Luke Cage: Mahershala Ali Talks Musical Inspiration for Cottonmouth

Mahershala Ali is Cottonmouth in Luke Cage

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand in the realm of film and elsewhere in television, Netflix's New York City-based, street-level corner of the superhero world will soon see the addition of Luke Cage - the third Marvel series to debut on the streaming service following Daredevil, seasons 1 and 2, as well as Jessica Jones. The character of Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter (The Good Wife), first appeared in Jessica Jones season 1, but the upcoming series will follow his own storyline, moving out of Hell's Kitchen and into Harlem.

Cheo Hodari Coker (Ray Donovan) serves as showrunner on Luke Cage, which features plenty of characters from the pages of Marvel Comics, including Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and the superhero's adversary Cornell 'Cottonmouth' Stokes, portrayed by Mahershala Ali (House of Cards). Now, Ali talks about his role in Luke Cage and the musical inspiration he used to bring Cottonmouth to life.

In an interview with GQ, Ali spoke about his excitement for the project and touched on the fact that Luke Cage stars an African-American superhero:

I’m excited about Luke Cage with Michael Colter who plays Luke Cage. I play the villain, Cottonmouth. It takes place in Harlem. It’ll just be amazing for people to get to see an African-American superhero, which there weren’t any when I was growing up.

Mahershala Ali Cottonmouth Luke Cage

In terms of establishing the unique tone of Luke Cage, both within the world of The Defenders and as a TV series on its own, music has played an integral role. Luke Cage's Comic-Con teaser trailer featured "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" by Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Coker has said each episode of season 1 will be named for songs by Brooklyn-based hip hop duo Gang Starr. As for Ali's musical inspiration, the actor explained he creates mixtapes for each of his roles in order to embody that character:

For Cottonmouth I used a wide range of music because he is a musician. I also wanted to be mindful of the fact that he was from Harlem. So some of the hip hop I used was specific to artists from uptown and the Bronx: Big L, Diamond D, Brand Nubian; as well as D'Angelo, Mobb Deep, Kanye, and Erykah Badu.

The artists Ali chose certainly fall in line, for the most part, with the tone of Luke Cage, which Colter has described as having "a ’90s hip-hop vibe." Additionally, the Netflix series is expected to feature musical appearances by Raphael Saadiq, Faith Evans, and Charles Bradley. The music component of Luke Cage will help to differentiate the series from not only Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but any other live-action superhero properties as well.

That said, while the music has worked within the trailers for Luke Cage so far, it remains to be seen how the musical performances and soundtrack - composed by Ali Shaheed Muhammad, of A Tribe Called Quest, and Adrian Younge - will work within the context of the series itself. Of course, if the trailers are anything to go by, then Luke Cage will likely deliver a series that weaves action and music together for compelling superhero drama.

Next: Everything You Need To Know About Luke Cage

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.

Source: GQ [via Heroic Hollywood]

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