Writer Cheo Hodari Coker had a very specific vision in mind when he interviewed with Marvel brass about continuing Luke Cage’s story from Jessica Jones — a take that would distinguish it from everything else in the Marvel Universe. “I pitched it as [Hype Williams’] Belly meets City of God, written by the staff of The Wire,” the showrunner says with a laugh.
But more generally, Coker’s Luke Cage is intended to hark back to the black heroes of 1970s cinema, but with the addition of modern social consciousness. “When you say ‘blaxploitation,’ people usually think bell-bottoms and a waka waka soundtrack,” Coker says. “But ultimately, it is black characters getting to act the same way that their white counterparts did.”
Clearly, Coker has no plans to swerve around real issues of the African-American community with what is ostensibly a superhero show. His previous statements about the world needing “a bullet-proof black man” made headlines and essentially destined the show to be more than just another Marvel series on Netflix.
Series star Mike Colter is all-in on this approach. “We’re doing things that people are thinking about and not just playing it safe,” he says. “People need to see themselves or feel like they’re being represented in a real, honest, and three-dimensional way.”
So the show is a DMX movie, an HBO show, a Brazilian crime thriller, and a modern-day social commentary? Instead of getting weighed down by influences, Coker wants viewers — above all — to enjoy themselves.
“Black music is always incredibly complex, but fun,” he says. “When you listen to a Public Enemy record, yes, they’re getting political, but it’s fun.”