Cheo Hodari Coker Luke Cage

Recently i09 was able to sit down with ‘Luke Cage’ Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker to talk about the epic new season (now on Netflix!) and the steps he and his team made to ensure they were improving upon Season 1, which was already beloved by fans. Here are some excerpts from what I felt were some of the most compelling parts the i09 interview with Coker.

First up is his response to the question about how he wanted to shape Season 2, which he said all started with looking at feedback from critics and viewers, pointing to one website’s recapper as a particular source of inspiration:

“The writer Angelica J. Bastién wrote the recaps for Vulture during season one and, man, there were some critiques that were some of the most scathing reviews I’ve ever seen in my life. But, she’s such an incredible writer that as a former journalist, I loved what she wrote and how she wrote it even though it hurt.

So, I collected all 13 of her recaps and when we established the new writer’s room, which was essentially the old writer’s room because we had very little turnover, and we decided to approach them one by one…The one that hit me the most was when she said that it was too bad that the writers of Luke Cage didn’t think of Luke Cage as a man, but only as a superhero. So we said “Ok, how do we approach the show in a way where we’re really dealing with Luke himself at the center of the things—his issues.”

Next they asked about Luke post-‘The Defenders’ and his new attitude toward the world and Harlem, and Coker brought up the fact that with Luke basically being invulnerable physically, they realized they needed to show another weakness, his anger, and how his relationship with Claire would be how they would reveal that:

“If you remove the Judas Bullet as his weakness, what’s left for him to really be afraid of? What is it that can bring him down? What if his anger is his greatest weakness? That’s one of the things we really wanted to unpack in season two and Claire’s the first person to point it out to him….She’s the first person that he’s ever admitted to loving since Reva and it really complicates things, because Claire’s the one person who can get a read on him and tell when he’s bugging.

Even with the structure of the story being told, handling Claire as a foil to Luke, [Rosario] Dawson doesn’t play him like one and it’s what makes her performance so strong. She has the power as an actress with presence and poise and sheer ability to always be at the center of any conversation even though technically she’s supposed to be the foil.

Even though the “super” is what—for lack of a better term—puts asses in sets, it’s the human that keeps them sitting. So, you always want to make sure that you have both.”

Of course, they asked about Misty Knight and handling her character after her arm loss in ‘Defenders:’

“But here’s the thing—if Misty loses her arm, she loses that court vision and so for the first couple of episodes, she’s out of it. She’s depressed, she’s drinking more, and at the same time, her ability to see herself as an effective cop has been deeply shaken. It takes Colleen and the introduction of her new arm to really bring Misty back from the edge, but then another rug is pulled from out under her when she loses Ridenhour, and then she has to figure out whether she wants to fight to step into a position of leadership.

Ultimately, we wanted to see Misty going through it and it comes to a head by the end of the season when her relationship, which had always been cordial in the past, is suddenly one that has a new level of mistrust.”

And lastly, they spoke on Mariah Dillard (Stokes), and how they crafted that character for Alfre Woodard this season:

“Alfre Woodard is a powerhouse, master actor, but she’s also someone that you want to interact with, someone that you want to talk to. The main thing for Mariah is that she’s conflicted. She is a Dillard who’s haunted by the fact that she’s actually a Stokes, which is what makes her dynamic with Bushmaster so fascinating. The Stokeses are the ones that ruined his life, killed his father, and stole the family’s club. It’s Mabel who burns his mother alive.

His presence in Harlem, the way he comes at Mariah as she’s trying her best to sell out and become a Dillard for life, it brings the Stokes out in her because that’s who she has to be in order to survive, but there’s more to it than that.

Tilda coming back into her mother’s life has a similar effect on Mariah. She’s forced to be alone with Tilda, something she’s always tried to avoid, and it contributes to this overall pressure that requires her to become her true self to protect herself…When Mariah confronts the fact that she doesn’t love Tilda because she’s the product of incest and rape, she’s also confronting the fact that she’s not really a Dillard—it’s all a lie—and a lot of her anger and frustrations are misplaced.

The Rum Punch Massacre is really the cherry on top for her character development this season, because at that point, she’s fully embracing her criminal self and her identity as a Stokes. It’s why the Basquiat and the portrait of Marcus Garvey come down and she puts the Biggie portrait back up [at Harlem Paradise], because it’s a symbol of Cottonmouth—and because then, right there, she’s finally accepting who she is. Mariah Stokes, not Dillard.”

It is interesting to see how feedback from reviewers and critics can be a positive (if you let it), and my respect for Coker has gone up as he found a way to take those criticisms and really deliver a solid Season 2, which I definitely feel is better than Season 1. Here’s hoping the other Netflix/ MCU showrunners learn similar lessons, as ‘Daredevil’ and ‘Iron Fist’ could certainly use some help in finding a way to ensure their next seasons perform better.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts on the matter in the comments below!