Comic book fans most likely spent this past weekend watching the second season of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix, released globally on June 22nd.
The TV series, set in the New York’s Harlem neighbourhood, follows the life of wrongly accused convict Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter) who boasts super strength and unbreakable skin, thanks to a sabotaged experiment.
In the first season, Cage tried to keep a low profile, but soon found himself using his superpowers to fight off criminal elements terrorising Harlem. He also confronted quite a few personal demons along the way – not the least of which involved his father, a pastor, who turned his back on Luke when he was jailed for crimes he didn’t commit.
The second season sees Luke, the hero of Harlem, being taken down a peg, and to set the tone for the season Charlie’s Angels and SouthLAnd actress Lucy Liu was tasked with directing the episode, with Cheo Hodari Coker returning as showrunner.
Speaking at Netflix’s See What’s Next – the upfront event for the streaming service – in April, Liu and Coker revealed why the second season is important.
“This is a wonderful opportunity because Cheo and I worked together before [on SouthLAnd] – that was a very specific show that was off-the-cuff and I learned a lot from that,” Liu said.
“Though it was scripted, that really taught me how to be a director. Working with Cheo was so special. He really said to me ‘I want you to bring your own creative essence to this [Luke Cage]’. As director that’s what you want.”
Coker’s idea seems to have worked out brilliantly, because already Luke Cage is well received by film and TV series critics. Their partnership was the catalyst that helped set the tone for the new season.
“The thing both of us learned on SouthLAnd is that you prepare heavily, then it allows you to play, to be free. That’s why I brought her from SouthLAnd into the Luke Cage world, because I knew she would flourish,” said Coker.
It makes sense because Luke Cage has become a cornerstone reshaping cultural and race narratives in America – a talking point this year after Black Panther became both a box office success and a cultural talking point.
“One of the reasons I was so keen on the opportunity to do Luke Cage was the fact that it was the opportunity to do a Marvel show that was inclusively black, culturally and musically,” Coker said.
“The fact that it dropped everywhere [on Netflix], I think it set the stage for a lot of things.”
This second season not only builds on the success of the first, but also on Black Panther. Coker served as executive producer and showrunner and also wrote the first two episodes of season one. He also authored the book Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of The Notorious B.I.G.
Coker began his writing career in journalism and was a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times and contributed to, among others, VIBE, Rolling Stone and Essence.
“For me, to have a character like Luke Cage dealing with so many social issues in the show, you realise that you have the opportunity to make an impact but at the same time, you never loose sight of the fact that it is a TV show and that the drama has to be there,” Coker said.
“So, I definitely think about the responsibility of putting out a character like Luke, but at the same time we ultimately are trying to make a show that resonates on an entertaining level.
“When I say the show is inclusively black, we don’t water down the culture at all, but at the same time it’s done in such a way that even if you’re not from a hip-hop culture or African-American culture, there’s a window into the show,” he said.
- Luke Cage Seasons One and Two are available for streaming on Netflix right now.