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‘Luke Cage’ Star, Showrunner Talk Season 2, New Villains and Reg E. Cathey

In the upcoming “Luke Cage” Season 2, the titular Marvel hero has moved out of the shadows and is now a well-known part of the Harlem community.

“This season, the stakes have risen because Luke’s expected to be a leader in a community that has a lot of problems,” series star Mike Colter told Variety. “In his way are people who think they should be able to rule Harlem as a queen, as Mariah [Dillard] would call it, whereas Luke looks at that more as a dictatorship. He sees Harlem as a democracy…It’s a completely different way of doing things, so that’s going to come to a head.”

Cage is also grappling with the fact that being a hero is great, but it ultimately does not pay the bills.

“What makes Luke Cage different than any superhero is he uses a semblance of his real name and then he doesn’t wear a mask,” series creator and showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker told Variety. “One of the things we explore is why should he be different than a police officer or a fireman, in that they get paid for what they do and they are equally, in their own ways, heroic.”

Following the events of the first season and “The Defenders” miniseries, Cage now has to contend with two deadly forces: Mariah Dillard, who took over her cousin Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes’ rackets in Harlem after killing him in Season 1; and Bushmaster, a Jamaican gangster with a long history with the Stokes family and a burning desire to claim Harlem as his own.

Both Colter and Coker praised Mustafa Shakir’s performance as Bushmaster this season, while also saying that the new villain presents a unique challenge to Cage. As already seen in trailer for the new season, Bushmaster is a match for Cage in the strength department, capable of laying Harlem’s hero out with nothing more than his fists.

“The one metaphor we’ve used for this season actually comes from a quote from Mike Tyson,” Coker said. “One of the things he said was ‘Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.’ When Luke Cage gets knocked on his ass by Bushmaster, the question is can he get back up?”

“[Bushmaster’s] fighting style is really influenced by Capoeira and so it’s one of the first times you see an African-influenced fighting style as opposed to traditional grappling or martial arts,” he continued. “So he fights with a certain flair that’s different than Luke’s boxing, brawler style.”

This season also features one of the last onscreen performance of Reg E. Cathey, who died in February.

“He started getting sick on location and he dealt with it in a very regal and exceptional manner,” Colter said. “His professionalism taught me a lot about how to carry yourself. He taught me a lot about life, about being an artist. We knew some people in common from years back. One of my acting teachers was one of his classmates at Yale. Just connecting that way — I really enjoyed his company.”

“Luke Cage” Season 2 debuts on Netflix June 22.

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