11:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'Luke Cage' Star on Season 2's Cliffhanger: "I Was Extremely Surprised"
[This story contains full spoilers for the second season of Netflix's Luke Cage.]
"If you can't beat them, join them."
It's an old adage, tried and true, and one that's put to the test at the end of Luke Cage season two, which premiered on Netflix over the weekend. Over the course of the 13-episode season, showruner and series creator Cheo Hodari Coker puts bulletproof hero Luke Cage (Mike Colter) through his paces, dealing with issues of how to wield celebrity and how to measure out justice in an unjust world. Both of those ideas collide by the end of the season, as Luke finds himself in a familiar situation, under very different circumstances: following the death of Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), Luke takes over Harlem's Paradise and stands tall as the new king of the neighborhood.
From his perch, Luke plans to take a different approach to protecting Harlem, by having his hand directly on its criminal dealings. From his perspective, it's a noble effort. From the perspective of someone like Misty Knight (Simone Missick), recently promoted within the police force? It's a troubling prospect, to say the least, and one that's likely to cause major conflict between the two friends and former lovers should Luke Cage return for a third season.
With that said, some of the actors involved in Luke Cage are hoping for another vessel through which to make a comeback: Daughters of the Dragon, based on the comic book of the same name, which would follow Misty and her friend Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick of Iron Fist). Misty and Colleen enjoy a brief Daughters team-up early on in season two, which is later followed by a veritable Heroes for Hire episode starring Luke and Danny Rand (Finn Jones). Will Marvel fans ever see these as full-fledged spinoffs, whether it's Heroes for Hire or even more specific with Daughters of the Dragon? As Simone Missick puts it: "If you tweet it, it will come."
Read on for more from Missick about season two, including her view of the villainous Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir), and what it was like to finally take on her character's signature mechanical arm.
How do you feel season two pushes the story of Luke Cage forward, based on where it resolved at the end of the first season?
What was great about season one is that we got thirteen episodes that lay the groundwork for who Luke Cage is, who Misty Knight is, who Mariah Dillard and Shades Alvarez are, and to give fans an education and a glimpse into Harlem. Now that we're in season two, you get to see all of these characters really dealing with identity, dealing with what it is like to be in power or to have lost power, especially with my character. To go from being this very capable, strong, smart, skilled detective and a very physical woman, not just an athlete but also sexual and confident and assured, to being a person who really does not know who she is now that she's no longer a cop, now that she is without her arm, something that is so important to her.
In season two, we just get to mine a lot more emotional work, but then also step it up when it comes to fighting. We have an amazing villain this season played by Mustafa Shakir as Bushmaster, and his fighting skills and physicality make him the perfect foe to Cage. And Misty getting her prosthetic arm really opens her up to being able to get in the mix and to step into that superhero role that fans have been waiting over 40 years to see. Season one was like a first-rate album, and season two is the album that comes out and people go, "Wow, you had all that in you?" So, I'm really excited for people to see it. I feel like it exceeds our first season.
You brought up the arm, and you've been dealing with that same question since you were first announced as Misty Knight…
"When is she going to get the arm?"
Right. It's an iconic aspect of the character from the comics. Misty's arm is severed in The Defenders, so it felt like a given that she would gain her mechanical arm in season two of Luke Cage. Can you chart your journey with that?
Well, it's so funny. They don't tell you what's happening ahead of time, so when I read that I was losing the arm, I was excited. I was like, "Yes, we're finally going to give the fans what they want." But I was also thinking that I wanted to spend a lot more time in the emotional space of not having the arm, of what is that like. But then when you get to the actual execution of that, which means you have your arm tied behind your back for four episodes, I was like, "If you don't get me the prosthetic arm in 2.5 seconds, I'm going to kill somebody. I can't act like this. This is horrible." And then you have to be careful what you ask for because the prosthetic arm probably went through 10 different generations of it's just not at all working for any human being to wear for a prolonged period of time to then being able to fight and move around in it.
I remember when we first had the camera test for the arm. There were 50 people standing around. Everybody was so excited. Like, "Yes, all right. She's going to get the arm." And they put this thing on me, and then someone's like, "All right. Now reach for your gun." And I can't bend my arm. It was that immovable. Form and function did not follow in that regard. And so eventually, they were able to adjust it and to rework it and to fix it in order to get it to a place where I could actually be believable on set and not really be in pain.
I haven't seen the season, but I've seen the pictures and the behind-the-scenes of Misty and Luke fighting together. And knowing that we are giving the fans what they want in the representation of Misty with this arm is so exciting. People have been waiting 40 years to see it.
If a third season comes to pass, what tweaks or suggestions would you make in terms of the arm? How can life be easier for you in that regard?
