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‘Luke Cage’ Star Mike Colter on Playing Marvel’s First Black Lead

Mike Colter originated the onscreen version of Luke Cage on Netflix’s Marvel series “Jessica Jones.” Now that character is getting his own show, making “Luke Cage” the first Marvel superhero show with an African-American lead. Colter takes that responsibility seriously.

“It’s important in the landscape of television and also globally as far as symbols,” Colter said Wednesday at the Television Critic Association’s summer press tour. “When you look at black culture, it’s important that you have symbols.” Colter and the show’s creative team, he added, have “no agenda,” but, he added, “I’m proud that people do think he’s a good superhero, and I do think that the black community has a lot to be proud of.”

Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker talked about the character’s blaxploitation-era roots, and how they make him both unique and universal.

“Luke Cage came out in 1972, the year I was born, and also within the era of ‘Shaft’ and ‘Superfly,’ so the character is to a certain extent Marvel’s reaction to blaxploitation,” Coker said. He then compared blaxploitation to Westerns and other heroic stories. “It’s no different from anything else, except we get to have swagger.”

“Luke Cage” is Netflix’s third Marvel series, coming in the wake of “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones.” It also comes ahead of the forthcoming “Iron Fist.” The main characters from each of those four shows will unite next year in the superhero-team series “The Defenders.”

Marvel head of television Jeph Loeb downplayed the notion that characters from Marvel’s growing stable of TV series could migrate into the company’s movies, but didn’t rule it out.

“The movies are planned out years in advance. Television moves at an incredible speed,” Loeb said, presenting the different timetables for the film and television slates as a major obstacle. “How am I going to get Mike to be in a movie? I need Mike to be in a television show.”

But, he added, “Anything’s possible.”

Coker talked about how each of the series will lead into “The Defenders.”

“Each of us gets to have  solo record, then we get to come together to form a supergroup,” he said. “It’s kind of like the Beatles in reverse.”


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