‘Luke Cage’ Creator Cheo Hodari Coker on Race and Gender Justice

By Sameer Rao Jun 22, 2018

Cheo Hodari Coker infuses "Luke Cage," his Netflix series about a bulletproof Black superhero, with a love of Black art and activism. He discussed those themes and more in an interview with The New York Times yesterday (June 21). Check out a few excerpts from the Q&A before you binge watch the second season of "Luke Cage," available today (June 22). 

On incorporating contemporary racial justice issues into the show:
rnt"There’s no way I could have anticipated that not only would we have a president this obtuse, but this most recent thing, separating children from their families in terms of these border crossings. It’s unconscionable. Honestly, it’s all I’ve been thinking about right now. Not only if we can possibly address this kind of stuff in season three, but more just on a human level.

"In art, you can’t predict that, so the only thing you can do is basically be reactive from the standpoint of always being conscious. Sometimes you can anticipate it, sometimes you can’t. The power that you have as a storyteller is to be able to tell stories that are at once entertaining, but also never lose sight of what’s going on in the real world. Whether it’s ‘Black Lightning’ or ‘Black Panther’ or us, ‘Luke Cage.’ Whether it’s ‘Queen Sugar,’ even ‘Atlanta,’—especially ‘Atlanta’—all of us in different ways have figured out ways to speak to both."

On hiring women, including women of color including Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Lucy Liu, to direct six of the season’s 13 episodes:
rnt"I think what happens with a quote-unquote ‘brawny’ action show, people say, ‘Oh well, great, if you have a female director, she’s going to be great with the emotions, but then when it comes to the camera, when it comes to action, she’s not going to know what to do with it.’ And that’s just really—I mean, it’s frankly [expletive].

"But, if you want to see real change, it has to start in places where people wouldn’t expect to see a female director, and that was one of the things that was important to me, my co-executive producer this season Aïda [Mashaka] Croal and Tom Lieber, one of the drama heads at Marvel television. We were also very much supported by Netflix on this."

On critiques about Cage subscribing to respectability politics:
rnt"[Expletive] respectability politics. Like I’ve always said, Luke Cage is more Big Daddy Kane than Herman Cain. He’s the furthest thing from a conservative. I think people—particularly this younger generation—are a little too literal. Because Luke Cage doesn’t love the N-word, it doesn’t make him a conservative. It makes him an old head from the ’90s. Because back in the ’90s, there was a period of time when if you were going to use the N-word, you were going to talk about why you’re using it. If it was something like an N.W.A. record like ‘Niggaz 4 Life’—’Why do I call myself a nigga, you ask me?’—you’re going to answer that question…. What about the fights that I had to have with Marvel to even use that word? So people want to talk to me about respectability politics without even realizing all the different levels of fights that I had to have to even use the word within a Marvel property."