. He is gifted with these abilities but is unsure of when or where to apply them. Later, Colter elaborated, calling him a “renaissance man,” adding,
“He’s trying to better himself and there’s something to be said about someone who’s always trying to make themselves better, trying to change.” Colter remarked on the character’s catchphrase “Sweet Christmas,” adding, “I was frightened of that phrase, but it actually fits so perfectly, I don’t know why, I don’t know why it fits so well into Luke’s mouth.” Composer Adrian Younge described him as “a black superhero, but he’s a different kind of black alpha male.” However, the character “opts instead for pensive silence” most of the time. He doesn’t like to make a big deal out of things. In today’s media, it is unusual to see a black male protagonist who possesses both depth of character and brains.
Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes
Mahershala Ali plays Mariah Dillard’s (a drug dealer) criminal cousin, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, the owner of the Paradise nightclub in Harlem. Later, an angry Mariah kills him after initially accusing Luke Cage of the crime before shifting the blame on Diamondback.
In spite of knowing that Stokes would be killed off early in the series, Ali joined the cast in the role in September 2015. When Netflix approached him “about Luke Cage,” they gave him the arc, and for the first time, I found myself excited by a character’s departure because he felt like this was something he could give his all to for a period of time before saying “peace” to him, he said. “It gave me a certain freedom to try to do my best work a not worry about how long it was going to last.” Young Stokes is portrayed by Elijah Boothe.
While Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb called Stokes “the other hero of the plot,” Ali referred to him as “a Godfather-type villain,” making him a successor to Marvel Netflix antagonists Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave. Ali thought of Stokes as a “Complex in his own unique way. He’s the kind of person who does things in a way that I, and maybe most people, wouldn’t.”
Former music writer and Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker has revealed that the character of Cottonmouth is heavily influenced by the attitude of rapper Biggie Smalls, with whom he was friends. Ali, who makes mixtapes for each of the characters he plays so that “sonically, the character has a soundtrack,” said that he included songs by Big L, Diamond D, Brand Nubian, D’Angelo, Mobb Deep, Kanye West, and Erykah Badu on his mixtape for Cottonmouth because of the character’s Harlem roots.
Simone Missick’s character, Detective Mercedes Kelly “Misty” Knight of the 29th Precinct, is a dedicated investigator with an intense interest in learning more about Cage. She loses her right arm fighting Bakuto, but returns to the force with the support of Claire Temple and Colleen Wing. Danny Rand and Colleen Wing eventually present her with a mechanical limb.
The character of Knight was described by Missick, who was cast in the role in September 2015, as “distinct in herself. To put it simply, she is not the wife. It’s safe to say that you don’t have a girlfriend. She isn’t just some supporting player.” Missick further, saying that her favourite part of playing Misty Knight was that the character “believes in the system, even though… [with] our current circumstances, it’s difficult to believe in the system.” Missick decided not to read the comics in order to escape the high standards set by fans when she was developing her interpretation of the character. In the show, Knight possesses a “superpower” called “Misty Vision” that allows her to analyse a crime scene and figure out who committed the murder.
Hernan “Shades” Alvarez
Hernan “Shades” Alvarez (Theo Rossi), a Diamondback employee and a former convict of Seagate Prison where he met Cage, is a ruthless, threatening, slick and manipulative, street-smart criminal. The second season concludes with Shades’s arrest for the murders of Candace Miller and Comanche.
In September of 2015, it was revealed that Rossi would be playing Shades. Shades is “the ultimate opportunist,” according to Loeb, who compared him to Luke Cage’s Littlefinger. Since he couldn’t use his eyes to act, like Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock in Marvel’s Daredevil, he wore sunglasses throughout the series as a means of preparation.
Willis Stryker / Diamondback
Erik LaRay Harvey plays Cage’s half-brother, the powerful arms dealer Willis Stryker, who is responsible for framing Cage for the crime that landed him in Seagate Prison. Later, he wears an exo-suit and confronts Luke Cage outside of Pop’s barbershop. Diamondback is defeated by Luke and taken into custody by the authorities. Luke subsequently reveals to Jessica Jones that he had Stryker taken to the Raft under his orders.
Set photographs from March 2016 confirmed Harvey’s role as Stryker.
Harvey decided not to do any publicity for the show so as not to “ruin the twist” of Stryker being the main villain of the series, and Marvel did not reveal this prior to the publication of the series. Harvey relied on Coker to construct the 2016 version of Stryker, including changing his history to be the half-brother of Carl Lucas, rather than reading the comics to understand more about the character so as not to “interfere with what we were trying to achieve and muddy my judgement.” Coker did his best to incorporate elements from the comics into the show, such as having Stryker’s comic clothing transformed into armour so that he could compete with Cage’s incredible power. Teenage Stryker, played by Jared Kemp, is a fictional character.
