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Luke Cage, Marvel's Reluctant Hero In A Hoodie

"It's a difficult subject," says <em>Luke Cage </em>actor Mike Colter, "but I felt like what we're doing with the show is saying there can be some heroes in hoodies."<em></em>
Myles Aronowitz
"It's a difficult subject," says Luke Cage actor Mike Colter, "but I felt like what we're doing with the show is saying there can be some heroes in hoodies."

Luke Cage was one of the first black superheroes to appear in the pages of Marvel Comics, back in the 1970s.

Put in prison for a crime he didn't commit, he eventually gets put into a machine where he gains powers like super-strength and bulletproof skin. And, like many good Marvel characters, he's now on TV — in the new show Marvel's Luke Cage.

Actor Mike Colter — who plays Cage — tells NPR's Kelly McEvers that he didn't know a whole lot about the character when he initially took the role. "It was one of those things where I had heard some things through the grapevine," he says. "I had family members and friends who would reach out and go, you know, I think this is a character you could play, and they kept sending me pictures of him ... and I'm like, that is just silly. Guys, I have an agent. You're not casting directors. Calm down."

Interview Highlights

On updating original 1970s, blaxploitation-inspired version of Luke Cage

I give all credit to [showrunner] Cheo [Coker]. Basically, he had a guy that doesn't really want his abilities. They have been thrust upon him ... it's kind of a complex character because if he had his choice, he probably wouldn't be a superhero, he would just be a normal guy. And that's what the problem is, he can't.

On playing one of the first black superheroes

I try not to think about it, because it's overwhelming to think that there are people who look at me as someone they — I don't want to say idolize, but if someone's looking at this character I'm playing and they see inspiration, it's kind of hard not to welcome that or to receive that ... you know, when I started this character, I was looking at it from the standpoint of an artist, I wasn't thinking about, you know, all the people who were sitting there going, I started reading this comic book in 1972 and this and that, because that kind of stuff, that gets in the way of the creation of what you're trying to do.

On Cage's use of a hoodie, recalling Trayvon Martin

As a black man, I'll be quite honest, full disclosure, when I was a young man, my mother and I talked about not being ever confused for anyone else, because something could happen. And the hoodie, it was a thing that she felt like could be misinterpreted. And so out of fear, I never bought a hoodie. Because I knew I wasn't going to wear it. And then when the Trayvon Martin incident happened, I was upset because I felt like, it's not fair. It's not fair to always have to think about this kind of stuff, because if you're a black kid you have to think twice. You put that hoodie on, all of a sudden you could be unfairly targeted and it seems that the person could get away with it. It doesn't make sense to me. I can't fathom it. So all of a sudden I went out and bought hoodies, because I felt like I needed to somehow make a stand and I felt like I was tired of walking around thinking about this subconsciously.

It's a difficult subject but I felt like what we're doing with the show is saying there can be some heroes in hoodies.

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NPR Staff