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Joe Pokaski Interview: Cloak & Dagger

Marvel's Cloak and Dagger Freeform Logo

Joe Pokaski is no stranger to super heroes.  He wrote several episodes for the television series Heroes, and a couple for Netflix’s Daredevil. Pokaski is now the creator and showrunner for the Marvel television series Cloak & Dagger, based on the characters from Marvel comic books. The show airs on the cable network Freeform.

CLOAK & DAGGER IN NEW ORLEANS

Cloak & Dagger is set in New Orleans and is filmed on location.  When talking about the decision to film there, Pokaski said:

“It's funny, the initial intent, and I think we talked about this a little bit with the junket, was to move it out of New York, we felt there were plenty of superheroes there.  But the unexpected consequence was a to get this kind of visual flair. I mean even looking at what Jennifer Phang did with the swamps last night, it allows you to tell the stories you haven't necessarily seen in superhero fiction before. And last night in particular was-- I was just very proud that we're able to touch on a little bit of vodun. Touch on a little bit of the ecosystem of New Orleans. Even showing that amusement park that was kind of ravaged by storms. As well as touched on, the socioeconomic realities in the Duane and Tyrone story. So, I didn't-- I expected New Orleans to be interesting and we always talk about it becoming a character. But I couldn't have planned on a city that would offer so much heart and so much story to the Cloak & Dagger mythology. So, it's been really fortunate, and our writers have really mined kind of the potential.”

WHAT ABOUT MINA?

Mina Hess is an original character created for the Cloak & Dagger television show. She is an environmental engineer who befriends Tandy, aka Dagger.  Speaking of Mina, Pokaski said:

“I think the initial thing with Mina was to really set up, I realize I'm in the Marvel universe so I’m misusing this term, kind of a What If for Tandy. What if everything went right and she was able to become a scientist, like her dad.  Mina represents that. And so, I think the exciting thing, without spoiling too much in the next episode is, Tandy gets to meet Mina’s father in his own mind. And she gets to kind of explore some of her own issues with her own dad. But I think the important thing for last night was to really-- I think sometimes in comic books, the daughters of scientists become waitresses. And we have to make sure we're clear in our world that the daughters of scientists can often become even more brilliant scientists. So, I think it's really about opening Tandy’s potential as well as the difference in emotional baggage that she has, compared to Mina, who has a comatose dad, but she can still be with him and talk to him every day."

DETECTIVE O’REILLY ON THE CASE

Detective Brigid O’Reilly is a character from the first original Cloak and Dagger comic.  In the television series she is a detective from Harlem who doesn’t believe anyone is above the law.  When asked about Detective O’Reilly’s future, Pokaski said:

“Listen to you can't say enough about what Emma Lahana is bringing to the character. When we talk about a strong cop, that's exactly what we want. Emma and I had a lot of conversations about how to represent her as a strong human being. Not trying to wear a man's hat to fit in with the boys. Swear too much or anything like that. In [episodes] five and six is where we started kind of fitting in where we see it's kind of Cloak & Dagger and O'reilly. And she's one of the characters that carries around storylines. In episode eight, you're going to see her story kind of crescendo in an interesting way. And then in episode nine, we're really going to kind of see the beginning of a different kind of arc for O'Reilly. So, I think that the beauty that Emma did-- you look at Aubrey and Olivia and it's undeniable how amazing Cloak & Dagger are. And for an actress and a character to kind of slip in and become the third Beatle has been really just a testament to kind of what Emma brings to the screen.”

CHOOSING THE MUSIC

“We have a fantastic team,” Pokaski said, when talking about the show’s music.

“I love music and television. I tried to kind of fit in as much music into television as I've been working my whole life. On Underground, Misha [Green] and I were very particular on music. We started the whole season with the Kanye song.  And John Legend obviously was a big part of that show. So, we try to-- when I came over to Cloak & Dagger, I tried to bring on as much of the team that was available.”

"So, Jonathan Christiansen, our music supervisor, gives me a list of almost a thousand songs at the beginning of the season. He reads the 100-page document about what the season's going to be about. He scours unknown bands and kind of sets us up with a playlist to think about.  And then the writers dig into that, and we find music. And then our editors dig in deeper. So, it's really a process where we start with the director's cut that has some music choices. If there are five songs, one or two of them will live.

“And then we just really-- I just listen to songs in my car and drive my wife crazy. I do all these things where basically we're always listening for the perfect song. It's always amazing though. We often find one that’s from another genre that's so different and unexpected that it really works even better. I overthink it, is the short answer to that.”

