A Conversation About Luke Cage, Harlem, and Hip-Hop With Mike Colter & Cheo Coker
“Luke Cage” is dense. As thick as the character’s skin is, the story layers are even thicker. Luke Cage is a Marvel character that goes back to the 1970’s, but has gotten a fresh coat of new for 2016 thanks to actor Mike Colter, show runner Cheo Coker and many others that have convened to release this Netflix series. While there are a number of Marvel series, Luke Cage is a unique character with a very specific set of circumstances.
Cage is the Marvel’s first leading African American super hero with a cast to match. Many Marvel heroes dwell in New York City, but Cage has the distinction of having Harlem as the backdrop. The show premiers today on Netflix and already developed a raucous fanbase. Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick, Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi and even “Daredevil” star Rosario Dawson star in “Luke Cage" co-star in the latest addition to the Marvel Universe.
AllHipHop sat with Colter and Coker about some of the deeper implications that “Luke Cage” is about, as well as some of the most fun facets of the show.
Cheo Coker: Lets just say, it’s a fascinating time to have a bullet poof black man in the world. So, that’s the thing. One of the things that I thought about the series, as an overall theme was when you look at neighborhoods – people step aside or don’t step up because of the consequences. There’s this whole thing, it’s been around for years, the whole concept of no snitching. Why don’t people snitch? Snitches not only get stitches – they get bullets. So what happens if you introduce a bulletproof Black man to a situation? How does that affect how the cops deal with the situation? How does that affect how the criminals deal with the situation? How does that affect the overall community in terms of how they deal with how they step up. And if this hero is reluctant, about being a hero…how does that help him when he thinks about it come into this mantle of responsibility? Because it’s not necessarily a responsibility people want. All of these issues, we deal with in the context of the Marvel Universe. Mind you, this was written last August or September.
Mike Colter: Well, it’s timely. There’s no agenda. Obviously, Marvel is a universe all into itself. It so happens to be this is the story we are telling at this time and it’s really timely. You talk about “bulletproof Black man” and all that stuff…I look at it like one of those things like…Luke Cage is a guy that he doesn’t want to solve problems with violence. His bulletproof skin, his impenetrable skin allows him to have a voice and not be afraid. There’s a difference between using your powers to invoke something and manipulate a situation and it’s another thing to give yourself the space to speak. Because he doesn’t have to be afraid anymore. He’s afraid of his past, but he’s not afraid of cops. He’s not afraid of bad guys. He can deal with it. It’s an idea we are just starting to explore frankly and hopefully it opens another conversation, because it’s a conversation that has to be had. It’s something that ultimately is gonna have to bring both sides together. Because people think there’s two sides, there’s the cops and there’s the criminals. No even criminals. There are the cops and the suspects or perceived suspects. There has to be a connection right now because everybody thinks there on a side. Really, we’re all one. But right now there is a fear because of the unknown. Right now we have to bridge that gap and I think Luke Cage is the kind of person that, he deals with both sides. He’s able to expand to walk into the neighborhood and talk to the guy on the corner and, at the same time, he can go and talk to the cops.
Cheo Coker: Its no accident that Luke Cage wears hoodies because of what happened to Trayvon Martin. My first reaction with my kids when [they] saw some of the initial things we had planned for Luke Cage, they were like “Well, Daddy, why’s he dressed like a thug?” And, I’m like “I’ve worn hoodies for 25, 30 years – for a while! I wanted people to understand that you cannot judge a book by its cover. That heroes wear hoodies too. We wanted to show that, yes, this hero exists in the world of now. There’s now way we could have anticipated things being the way they are right now, but at the same time, we didn’t want to get so mired down in all the politics that it got in the way of telling a good story.
Was the old Luke Cage from the 1970’s corny and we didn’t know it?
Cheo Coker: You know what it is? You might be with your parents and somebody say “solid.” They might say expressions that for their generation that was the expression. I can’t say “lit.” To me, things are “dope.” I’m older. So it isn’t that Luke was corny, it literally is Luke Cage was Marvel’s reflection of Blaxploitation [movies]. In the same way Shaft, Sweet Sweetback and Superfly came out, which also debuted in 1973. The Marvel offices were in Times Square. All those movies were in Times Square. They were like, “Well, this is happening. Why don’t we have a letter that reflect that and comes directly from that?” All Blaxploitation is honestly is Black male characters that are able to act as assertively as their white counterparts.
I like that yall made Luke a ladies man!
Mike Colter: That’s his weakness. He likes to explore the ladies. He’s a widower. That’s how he copes.
Cheo Coker: He’s a complicated man! [laughs]
AllHipHop will continue to cover this epic moment in pop culture. Below are some images from the premier of "Luke Cage" in Harlem.
Photo Credit: Derrick Salters/WENN.com
And AllHipHop's CEO and resident comic nerd Chuck Creekmur