8:00am PT by Sydney Bucksbaum
'Luke Cage' Showrunner, Star Break Down Episode 3's Epic Fight Scene With "Swagger"
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Luke Cage season one, episode three, "Who's Gonna Take the Weight."]
Daredevil's infamous hallway fight scene is old news thanks to Luke Cage.
Marvel's latest Netflix series blew one of the most iconic superhero TV show fight sequences in recent memory out of the water only three episodes in, with the epic Crispus Attucks fight scene shot from two different perspectives. The episode, "Who's Gonna Take the Weight?," opened where the previous episode left off, with Luke (Mike Colter) walking out of Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes (Mahershala Ali) and Mariah Dillard's (Alfre Woodard) stash house, taking out all the hired guns and leaving with a bag of stolen money, but the sequence was only shown from outside the building. The only sign that there was something violent happening inside the building was the sound of gunshots and a couch flying out of a second story window.
Later in the episode, viewers finally got to see the fight sequence from Luke's point of view. With the scene set to the music of Wu-Tang Clan's "Bring Da Ruckus," Luke got his revenge on Cottonmouth for killing Pop (Frankie Faison) by hitting the crime lord where it hurts: his wallet. After ripping a car door off its hinges, he took out every single one of the men posted up inside like it was nothing, and only took one bag of money from the stash house, instead leaving the rest for the police to seize as evidence.
"Just the image of the couch coming out of the window was so perfect," executive producer Cheo Coker tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Guillermo Navarro, who directed that episode, not only is an incredibly brilliant director but is also a cinematographer, and shot Desperado and Jackie Brown. He's so beautifully visionary. He's the man. We laughed when we even thought about the couch coming out. Immediately it draws you in as a teaser, like, 'What the heck is even happening in there?' Then you hear the gunshots, and here comes Luke."
Coker liked the idea of presenting that same scene in two different ways at two different points in the episode because of how it set up the tension for when viewers are finally able to witness the actual fight.
"You're already anticipating what's going to happen, so when you finally do get to that moment and then the music kicks in, it takes on this new energy," Coker says. "Luke putting his headphones in, he knows he can't get hurt. He knows he can't really hurt anybody. So this is his workout. This is his way of working out the problems that he had from what happened in episode two. This is how Luke is going to affect — 'I’m now coming out of the shadows and I'm now going to literally affect change.' When he does this and goes through this whole sequence and it's choreographed to the song, it has this energy to it."
Coker is fully aware that the fight scene will draw comparisons to Oldboy as well as the Daredevil hall sequence. "But we wanted to do something that, while in the same realm, was its own thing," Coker says. "To me, as a fan, watching Mike walk through that, he has such swagger. I'm like, 'Good God!' You envision something, but when you see it executed and when you see Mike as Luke pull it off, the imagery alone with the music and everything else, it's so empowering. It's so superhero badass. It's fun. That's what this whole show is about, ultimately, being able to do the superhero thing with flavor."
According to Colter, filming that sequence was one of the toughest ones of the entire season.
"We talked about the sequence even before we started shooting, for a long time," the actor says. "I couldn't get that sequence out of my head. I was just thinking, 'How was this going to be executed? How long will this take?' When writers write a sequence, the stunt team and special effects and so many people have to figure out how to actually do it. And I remember that day, we were under the gun. We didn't finish shooting that sequence until probably like five in the morning. It was a 14-hour day."
He continues, "Tempers were running high. There was so much going on, and we had to get this shot done and we need to get that couch out the window, there were so many pieces to come together. The fact that we were able to pull it off is, I'm still impressed."
There were several points throughout filming that Colter actually doubted that they would be able to finish filming it in time.
"We were tired and didn't have enough time," Colter says. "I can't tell you how many things that could have gone wrong and actually did go wrong, and we still had to keep going. I was frustrated. I couldn't believe it, but that's the world of television. You plan something, and what can go wrong will go wrong. At the end of the day, Guillermo was our hero. I remember giving him a hug halfway through because he was getting frustrated and I was getting frustrated and everyone was getting frustrated."
Colter credits Navarro's passion with pushing them all toward the finish line.
"Guillermo is a really passionate guy and I respond to that passion, I respond to people who care because I can get behind that," Colter says. "And he did a great job. So when we shot that sequence, it was probably as adrenaline-pumped as you get from watching it, minus the music."
And that high energy during filming even led to a few on-set injuries.
"Some of the stunt guys even got hurt, but they didn't care," Colter says. "I kept apologizing. I kept hitting some guys in the face, and they were like, 'No man, it's OK!' They were literally getting hit in the face with a car door and telling me it's OK. They were just happy to be there and couldn't wait to be stitched up and get right back in it."
As much as Coker is proud of the choreography of the sequence, he loves it more for how much it shows about Luke as a man.
"You see the power of the character, but at the same time, you also see the personality of the character," Coker says. "It's the little gestures, like some of Mike's ad libs. My favorite was like the classic Bruce Lee hand wave, like, 'Come at me.' One of the things we always talked about is that we know how powerful Luke is. He would never intentionally hit anyone with full force. He doesn't want to kill anyone. So our name for it was smack-fu."
Both Coker and Colter pause to laugh at their made-up term, before Coker continues, "With the smack-fu sequence, it was about seeing Luke go in, [his] POV, we're with him as he goes through this whole thing, so there's this fun to it. I think people are going to be talking about that sequence and I hope that it takes off."
Adds Colter: "They're going to want to replay it over and over and over."
Luke Cage's entire first season is now streaming on Netflix.