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Jessica Jones predominantly centers on the incredibly strong, alcoholic private detective that the show is named after, but she’s not the only superhero given a piece of the limelight. The series also happens to be the launching ground for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Luke Cage – played by actor Mike Colter – and while the character plays second fiddle to Jones in her series, it won’t be long until the fan favorite Hero For Hire is starring in a show of his very own.
As we learned all the way back in November 2013, Luke Cage will be the third of four series launched as part of the deal between Marvel Studios and Netflix, and will culminate in a special miniseries called The Defenders. The show will hit Netflix on Friday, September 30, and after Mike Colter’s raved-about turn in Jessica Jones, excitement for the program is very high. So what do we know so far about the title? Well, let’s start by watching the first teaser trailer, shall we?
Who is staring in the series? Who is constructing the vision for the show? Who will be the supporting characters featured? How will it crossover with the rest of the Marvel Netflix shows? For answers to all these questions, simply read on!
SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains some massive spoilers for the first season of Jessica Jones, and some minors ones for the second season of Daredevil. If you have not yet had a chance to watch either show, we recommend that you click away to another one of our wonderful articles!
Luke CageMike Colter made a fantastic debut as Luke Cage in Jessica Jones - appearing in a grand total of seven of the 13 episodes – and it only made us more excited to see the focus shift to him in his own series of adventures in 2016. The character we were introduced to in Marvel and Netflix’s second series is a strong and confident man carrying some serious emotional damage – and we expect the show to both develop that and explain where it all came from.
Created by the writer/artist team of Archie Goodwin and John Romita, Sr., Luke Cage was initially inspired by the emergence of Blaxploitation films, and was launched into the Marvel universe in 1972 with his own series Luke Cage, Hero For Hire. The character's main superpower is that he has unbreakable skin that cannot be cut or burned – a result of an experiment that was conducted on him while he was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.
We expect that the Luke Cage series will dive into the character’s origin story and will show how he received his “gifts,” but most of it will be dedicated to following the character after the events of Jessica Jones. As a result, we will not only see him still grieving the death of his wife, Reva Connors, but also still suffering the after effects of Kilgrave taking over his mind. But, of course, that will be secondary stuff behind the show’s serial plot.
The ShowrunnerMarvel didn’t even wait for the release of Daredevil before making the choice of who would take the helm and steer the direction of Luke Cage. In March 2015, they announced that television veteran Cheo Hodari Coker will be serving as the showrunner for the third Marvel/Netflix shows.
Hoker's career began with a taste of the features world, having written the script for the 2009 Notorious BIG biopic Notorious, but since then he has been all about the small screen. This particular adventure started as a writer/producer on Southland, but he's also worked on NCIS: Los Angeles and Almost Human. Most recently his work has been featured on the Showtime series Ray Donovan - having been a co-executive producer on 12 episodes.
As you can probably tell from these credits, most of the stuff Cheo Hodari Coker has done has centered around crime (with Almost Human adding a dash of sci-fi), so it makes sense that he would be at the helm of Luke Cage. The series is very much expected to fall in line tonally with both Daredevil and Jessica Jones - both different kinds of crime shows themselves – so Coker certainly does seem like a smart choice for the showrunner gig.
The StoryAs confirmed by star Mike Colter, the events of Luke Cage will be set a few months after what unfolds in Jessica Jones, allowing the show to both have some breathing room from the plot of that show and set up its own plotline. Of course, like both Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it’s fully expected that the events of the past will very much influence the events of the present in the third original Marvel/Netflix show, though the central location of events will be moving from Hell’s Kitchen over to the neighborhood of Harlem.
Not a great deal has been officially confirmed about the plot of Luke Cage, though an official release from Marvel described the show thusly:
When a sabotaged experiment gives him super strength and unbreakable skin, Luke Cage becomes a fugitive attempting to rebuild his life in Harlem, and must soon confront his past and fight a battle for the heart of his city.
As for the central villain of the show (in the vein of Wilson Fisk and Kilgrave), it's been speculated that part could belong to Willis Stryker - a childhood friend of Luke's who takes a divergent path in life and falls deep into the crime world (ultimately framing Luke for drug possession and getting him sent to prison because Willis loved Reva Connors and she chose Luke over him). Given that an actor hasn’t been hired to play Willis Stryker yet, however, we’re not sure how true this rumor is.
