Mike Colter is perhaps best known for his stint as bartender-turned-superhero Luke Cage in Jessica Jones, but now, the actor is getting his own series with Netflix. While it's the role of a lifetime, Colter told Polygon he would be lying if he didn't go through a period of hesitation before accepting the role.
"I'm obviously very grateful to have the job and I love the character, but I had a moment of, 'Do I want to take on this iconic superhero right now?,'" Colter said. "I didn't know if it was going to be a one-year commitment or if would be longer and it was a tough decision for a bit."
Colter, who was joined by Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, said that originally Luke Cage was supposed to be the fourth series in Netflix and Marvel's five show agreement. Daredevil would go first, followed by Jessica Jones and then Iron Fist. Luke Cage would be the last show that focused on a single superhero before Marvel's cinematic television event, The Defenders, was released. At the time, Colter had a lot going on in his personal life — his wife was expecting a baby and he wanted to be home for a few months — and deciding to jump onto the project didn't just mean long nights, but it also meant uprooting his life to New York City.
"We filmed in Harlem and we lived Harlem while we shot," Colter said. "We wanted it to feel as authentic as possible. And while that was great, it's a long time to be away from home."
After mulling the decision over for a while, Colter decided that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. He said he largely credits what Kristen Ritter and Charlie Cox did with Jessica Jones and Daredevil that made his mind up for him. Colter said he weighed the pros and cons and after watching what the aforementioned actors did with the "incredible writing" they were given, he called Hodari and agreed to join the project.
"Ultimately, I thought this is the role of a lifetime," Colter said. "If I hadn't see the first episodes of Jessica, if I hadn't read those scripts, if I hadn't seen what their vision would be and I hadn't seen Daredevil, it would have been a much, much harder sell."
In Colter's series, Luke Cage is a bartender-turned-reluctant-hero who has to deal with trying to live a life in the shadows while saving Harlem from itself. His appearance, according to Hodari, marks the biggest disturbance the people of Harlem have had to contend with in years. The city has developed its own hierarchy and community over the years, but Cage's introduction will ultimately disrupt there way of life. The Luke Cage cast has always said that the lines between superhero and villain have never been more blurred than they are in this show, with some arguing that Cottonmouth, the series' newest baddie, isn't all that menacing.
"When you look at black culture it's important that we have positive images"
For Colter, Cage is a complicated guy. He's a nomad who's trying to find a place that he belongs, but can't connect with anyone. It was his almost anti-hero vibe that drew Colter to the role in the first place, but one of the aspects that he loves about Cage is that even at the hero's lowest, he's always a positive figure. Cage, Colter said, always does the right thing and genuinely wants to help people whenever he can.
As a black man, having a superhero of color who represented positive ideas in a rough neighborhood wasn't something we see often on television and he wanted to be a part of that change.
"When you look at black culture it's important that we have positive images," Colter said. "It's an overwhelming task that you have to carry it on your shoulder. We have no agenda, but I'm proud that people think he's a good superhero and I hope the black community can look at him as a positive thing, too."
When asked about a second season, Colter laughed and said that he, like the rest of his fans, was hoping to hear they were renewed, too. For now, Colter said he's happy and proud to be a part of a legacy like Marvel's television universe with Netflix and said, looking back, he can't believe he almost passed up the role. Whether or not audiences will ever see Luke Cage in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still up for debate, though.
"That's up to Kevin [Feige] and Jeph [Loeb]," Colter said. "Never say never."