Rolling Out

Stars of Marvel’s ‘Luke Cage’ discuss their characters, backdrop of Harlem

Erik LaRay Harvey and Theo Rossi of Marvel's Luke Cage on Netflix (Photo by Derrel Johnson for Steed Media Service)
Erik LaRay Harvey and Theo Rossi of Marvel’s “Luke Cage” on Netflix (Photo by Derrel Johnson for Steed Media Service)

Two stars from Marvel’s “Luke Cage,” a Netflix series that released its first season on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, Theo Rossi (Shades) and Erik LaRay Harvey (Diamondback), attended New York ComicCon 2016 over the weekend and rolling out sat down with both stars to talk about their roles, the show, and how Harlem and hip-hop heavily influence it.

“The difficulty for me was taking something that’s science fiction and bringing it down to a level of reality. That brings some truth to you. That was my challenge with Diamondback,” said Harvey of preparing for a character in the Marvel Universe.

Rossi also discussed some things that helped him prepare for the role as Shades. “Cheo [Hodari Coker] is the most collaborative person I’ve ever worked with, bar none,” Rossi said of his relationship with the show’s creator, executive producer and writer, also citing that they both were very knowledgeable about Marvel comics because both were already big fans. “I was able to get as much information as I could possibly get in the world of Marvel.”

Many of the scenes in the series take place on the streets of Harlem or in the fictional club Harlem’s Paradise. Harlem and Marvel seem to be a match made in heaven, and both actors discussed the role of Harlem in the show.

“Harlem has always been a very historical place for the Black community and I think having it placed in Harlem makes the show very distinct, very distinguished,” Harvey said, adding, “I think it’s a very bold move and Marvel pulled it off brilliantly.”

Rossi, a Staten Island native, discussed the joy of shooting in New York City and waxed poetic about Harlem. “Working in New York City as an actor, it’s everything. Because if you are a fan of the history of Hollywood like I am, New York is the tableau of the greatest films, the greatest stories; it’s the capital of the world. So to film here, and more importantly to film in Harlem, you’re my age and you grew up here, you went to Harlem, you knew you were in a different place in New York. It almost makes me like nostalgic because, especially for a Staten Island geek growing up, Staten Island is its own unique world. Brooklyn was its own unique world. Manhattan was its own unique world and even though Harlem wasn’t a borough, it felt like one because it was its own unique world that felt different and it looks different. The streets are wider, the buildings are lower.”

Hip-hop also plays a prominent role in Luke Cage. Coker named each of the 13 episodes after a Gang Starr song, a hip-hop group that featured DJ Premier and now-deceased rapper Guru. “Hip-hop is a part of our community, it’s always been a part of our community,” Harvey said, adding, “I think the score of this show is incredible,” referring to the score created by Adrian Younge, who has worked with notables like Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Ghostface Killah, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest fame.

When asked if either of their characters would appear on another project, neither knew, but both Rossi and Harvey would love to see it happen, be it on Netflix or on the big screen. “He’s a gunrunner. There [are] guns everywhere, and whether you like that or not, it’s true. They all need guns, and I would like to be the single gunrunner. You know on all those shows. Even the Black Panther,” Harvey said.

Luke Cage gives a great ode to Harlem in the final episode of season one. “Harlem is supposed to represent our hopes and dreams. It’s the pinnacle of black art politics, innovation. It’s supposed to be a shining light to the world.” But it is fitting that hip-hop artist Method Man, who makes an appearance as himself in the series, had one of the most powerful lines in the series before performing the song “Bulletproof Love,” saying, “it’s something powerful about seeing a Black man as bulletproof and unafraid.” It certainly is. In “Luke Cage,” the phenomenal cast, Harlem and hip-hop music take turns sharing the spotlight in this Netflix hit.

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