Cornell “Cottonmouth” StokesActor Mahershala Ali got a taste of the franchise world starring in both halves of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay finale, but now he is going to be an important player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a key role in Luke Cage. In September 2015 it was officially announced by Marvel that Ali has been cast to play Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes in the upcoming show.
In typical Marvel fashion, we don’t really know much about how Stokes will be portrayed in the new Netflix series, but he has been described as a Harlem nightclub owner who has quite a bit of power in the criminal underworld. It hasn't been fully revealed how exactly he winds up crossing paths with Luke Cage - given that the hero tries to lay low as a simple bar owner - but it's been reported that Stokes' criminal activities wind up threatening Luke's world.
From Hunger Games to House of Cards, Mahershala Ali has demonstrated the ability to project a very powerful quiet intensity, and that should serve him quite well as Cornell Stokes. Whether or not he will have the super strength and sharp teeth of his comic book counterpart is unknown, but knowing the series we can probably expect them to be worked in somehow.
Misty KnightLike both Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage will have a supporting cast filled with both notable and obscure characters from the comics, and this one happens to fall more into the latter category. Misty Knight is perhaps best known in the comics for being outfitted with a Tony Stark-provided bionic arm that she uses to help combat evil and help superhero allies – and while it’s unclear if that will be a part of her character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we will at least get an introduction in the latest Netflix superhero show.
In Luke Cage, Misty Knight will be portrayed by actress Simone Missick, but not much has been revealed about the role she will be playing on the show. We know that she will be a Harlem police detective and the partner of Detective Rafael Scarfe (more on him later). She has been described to have a “strong sense of justice,” but not much has been revealed about how she will find herself on Luke Cage’s trail.
Black MariahIn the comics, Black Mariah is a gang leader who runs a pack of New York criminals called The Rat Pack. They're a rather despicable bunch, as they're known for riding around in a stolen ambulance, picking up dead bodies, and stealing any and all valuables that they have on their person. Mariah and the gang end up crossing paths with Luke Cage after he is hired to hunt down a body that she stole. All that being said, it looks like the character will be portrayed much differently in the third Marvel Netflix series.
In August 2015 it was officially announced that Alfre Woodard was joining Luke Cage in a significant role. What’s interesting about the character description is that she is referred to as “a powerful woman in local politics” – which you’ll notice doesn’t exactly sound similar to the person outlined above. There are many instances where Marvel Studios has applied familiar names to new personalities, and this may be one of those cases.
“Shades” AlvarezSons of Anarchy fans spent years getting to know Theo Rossi as Juan Carlos 'Juice' Ortiz – a biker who regularly finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, often due his own stupidity. Those of you who are expecting the actor to do something similar in Luke Cage will be disappointed, however, as this time around he’s playing someone with a bit of brains.
It’s been confirmed that Rossi will be playing “Shades” Alvarez in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and will be making his debut in the third original Marvel Netflix series. Not much is known about what kind of role he will have in the overall plot of Luke Cage, but he has been described as being “relentless and menacing, smooth and manipulative, street smart and controlling.” In the comics, he and the show’s titular character actually go way back, as they were both members of the street gang known as The Rivals. In the years since his introduction, they have clashed many times and for many different reasons, and that tradition is expected to continue in live-action.
Detective Rafael ScarfeRemember how I said we would get into Detective Rafael Scarfe later? Well, the time has come. First appearing in a 1975 Iron Fist comic, Scarfe is a war veteran and an honest cop who serves with the New York Police Department. He will be partnered with Misty Knight at the start of the series, and will presumably become involved in the larger plot of Luke Cage either investigating the titular character or looking into the criminal dealings of Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes.
Having gotten a taste of comic book television appearing in a 2014 episode of Gotham, Frank Whaley will be playing Detective Rafael Scarfe in Luke Cage. He has some experience working with showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, having been in seven episodes of Ray Donovan, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to learn that relationship had some influence on the casting.
Jessica JonesAs we saw unfold in her show, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have a very complicated relationship. The alcoholic former superhero-turned-private detective first started spying on Luke as a result of feeling guilty for murdering his wife, Reva Connors (under the influence of Kilgrave, of course). They meet, hook up, and she hides the secret. Eventually the truth comes out, however, and while their bond is broken for a little while, he eventually finds a way to forgive her.
