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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Luke Cage season one, episode four, “Step in the Arena.”]
It was one of the most unexpected moments of the first season of Luke Cage, but it had nothing to do with huge twists or advancing the plot or even highly choreographed fight sequences. Instead, it had everything to do with wardrobe.
The fourth episode of the Netflix drama’s first season, “Step in the Arena,” revealed the flashback storyline that finally explained where Luke Cage (Mike Colter), formerly Carl Lucas, got his indestructible skin and superhuman strength. While being held in Seagate Prison, Luke was recruited for a mysterious experiment run by Dr. Burstein (Michael Kostroff). But sadistic guard Rackham (Chance Kelly) sabotaged the experiment, intending to kill Luke, and as a result, he accidentally helped turn Luke into the bulletproof, superstrong hero that Harlem needed.
While using his newfound powers to escape Seagate Prison, Luke found laundry drying in someone’s backyard, and ended up in an outfit made out of the silver headband and wrist shackles from the Seagate experiment tank, a neon yellow button-down shirt, jeans and a chain for a belt…aka the original, iconic Power Man costume from the Marvel comic books.
Since Luke doesn’t wear a costume while fighting crime, instead opting for a hoodie, seeing him in the full Power Man glory was a significant moment for the Netflix series. However, it was a moment intentionally played for laughs, as Luke caught a glimpse of himself in his new clothing in the reflection of a car window and shook his head. “You look like a damn fool,” he said to himself.
“I thought it was brilliant how they unveiled it,” Colter tells The Hollywood Reporter. “That, for me, was genius. When they said they were going to put me in that costume, I was like, ‘Oh God, here we go. But how? How?’ And I read the episode script and I couldn’t believe it. The way they did it was just so smart.”
Colter was grateful that showrunner Cheo Coker didn’t put him in the iconic ensemble during a serious moment.
“We commented on the original costume, we poked fun at it and we also owned what it was,” Colter says. “It was all what we needed to do. We wanted to see it but we needed to do it in a way that seemed organic but also made it seem like we were in on the joke. Like, ‘Hey guys, we’re just doing it because we know what you want.’ That’s what’s great about it.”
And the way that Luke was put in the silver headband while undergoing the Seagate experiment was the only clue for the audience that Luke was about to suit up.
“You already know it’s coming. Yeah, yeah,” Colter says with a laugh. “That’s what it was. It was a slow release, pieces of information, and then you see it coming from a mile away. And it’s a hilarious costume. But when you see it, it’s still satisfying.”
Coker knew he was never going to put Luke in that yellow shirt while he was on the streets of Harlem, fighting crime in his day-to-day life, even though the original comic books, published in the ‘70s, used that costume to capitalize on the popular Blaxpoitation genre.
“That never would have worked in this version,” Coker says. “Luke is all about trying to blend in. And I wanted to show that heroes can wear hoodies, too. I’m taking what happened with Trayvon Martin and flipping it, showing that, hey, this man is a hero, not a suspect.”
And while seeing Luke Cage in his Power Man costume was certainly an iconic moment for fans, Colter didn’t take the time to relish in the moment while shooting those scenes.
“It was really cold that night, we were shooting in Queens, I was barefoot, we were in someone’s yard,” Colter says. “So it was one of those things where I had been waiting to do that scene for so long, finally we got a chance to shoot it, but I was ready for it to be done. I was so relieved when we were finally done. And as long as I’m not wearing that in a serious moment, then we’re OK. We can make fun of it, we can do what we have to do and I’m all for it, but that costume is not made for serious moments.”
Putting Luke in the Power Man costume for laughs is just one of many comedic moments peppered throughout the first season of Netflix’s latest Marvel series, and it’s the lighter moments that Colter appreciates the most.
“We have a grounded series, but we also don’t want to take ourselves too seriously,” Colter says. “We want to have fun at some points so the fans can also feel like they can chuckle at times. It’s dark, but you definitely have moments of levity. When you’re watching it, you don’t want to always ne heading toward a serious moment. Like, Luke is a total cornball. So we wanted to incorporate those moments, too. And later on in the season, he gets the girl, yeah, but he still gets nervous around women, too.”
Luke Cage season one is now streaming on Netflix.