Harvey discussed the character’s lack of legal parentage, saying “He was labelled a bastard his whole life, and it finally got to him. I can’t imagine how that might affect a person’s daily life. What would you feel if your childhood was discredited, disregarded, and forgotten? What motivates Willis is… Because of his father’s activities, he is sent away and later tortured in prison. After all that’s happened to him, his mind has been twisted and perverted, and he’s gained an almost psychotic sensitivity.”
Given that the moniker “Diamondback” is derived from a genus of snakes, Harvey collaborated with the show’s fight coordinator to give Stryker “rapid, incredibly fast dabs and slithers” in his movement (“because he’s really evasive”). This character’s constant grin whether committing murder or slandering Cage’s reputation is a red flag “exactly how he dealt with his suffering. Despite his discomfort, he manages a smile.”
As played by Rosario Dawson, Claire Temple is a nurse in Hell’s Kitchen whose friendship with Cage changes the course of both of their lives.
It was announced in November 2015 that Dawson would be returning to her role as Temple from the first Marvel Netflix series.
The reason, according to Colter, is that her character, a nurse, “seems to be in the right place at the right time,” and she is very adept at helping out superheroes who are in need. “In the end, I believe she will prove to be an excellent travelling companion for Luke. She seems like the kind of person Luke could need in his life right now.”
Cage and Stokes’ actions “throw into chaos” the lives of Mariah Stokes-Dillard (Alfre Woodard), a local councilwoman, Stokes’ cousin, and Tilda Johnson’s mother who is working to bring change to Harlem. Mariah, now going by her original name of Stokes, is captured for her criminal actions at the end of season two and discreetly poisoned by Tilda in her jail cell, where she ultimately dies.
Woodard, who plays Miriam Sharpe in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Captain America: Civil War, was in talks to join the cast in August 2015, and was confirmed as a series regular the following month, portraying a different character named Dillard.
Woodard, a native of Harlem, said the episode scripts were “among the smartest pieces of literature ever came across,” and he agreed to work with Coker on the project only when the latter shown his appreciation for Harlem and its traditions. Unlike Black Mariah in the comics, the TV show’s version of the character isn’t a criminal herself but does feel a sense of duty to her family, which includes Stokes. Coker wanted to honour her background by giving the character the name “Black Mariah,” and Woodard was fine with that as long as it was utilised tastefully. Ultimately, Stokes uses the moniker as a personal slur from their time spent growing up together, in vengeance for Dillard’s verbal assaults. Young Dillard is portrayed by Megan Miller.
Tilda Johnson (Gabrielle Dennis), a holistic doctor in Harlem, can’t seem to keep herself out of trouble. The girl is Pistol Pete’s kid, born to Mariah Dillard after one of Pistol Pete’s assaults.
John McIver / Bushmaster
Mustafa Shakir’s John McIver is a charismatic leader with an eye for both Harlem and payback. He is the head of a subgroup of the Yardies known as the Stylers and harbours resentment at the Stokes family for betraying him. Bushmaster takes the drug Nightshade and acquires the strength to challenge Luke Cage. The second season concludes with Bushmaster returning to Jamaica with his uncle’s body to help his aunt bury him properly and to heal.
Celebrating 50 years of the Hero for Hire. See Luke Cage in a special anniversary variant cover by @JScottCampbell and pick up ‘Daredevil’ #4 on October 12: https://t.co/RGoRetOfqc pic.twitter.com/jXVwrlVNDY
— Luke Cage (@LukeCage) September 1, 2022
In July of 2017, it was revealed that Shakir would be joining the cast for Season 2.
Jessica Henwick’s character, Colleen Wing, is a former member of the Hand who now runs a dojo in New York City and is romantically involved with Rand.
Misty Knight’s friend Colleen aids her by teaching her to fight using only one arm. Mr. Fish attacks her and Misty Knight when they are having a drink at the pub. As Misty Knight vanquishes Mr. Fish, Colleen eliminates his henchmen. Later, Colleen helps Danny Rand provide Misty Knight a prosthetic robotic arm.
Danny Rand / Iron Fist
During his investigation into the Hand, Luke teamed up with Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones), a billionaire Buddhist monk, co-CEO of Rand Enterprises, and martial arts practitioner who can call upon the mystical power of the Iron Fist.
Misty Knight receives a prosthetic arm from Danny Rand and Colleen Wing. Subsequently, he aids Luke Cage in the hunt for Bushmaster.
As depicted by Stephen Rider, Blake Tower is an associate district attorney in the Big Apple. His first appearance was outside of Diamondback’s hostage-taking operation at Harlem’s Paradise. At Mariah Dillard’s arraignment in Season 2, he took the role of prosecutor.
Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, Luke Cage is a Netflix original series written and directed by Cheo Hodari Coker. It’s the third in a series of shows that all lead up to the crossover miniseries The Defenders and takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise…
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