In the comics, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones wind up married to each other and starting a family, but the events shown in Jessica Jones’ first season show that they’re not quite at that point just yet. For now, they’re just a couple of people who carry a lot of shared baggage and occasionally have sex. It’s entirely likely that will change moving into the future, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
While Cage obviously played a key role on Jessica Jones, it’s unclear at this point if Jones will have a similarly sized part on Luke Cage. It may very well depend on whether or not the female superhero’s show gets picked up for a second season. If it does, Krysten Ritter’s schedule may not allow her to be on both programs.
Claire TempleWe first met Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple after she dug Daredevil’s bloody, damaged body out of a dumpster and into her apartment – but since then we’ve learned that she has a very important and much larger role to play in the Netflix-based portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Similar to how Agent Coulson and Nick Fury kept popping up in MCU movies before the Avengers united, Claire will be the character that ultimately ties all of the characters with Marvel Netflix shows together.
In Daredevil Season 1, Claire creates a strong bond with Matt Murdock – learning his secret identity and stitching him up after multiple brutal battles. It’s in Jessica Jones Season 1, however, that she first encounters Luke Cage. The hero also known as Power Man is knocked unconscious by a shotgun blast in the show’s finale, and it’s Claire who is ultimately tasked with trying to keep him alive (without the ability to do any really invasive procedures, of course). Obviously she succeeds – specifically by sticking a huge needle up his nose - so it’s little surprise that Luke might return to her when he runs into future medical emergencies.
Since the events of Jessica Jones, as seen in episodes of Daredevil Season 2, things haven’t been going super swimmingly for Claire Temple. She initially found herself in hot water after taking in unregistered patients as a favor for Matt Murdock, but that whole situation was further escalated by an infiltration of ninja warriors of The Hand, who wound up killing one of Claire’s co-workers. Claire was given the chance to keep her job, provided that she helped the hospital sweep all of the events under the rug, but she steadfastly refused. After storming into a boardroom full of executives and doctors and giving a speech, she was promptly fired. From a narrative perspective, this was likely done for the purposes of moving Claire up to Harlem, where she can be involved with whatever plotline Luke Cage has in store for her.
It's worth mentioning that Claire Temple in the comics is actually a romantic interest of Luke Cage's - though the character has been portrayed very differently and reinvented as Night Nurse in the Marvel Netflix shows. Given Luke’s connection to Jessica Jones, it’s unclear if the he and Claire might get together somewhere down the line, let alone in the first season of Cage’s solo show.
Iron FistDanny Rand a.k.a. Iron Fist will be the fourth New York-based street-level hero to get his own show as part of the deal between Marvel and Netflix, and is set to be played by Game of Thrones actor Finn Jones. As of now, there hasn’t been any confirmation regarding whether or not the character will appear in Luke Cage, but considering the two characters’ long history together in the comics, we at least expect a long future of the two men being teamed up.
In the comics, Danny Rand is the son of a wealthy family who travels to the mystical city of K’un L’un and trains to become an expert martial artist. Possessing the mystical force known as the Iron Fist, he has the power to channel all of his chi into his hand - allowing him to punch his enemies with incredible power. In the comics, he is commonly teamed up with Luke Cage, as the two men have a business together called “Heroes For Hire.” As the name suggests, the operation has the duo offering their services to anyone who needs their help/has money to pay.
The Iron Fist series isn’t expected to debut until some time in 2017, but it’s entirely possible that the character could wind up making his live-action debut in Luke Cage. Of course, we will continue to update this article with the latest details on that front.
The DefendersIron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America all had solo films before they were brought together as teammates in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, and that’s exactly what’s building with the various Marvel Netflix shows. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the in-development Iron Fist are all building to a special eight-episode miniseries called The Defenders that will feature all of the aforementioned titular characters joining forces.
The original Defenders was actually a team comprised of Doctor Strange, Hulk, Namor and The Silver Surfer, but obviously Marvel is just borrowing the name for the special New York-set miniseries. At this time, it’s unclear who will actually be showrunning this special event, or what/who it will be that actually leads to the street level-heroes coming together. We’ve already seen many connections made between characters, but what will lead to a team up remains a mystery. Perhaps a villainous team-up orchestrated by Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin? Time will tell.