Mahershali Ali’s Cottonmouth was promoted as the chief antagonist for Mike Colter’s Luke Cage during the run up to the third Netflix series from Marvel — however, another character ended up being Cage’s main adversary…
(Spoiler warning for those that haven’t seen the full season of “Luke Cage”)
Midway through the season, after the surprise death of Cottonmouth, Willis Stryker, better known as Diamondback, shows up and immediately creates havoc for Cage and all of Harlem. While earlier set photos during filming revealed Cage in a street-fight with Diamondback, Marvel kept mum on the character’s role in the show.
As in the comics, Stryker was a childhood friend of Luke’s, back when he was known as Carl Lucas. However, showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker made a significant change to Stryker’s backstory in making him the half-brother of Cage.
The actor who plays Diamondback, Erik LaRay Harvey, said in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly that familial tie influenced nearly all of Diamondback’s actions. “I think truly deep down, inside, he still loves Carl. That’s the funny thing about family, right? You hate ‘em but you love ‘em. You love ‘em but you hate ‘em…He remembers a loving time they had before they had the mess, so [the thinking] is partly like, ‘I really need to hurt him but I don’t want to kill him.’”
And despite Stryker’s psychopathic nature, Harvey sees him like most classic villains — as more of a tragic figure. “You know, he’s a very pained guy. I don’t look at him as a villain, I just look at Willis as a man who’s going through a lot of painful and traumatic experiences.”
Harvey also addressed Marvel’s infamous secrecy — after all, they only now released a character poster for Diamondback, which you can see below. Harvey’s role was kept under so much secrecy that he couldn’t even promote the series, despite a six-month break between filming and last Friday’s premiere.
“They had the Diamondback character in mind for me, but at the time, they couldn’t tell me exactly who I would be,” Harvey said. “I think we wrapped in March, so while filming and even after filming, when I wasn’t working, I wanted to say something and I couldn’t. It was really interesting. I had to maintain my anonymity, in a sense.”
Though Luke will be seen next year teaming up with Marvel’s other Netflix heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist in “The Defenders,” it’s a good bet “Luke Cage” will get another solo adventure. And with the way Diamondback ended the season –- in the care of the same Noah Burnstein that gave Luke his powers –- Harvey hopes for a return as well.
“They left it open-ended — I’m just so glad they didn’t kill me off!”
“Luke Cage” Season 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix.
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