Getting secrets about a Marvel/Netflix series out of one of its creative forces can often be as tough as getting a bullet past Luke Cage’s invulnerable skin.
But when a showrunner is as schooled in musical metaphors as Cheo Hodari Coker, a former music journalist, he can slip you some valuable clues in hip-hop analogies. And that’s what Coker did during a quick chat with Mashable at a recent For Your Consideration event to promote Luke Cage for Emmy nominations. Everything you need to know right now about Season 2 of Luke Cage — and its relationship to the upcoming crossover series The Defenders, uniting Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and Iron Fist — can be decoded in a quick study of the Wu-Tang Clan.
The next place we know that Luke is going to be is in The Defenders, so I’m curious, did the showrunners invite you into the kitchen to help them cook at any point, because you had pretty much laid down the character and who he was?
Okay, I couldn’t cook, but I could smell the food. Does that count? No, the thing that’s great about Marvel is — and [Defenders showrunner] Marco [Ramirez] has talked about this — the fact that all of our rooms, as writers’ rooms, are next to each other, so we have an open door policy amongst each other.
So if Marco had a question, he’d just come in. Or if I had a question about anything, I’d just walk over. So that’s really one of the cool things about it is, as showrunners, we have kind of an open book with each other. What’s really cool is that I’ve seen The Defenders, and you guys have to wait!
I don’t want you to tip anything you don’t want to tip about Season 2 …
I want to tell you everything, but you see like, not only are there spies, there’s also drones, and they will shoot me if I say anything!
Did you pick up some plot points from Defenders to tie into what you were doing in Season 2? Or did you get to still go your own way?
It’s like the Wu-Tang. You’ve got the Wu-Tang Clan record, which is what The Defenders represents. Say that Luke Cage is Ghostface, say that Jessica Jones is Method Man. It’s like they’re all kind of part of the same clique, but each record sounds different.
So that’s really the analogy I would make, is that they acknowledge each other, but they’re not really dependent on each other. But because it’s the same crews, and the same family, the same feel, it’s all interconnected — but it doesn’t mean that one really dictates the direction of the other.
Can you talk about, on a big picture level, some of the flavors from Season 1 that you want to maintain, and then the new flavors you want to bring into Season 2?
Just bulletproof dopeness! That’s what I want to maintain. I’m hoping that people continue to really enjoy the flavor of the show, and that it feels like a real Harlem and a real New York, but at the same time, has that Marvel twist — the Marvel twist with Netflix’s reach. That’s really this combination of all those factors that I think made Season 1 really a great ride, and hopefully we can maintain that same feel.
You have a great leading man in Mike Colter. It seems like there’s nothing that guy can’t do.
There is nothing he can’t do.
How did you want to push him, knowing his range, knowing what you could get out of him, in the second season?
The analogy I say is that, I want Season 2 to be “The Low End Theory.” “Low End Theory,” if you’re a hip hop fan, you know that that’s A Tribe Called Quest’s second record. The first record, “Instinctive Travels,” was great, but then “Low End Theory” was the record that everyone says … when they think of A Tribe Called Quest taking it to the next level.
That’s my hope for Season 2, is that we have some of the similar sounds, but we go in a deeper direction. So I’m hoping that we avoid the sophomore jinx in that, because we know what we have in Mike, because we know what we have in our cast, that we’re just pushing deeper.
Let’s talk about the literal sounds. The music was so great in Season 1. Where are you in placing the music in your head right now? Do you have songs in mind already as you get there?
That’s how I write. I write from the music. I’m not going to quite reveal yet what I’m listening to. I love how these are at least one of the things I wanted my show to feel like. I wanted my show to essentially be what I would call bulletproof “Lemonade.” It’s almost like a musical tone poem, but it also tells a superhero story.
So similarly as we expand, music will always be an important element and kind of part of our secret sauce, in terms of how we maintain something that sounds and feels different than any other Marvel show, but then at the same time, fits in with the rest of the continuum.
You mined so much out of Harlem and its rich culture and history. Is Harlem still a major character? Or are you going to go a little further out?
We did New York — the Harlem sound became the New York sound. So that’s what I would say about the show, is that we know where we’re from, we’re proud of our neighborhood, but at the same time, we hope to have an influence that expands beyond the realm of Harlem. But Harlem is still at the heart and its center.
Are you glad you’re at the point where you can bring anybody from the Netflix/Marvel universe that you might want to for a story point here or there?
You always got to raise your hand and ask permission. I’m honestly just cool with what we have.