Oh gosh. Well, CGI is a wonderful, beautiful thing. (Laughs.) So if I had a suggestion, it would be put that green sleeve on me and figure it out. Let's put out a contest to all of the fans all over the world to design the best Misty Knight arm, and then see what they come up with.
There are two strong antagonists in season two: Bushmaster and Mariah Dillard. What do you think it is that each of these characters and sort of their arc this year really represents for what the show is trying to accomplish?
The pain that both of them bring to their characters is something that's beautiful to watch. Anyone can come from a place of anger and power and physical prowess, but to be able to show the depth of where that comes from is a beautiful thing to watch. To find out why Bushmaster has so much anger and rage towards that woman... it's delicious, and it's something that I don't think that we necessarily explore a lot of times when we look at our bad guys and our villains [in this genre], and they both play it so beautifully.
Alfre is such a phenomenal gift to the theater, to TV and to movies, to the culture of America. She's such a rich actor. And Mustafa brings so much heart and so much dedication to Bushmaster. He would be in the dojo for hours working on fights, and I've known him to be a wonderful actor for years. He's doing double duty on The Deuce and on Luke Cage. So to have people just operating at the top of their game who want to show fully-realized people, three-dimensional characters, and to really get into the why of their pain is a beautiful thing.
Luke and Misty started the series as a romantic pairing. In season two, they're close confidants, but they start to move apart thanks to their new roles in Harlem. What did you make of Luke and Misty's arc over the course of this year?
I was extremely surprised at where we ended the season. Just when you get comfortable, Cheo goes in there and he mixes it up. Season one was difficult for me as the actor looking in thinking, "How can she not see that this guy is a good person, that he's trying to get the same things that she wants?" But characters have to take a journey. They have to go on a ride. And Misty is not Simone, and so Misty comes from a place of being distrustful. And eventually, through life and death circumstances and some physical experiences, she's earned a trust, and Luke earns her respect, and she knows that his intentions are good.
But when we see them at the end of the season, his idea that he can rule Harlem from the roost, from his perch, so to speak, thinking that he can be the enactor of justice for Harlem, she understands that absolute power corrupts absolutely. She's seen it in the police department and in the politics of Harlem in New York City, and she knows that Luke is not untouchable and unbreakable in that sense. He is still a man at the end of the day.
And so there is this idea that going into season three, whenever that is, they might be on the opposite side of the law, and they might become adversaries, in a way, because there's no way that Misty is not going to call him on his stuff and not going to expect and demand the same level of resolve as she has for herself. And Luke is hard-headed, so it's going to be an interesting dynamic to see play out.
This season, we get to see Misty and Colleen Wing fighting in a barroom brawl. Later in the season, Luke and Danny Rand team up as well. What's it going to take for us to go full-blown Heroes for Hire series, speaking of things fans have been waiting 40 years to see?
I think if you tweet it, it will come. I think that the fans have to keep on it and keep at it because no amount of us saying that that's something that we'd love to see and encouragement will happen if the fans aren't saying, "We demand this from Marvel." And so I think that all of us as actors are game if the story is right and if the team behind it, the production team, is right, and we have the right set of writers.
I know that if we were able to get a Daughters of the Dragon series [focused on Misty and Colleen], the themes that two strong women of color could explore on screen, is something that would ring very true with the world right now. We're in a time in history where women's issues and women's rights are being pushed to the forefront of the conversation. And so how better to see that handled than with two women of color who are strong and skilled and confident going in to protecting their community and protecting each other? So I would love to see that happen. I know that Jessica and I have spoken about that. And if they tweet it, it will come.
The first season was so thematically rich and arrived at an important cultural moment. How do you think the themes and ideas being explored in season two are intersecting with where we are in 2018?
I think that a special thing with Alfre Woodard's storyline this season, we are examining sexual abuse and trauma. With Bushmaster, we are exploring what is PTSD, in a way. What happens to a person who has been victimized and what do they do with that pain? And I know, for Misty, we are also examining depression. And right now, in a time where we have a lot of very visible people in society then taking their lives because they haven't been able to reach out, I think it's opening up that conversation.
At the same time, we live in a country where the very nature of being black in America is a political statement, and the experiences of black men and women is something that is different than whites, than white men in this country. The ability to have political power and agency and expect justice in your community when someone is clearly doing it wrong is something that people in the black community can't have the same experiences as their fellow Americans in white communities. And so I think that this season really gets all of that tied up into it in a way that is authentic and real but also relevant.
What did you think of Luke Cage season two? Sound off in the comments below and keep checking THR.com/LiveFeed for more coverage.