THE STORIES

Cloak & Dagger chooses to talk about many issues relevant to today’s youth.  Explaining why, Pokaski stated:

“I think part of it is because these stories are the most important thing happening to teenagers today.  First of all, I think it's a testament to Marvel, like I grew up in a different era, but Marvel has always been at the forefront of social justice. Whether it's different characters or even, you know, Cloak and Dagger initially were kind of invented to represent the dangers of drug abuse. So, I think part of it's kind of woven in to the fabric of Marvel and woven into Cloak and Dagger.  But it's also… we're living in an era where I believe that the kids are going to save us.”

Pokaski concluded with:

“I strongly believe that it's on every generation to save, the world from the follies of the previous one. I think the kids are going to save us if we have any hope. And I feel like Tandy and Tyrone need to deal with real issues if we're going to talk about that.”

MUTANTS OR NOT?

The Walt Disney Company, the owner of Marvel Entertainment, is currently in the process of acquiring Fox Entertainment.  This would bring the X-Men franchise and mutants back to Marvel.  When asked if this would change things, Pokaski said:

“It’s interesting.  I remember they… and I’m trying to make sure I get my comic book history right, there might be someone at Marvel that will have to correct me.  But as I understand it, initially Cloak and Dagger were affected by these mutant-- by the tainted heroin.  And then there was an era for probably I think two or three years where it was The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger.  They even hung out at Utopia with the X-Men.  So, I think-- honestly, there’s some many things that could change, I think it's probably someone way above my pay grade, who can decide whether these guys are mutants or not.  Or whether or not the thing that Marvel did.  Where they made them mutants, and then there’s a couple panels somewhere that I remember looking at when I was researching this that suggest that they undid the mutant thing.  And they told them they were never mutants at all.”

He cheerily continued:

“I will gladly listen to the deep, powerful overlord at Marvel tell me how to react to the mutant thing. But it's just so much fun, when accompanied by other companies, it's probably scary on some level, but in this case, I think Marvel comics are supposed to crossover and they’re supposed to connect. And there’s nothing better than The Runaways [comic book] where they say bye Cloak and Dazzler, and you get that look on Tandy’s face.  So, hopefully we can kind of start building a world where we can have something like that.”

THE RUNAWAYS CROSSOVER

Speaking about The Runaways television show, Pokaski said:

“Yeah, no, listen, I'm a big fan of Josh [Schwartz] and Stephanie [Savage]. I think they're really great storytellers. I literally just sent Josh an email saying I was scared about premiering in the summer with this show. But then I remembered how The O.C. kind of had its own lane. Hopefully Cloak & Dagger can emulate that. It feels like the most fun we can have, is crossing over with The Runaways. The actors seem like really great kids. I'm a big fan, so that would be my first choice. And obviously I have a little altar in my bedroom with Spider-Man's picture that I light a candle every day. And hopefully, the gods will let us, let them play.”

CLOAK AND DAGGER AND JOE

Joe Pokaski has always been a comic book fan. And he’s known about Cloak and Dagger a long time. Joe explained:

“I was a Spider-Man guy, you know what I mean? I grew up and Peter Parker was like, he was my hero.  So, I remember first seeing Cloak and Dagger when I was definitely in single digits, of age. And opening them up and kind of understanding that they were a little different. So, I've always been a big fan. They always… there's something so unique about them because you can open up an Avengers book and they show up and you just kind of smile. Or there's a big event, like House of M, or even in the comic books… Civil War. It's like Cloak and Dagger, that's when they get to come out and shine and play with the rest of the team. So, I've always been a big fan.  They always bring a big smile to my face when I see them in any book.”

MUST SEE HEROES

When asked which must-see-superheroes he thinks should appear on television, Joe said:

“Um, must-see-heroes, I think Moon Knight is so right. You know?  I think Moon Knight… the idea of the schizophrenic superhero could be so much fun.  I feel like that's kind of a no brainer. I mean, listen, I think a lot of the more-- I also think that, just give me some deep dives on some-- the idea of a Great Lakes Avengers or a West Coast Avengers is interesting to me.  Five years ago, I would've said Runaways, I would’ve said Cloak and Dagger, I would have said the Punisher. But they're all finding these amazing actors and bringing them to life.”

THE FUTURE

Aubrey Jospeh and Olivia Holt in Cloak and Dagger

Talking about the future of the series, Pokaski said:

“I think episodes one through four are act one, to bring these two together. Episodes, five, six, and seven are basically these two understanding themselves as not only a team, but as friends.  Really kind of understanding this stranger is one of my friends. And then episode eight, nine, and ten, really kind of come back to the core issues that came at them in the premiere. And they both in episode eight, and let me know, hit the buzzer if I'm saying anything spoiling. But in episode eight, they both kind of tackle their biggest problems and there's mixed results.  One will get what they want. One of them absolutely will not. And then episode nine, in classic hero's journey, we're going to knock them both on their asses. And then they rise to the occasion in ten. Pretty good path, right?”

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