Mike Colter might be busy getting ready to film season 2 of “Luke Cage,” but he sat down at 2017’s C2E2 (Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo) to talk about his series, the upcoming “Defenders” miniseries, his fitness regimen, and, of course, “coffee.” The panel was moderated by Clare Kramer, best known for her role as Glory in season 5 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Kramer opened the panel by noting that “Luke Cage” had literally shut down Netflix. Colter joked, “All of us in the cast logged in at the same time,” explaining that “Luke Cage” had been uncharted territory for Marvel. The hero was not widely known and had not been the subject of an earlier movie like Daredevil.Considering that, Marvel and the cast and crew were happily surprised by the show’s success.
Colter then talked about the process of making the Marvel Netflix series, beginning with his experiences on “Jessica Jones.” He noted that the series use the same crews and film with only a short break between them (there was only a six week gap between “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage”). As a result, it felt like going to the same set, just he was there more often and Krysten Ritter wasn’t there at all. The episodes and scripts might have been different, but to those making it, it felt like the same show.
The tight schedule could lead to frayed nerves, however. Colter explained how TV series will often have long days and late night shoots, but they’re usually limited to a week or so at a time. With “Defenders,” there were several weeks of that intense schedule, and Colter said, “I went to a kinda dark place.” Colter’s example? “Craft service was out of jellybeans, and I was like ‘What?!? What do you mean you’re out of jellybeans?”
Colter said that going into the audition, he had some familiarity with who Luke Cage was and the mythology of the character, but he was not really familiar with the source material. So, when he got the job, Colter went to the comics for reference. But, he said there’s a lot in the comics that you can’t really use anymore, especially phrases like “Where’s my money, honey,” and “Sweet Christmas.” “Though,” Colter acknowledged, “we did use that one.”
Colter mentioned two things that drew him to the role. First, after playing so many villains, he thought it would be nice to play a hero for once, and he thought Luke Cage would be the best fit. Second, when Colter initially sat down with series showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, he asked what it would be about. “[Coker] said, ‘Wu Tang Clan,’ and I said, ‘I’m in!'” Colter loved the hip-hop influence on the series and the way music was used throughout, though he noted that because the music was put in during post-production, they never knew “what they’ll use to make the scene pop,” and some early music choices were switched around before release.
Colter also talked about transforming himself to take on the role of Luke Cage, noting that there’s a difference between just going to the gym and then having someone tell you that you’re going to be a superhero and then going to the gym again. Colter said he went from 203 pounds to 236, and that gaining that much muscle the right way meant changing what he eats, drinking lots of water, taking a lot of dietary supplements, and drinking a lot of protein shakes. He’s had to stay away from stuff like ice cream and pizza, which he said was particularly hard in Chicago. He said he was walking around the city thinking, “this looks like good food, but I can’t eat it.”
One subject, however, came up repeatedly in questions from both men and women: “coffee,” Luke Cage’s euphemism for sex. One audience member asked Colter what it’s like to be known as “the most promiscuous character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” a title Colter coyly objected to.
“Am I?” Colter asked. “C’mon, other people get laid, right? I just thought Luke was doing Luke. He’s a broken soul – he’s lost his wife, and this is how he mourns… He doesn’t want to be going from one woman to the next, but it’s his lot in life.”
Colter also said he now does a double take when people offer him coffee. “Wait, are they offering me coffee, or are they offering me coffee coffee?” When directly asked how he likes his coffee, Colter replied, “I like it in various degrees, from creaminess to darkness. I like to change it up.”
As for Luke relationship with Jessica, Colter said that you can’t cultivate a relationship between two characters on screen; it has to happen naturally. He noted that in TV and movies, love scenes are often filmed on the first day, when the actors have just met. If there is any chemistry between the actors, it will be there from the start. In fact, spending time with each other can lead to decreased chemistry as the actors get irritated with each other.
One audience member asked on behalf of her mother “and the other women in the room” if they could touch Colter’s pecs. Colter responded, “There’s a lot of women here – that’s a lot of hands.” He joked that next year, they would have to have a special meet-and-greet for pec touching, but they would need to work out the details, including how much it would cost and how long you could touch the pecs.
Colter also touched on the social relevance of “Luke Cage.” Asked what it felt like to wear the hoodie, which has come to be a defining symbol for the Black Lives Matter movement, Colter replied, “I tried not to think too much about it during filming. We were doing it after Trayvon [Martin], but before a lot of the other stuff that was going on, Baton Rouge and some other places. I’m happy to be that symbol, but we didn’t set out to do that, it just happened.”
Colter added that surprisingly little had changed since the original series launched in 1972. “If we’re talking about a bullet-proof black man in 1972… a lot of the problems haven’t changed.”
When asked if he would be carrying his role as the most socially-conscious character in the MCU with him into “Defenders,” Colter said that Luke would be the same person, but he would be sharing the screen with three other heroes, and that it couldn’t just be a Luke story and a Jessica Jones story and a Daredevil story; it had to be something that blended their worlds and gave them a reason to come together and fight against a common threat.
Colter was also asked about the recent controversy caused when Marvel’s senior vice president of sales, David Gregory, seemingly blamed diversity for flagging comic sales. Colter stated this was the first time he had heard the claim, and seemed very surprised because he said he would assume that the “Luke Cage” and “Jessica Jones” series had helped to sell merchandise and books. Instead, Colter suggested the problem was that people weren’t buying what they used to buy. But, Colter added, “It’s all money, it’s all green. Marvel’s doing just fine, guys.”
Executive produced by Douglas Petrie, Marco Ramirez, Drew Goddard and Jeph Loeb, “Marvel’s Defenders” arrives on Netflix on August 18, 2017 and stars Mike Colter, Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Finn Jones, Simone Missick, Elodie Yung, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, Rosario Dawson, Rachael Taylor, Scott Glenn, Jessica Henwick and Sigourney Weaver. Season 2 of “Luke Cage” arrives on Netflix in 2018.