Marvel first began the recent trend of shared universes in film, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, changing the way movie studios approach creating superhero franchises. Since then, Marvel has expanded into the realm of television with such shows as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil, the latter title being the first of many to come from Netflix and Marvel's partnership.
While Daredevil is set to return with a second season sometime next year, coming before that will be Jessica Jones, set to hit the streaming service later this fall. Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter, will first make his debut as the character in Jessica Jones before spinning off into his own Netflix series - fittingly entitled Luke Cage. With filming ready to start soon, Marvel is continuing to round out its cast with yet another supporting player added to the mix.
As Marvel officially announced, Alfre Woodard of 12 Years a Slave and Annabelle has joined the cast as Mariah Dillard. The Emmy-winner was previously rumored to be playing a character named Minetta, but now it seems instead her character will be named Mariah Dillard, a powerful local politician whose career is endangered by both Luke Cage and her cousin Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes - set to be played by Mahershala Ali.
Head of Marvel television Jeph Loeb offered an official statement on Woodard's casting, emphasizing the presence she is able to bring when on-screen:
"Alfre has an incredible, unique, and intimidating presence on screen that makes her perfect as a leader of the Harlem community. We couldn’t be more excited that an actress as celebrated and talented as Alfre has decided to join us on this adventure."
In addition, Marvel also released an updated plot synopsis for Luke Cage, confirming the city of Harlem as the main setting, while also revealing the driving plot of the series:
"After a sabotaged experiment leaves him with super strength and unbreakable skin, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) becomes a fugitive trying to rebuild his life in modern day Harlem, New York City. But he is soon pulled out of the shadows and must fight a battle for the heart of his city--forcing him to confront a past he had tried to bury."
Similar to Wilson Fisk's role in Daredevil, it seems Woodard's character Mariah Dillard will be a prominent public figure challenged by the presence of a new hero, this time in the form of Luke Cage. However, this time around there's an added layer of drama with Dillard's cousin being Cottonmouth, one of the villains Cage confronts, making things a little more personal. In addition, while Marvel has yet to directly confirm if Woodard's character will be an updated version of comics character Black Mariah, there is a strong possibility she may be involved with the drug business as well if she is indeed a version of that character.
Woodard is just the latest official addition to the already-prestigious cast of Luke Cage, which includes the aforementioned Colter and Ali, along with Frank Whaley as Detective Scarfe, Simone Missick as Misty Knight, and Theo Rossi as what seems to be the villain Shades. Evidently, the series is already heading in the right direction, but after Daredevil kicked things off with a bang, Luke Cage has a lot to live up to. However, with such a talented cast, the series seems to be up to the task.
Daredevil season 1 is currently available on Netflix. Jessica Jones releases on November 20th, 2015, followed by Luke Cage season 1 and Daredevil season 2 in 2016. Iron Fist and The Defenders will arrive sometime thereafter.