In just over a month, the latest installment in the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be unleashed. Following his debut in Jessica Jones, Mike Colter will now be tasked with leading his own series, Luke Cage. If there is one thing Netflix has proven so far with their Marvel series, they know how to make a hallway fight work. One of the other strong points for both seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones has been the way they have been able to flesh out their villains. In both series, Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Kilgrave (David Tennant) were praised for providing a more three-dimensional villain, even in the midst of their evil plans.
As Luke Cage approaches, the series will bring about two more villains for Colter to go toe-to-toe with. Alfre Woodard will be making another appearance in the MCU, but as Mariah Dillard instead of the character she played in Captain America: Civil War. The other person that Cage will clash with will be Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes, played by Mahershala Ali, who is ready to bring the complicated character to life.
In a recent interview with Deadline, Ali was asked about his career so far and what fans can expect to see from his portrayal of Cottonmouth. Netflix has so far made a shady murderer and mind controller interesting enough to help carry their respective series, but now they are moving into a new territory. Even with Stokes being the bad guy in the eyes of Cage, Ali does not see him that way. Instead, he sees a man willing to do whatever it takes to protect his city and family, but using unconventional methods to do so.
"With these villain characters, it’s about trying to make them human, because often they’re written in a way that is so slanted. And honestly, this really wasn’t the case with me on Luke Cage. Cottonmouth on Luke Cage—he’s really not a quote-unquote “bad guy”. It’s just being able to work against how those characters are often thought of, and sometimes written, to make them human; and therefore, making a character that the audience feels conflicted about. You can do a lot with those roles—you really can. I don’t want to only do that, by any stretch, but I definitely see the value in doing that, because it is such a challenge, and there’s a lot of runway in those characters for an actor."
Ali also spoke to how grounded the series is, and how he began to understand where his character is coming from.
"As much as it’s in that comic book world, and we’re all very aware that it’s a degree removed from our own reality, as an actor, playing a guy who is struggling with some of the things that he’s struggling with—who is trying to maintain a hold over his business, over his industry—there’s an aspect of family legacy, manhood, responsibility; these things that Luke Cage begins to be a threat toward."
This will not be Ali's first go-round on Netflix after appearing in House of Cards for them already, but joining Marvel is a new experience. As if that was not enough pressure, following and living up to what D'Onofrio and Tennant have done before will be no easy task. If he can come close to, match, or exceed their performances, then it should provide yet another memorable character to the Netflix corner of the MCU.
Not much is known at this point to how Stokes will get involved with the main story, outside of him being involved with Dillard's plot in some capacity. They have shown bits of his character in the trailer released, making him seem just as ruthless as those that have come before him. Stokes may not be a threat to Cage physically (because nobody really is), but his being in a place of power and having a possible pre-existing relationship with the hero should help create the tension between the two.
Daredevil season 1 & 2 and Jessica Jones season 1 are now available on Netflix. Luke Cage season 1 will arrive on September 30th, 2016. The Defenders and Iron Fist arrive in 2017. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2, The Punisher and Daredevil season 3 have not yet been announced.