Simone Missick on the unspoken power of Altered Carbon and taking the lead on All Rise
With her two new roles, MCU alum Simone Missick is keeping both the extraordinary and the law in her sight.
When Marvel took viewers to Harlem for Luke Cage, they were introduced to the seasoned and bold Detective Misty Knight. She works with Marvel heroes to defend the city, but her heart is always with Harlem. In the role, Missick made her way through three of the universe’s shows as Misty made her way further into the world of heroes and the unknown. She saved Harlem with Luke Cage, gained a prosthetic arm ready for battle, and fought alongside Iron Fist's Colleen Wing, forming the beloved Daughters of the Dragons. It was a big introduction for the actress, but it ended when Netflix cut ties with its corner of the MCU.
The actress didn’t stray far from Netflix though: she is one the new main characters on the new season of Altered Carbon. Her character, Trepp, is a bounty hunter in pursuit of Anthony Mackie’s Takeshi Kovacs because money is her motivation, something Missick likes about her character because she’s far removed from the actress’ previous roles. “This is a woman who doesn't approach life from an altruistic vantage point,” she explains. “She is out for self, even to the point that her own brother doesn’t think that she cares about anything from money.” But, her brother couldn’t be more wrong. Trepp spends the season trying to find him because “at the base of everything for her, it’s about protecting her wife and her son.”
Trepp’s motivations and determination make her a great companion for Kovacs because she challenges him. “It was nice to be able to play someone that he underestimates and to watch him have to recalibrate from being bested by her because it's always nice to play a strong character up against another strong character,” Missick shares.
In a world that trades bodies — or "sleeves," as they're called — like people change clothes, Trepp brings some humanity to the world of Altered Carbon. Being from the working class, she has seen how the upper class can takes advantage of those who are less fortunate, something prevalent in the first season as well. “She challenges that and she's able to forge a life for herself, and her family, and protect them in the way she knows how,” she says. People can identify with love for one’s family, and it’s those human stories that Missick believes draws people to science fiction because it’s something familiar, something to hold on to and cheer for.
Even with the big problems of this sci-fi world, the show makes room for a hopeful future where the bounty hunter’s family make-up isn’t an issue. Trepp and her wife are an interracial, LGBTQ couple, but it’s not a topic that is broached. “There’s no moment where anyone challenges the fact that Trepp is married to a woman and that they have a son and there’s no explanation of where the son came from. It’s just the reality of what it is.”
The unspoken power of that dynamic extends to the heroes of the story. Midway through the season, Trepp, along with Kovacs and Quell (Renée Elise Goldsberry), go on a mission to find allies because they are being hunted. That episode, directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield, is also when the Original Kovacs (Will Yun Lee) collides with our trio. Missick says they all took a photo together to document the moment: three black actors, an Asian-American actor, and a black female director were all on set working together. “We knew how important that is and yet there was no need to discuss it on screen in that way, which is extreme and refreshing,” Missick explains. “Now there will be generations of kids watching Altered Carbon or watching shows like it in the future where this is a norm and it doesn't feel odd and it does feel right.”
While there’s subtlety to the powerful representation of Altered Carbon, on CBS legal drama All Rise, which Missick leads as new judge Lola Carmichael, it’s an entirely different matter. Judge Carmichael is a bold, funny, and vulnerable woman who “has her finger on the heartbeat of the justice system,” according to Missick. Like her character, who is taking on this new role, Missick understands the meaning of having a black woman at the forefront of a project like this.
“I went into this experience, much like Lola, eyes wide open, knowing how important this opportunity was, knowing that I didn't want to mess it up, knowing that I wanted for myself and my fellow actors to be supported and seen and safe and heard, much like how Lola wants every person that enters into a courtroom to feel.”
Having learned lessons from her former costars, including Mike Colter, Alfre Woodward, and Theo Rossi, Missick was, naturally, honored to lead and ready to take full advantage of the opportunity. That included making sure people who look like her felt seen. A prime example: Missick requested that Lola be a Howard University alum because she remembered seeing Hillman College on The Cosby Show as a placeholder for HBCUs. “I can't say that that did not influence myself and countless numbers of my friends to attend HBCU, so to be able to put that out to CBS’ extremely large audience is amazing,” she adds.
Putting representation front and center extends past Lola and to All Rise’s very diverse cast. The legal drama makes room for stories about immigrants, LGBTQ, Latinx, and other communities. “These conversations are happening authentically because of how diverse the cast is," she says, "and so it's great to be able to be the lead on a show like that.”
Missick teases that All Rise, which is still in the midst of its first season, will not feature a will-they-won’t-they between Lola and her best friend Mark (Wilson Bethel), as the upcoming introduction of Judge Carmichael’s sorority sister could complicate the prosecutor’s love life. “Mark, as we know, is in a budding relationship with Amy Quinn [Lindsey Gort] and I think audiences are getting used to that, so to watch someone come in and kind of shape that up is nice.”
Meanwhile, Emily, a public defender played by Jessica Camacho, will open up more about her abusive ex: “We deal with the strong themes around abuse and domestic violence in a way that I think very gentle and responsible and I think audiences will just connect with her.”
Even though Missick admittedly misses Misty Knight, her former costars, and that dynamic with Colleen Wing (above), the actress hasn't strayed too far from some super strong characters with powerful messages, subtle or not.
The new season of Altered Carbon is available now on Netflix, and All Rise returns on CBS March 9.