Like the Marvel Netflix shows it follows, "Luke Cage" has a star-studded cast, packed with critically acclaimed performers known for their their solid character work. Among the series' stars are Mahershala Ali (Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes), Alfre Woodard (Mariah Dillard) and Theo Rossi (Hernan "Shades" Alvarez), each of whom CBR's Brett White had the opportunity to speak with (in an interview you can watch in full, below). The actors discussed each other's influence throughout the project, the role of Harlem in the series and the inventive script they got to work with.
Woodard noted that her character, Mariah Dillard, doesn't view herself as a villain, similar to her cohorts, Cottonmouth and Shades. "I don't think either of these guys see themselves as villains either," she said. "I think the villain is in the eye of the viewer -- what they can identify with."
Describing her character's background and prerogative to preserve the culture of Harlem, Woodard said, "Mariah is an up and up city councilwoman from Harlem…[who wants] the preservation of Harlem -- because Harlem is turning over, and she wants to make sure that all of the history, the culture -- everything that makes it a very specific place in New York City and in the world -- that that's maintained as the 21st century starts to spackle over it. And she is committed, and she will do anything…Harlem is her family. And that brings me to Cornell, who is my family -- and you can't divorce family -- so whatever is going on [in the family], you got to roll with it a little."
As for working with Woodard, Ali shared nothing but praise. "I'm such a fan of Alfre, and she's such a great teammate and collaborator, and just is so clear on where the character is coming from. We just got to work everyday and try to get down to the truth of the scene -- and try to do it better in the second take. For me, it was really inspiring to work with Theo and Mike [Colter] and everyone else, but for me [points to Alfre Woodard]."
Ali cited the script as a big part of his powerful performance, noting how much "fertile soil" there was in the material. "What was great about the character is that they really gave me a very clear place to work from that also felt unique, because of where we were," Ali said. "Because of being in this sort of culturally black utopia and what it means to run a club in Harlem, and also exist, and be very active in the criminal world, and playing off of her and what her character's got going on…There was just so much fertile soil that I was just really excited to step into the shoes. And I was tasked with making it my own…so it was a wonderful experience."
Woodard offered similar praise of the writing, "It was one of the smartest scripts that I have ever read… it was just smart. That's what I think is unique, not only about 'Luke Cage,' but 'Jessica Jones,' now 'Iron Fist,' and 'Daredevil,' is that it is from the Marvel Universe -- the comic world, this heightened world of possibility -- but our street-level heroes are so real and based in reality… you're surprised when somebody's bulletproof."
Executive produced by Cheo Hodari Coker, "Marvel's Luke Cage" stars Mike Colter as Luke Cage, Mahershala Ali as Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes, Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard, Simone Missick as Misty Knight, Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple and more. The entire first season is now available to stream on Netflix.