There’s still hope for fans shipping Jessica Jones and Luke Cage after the end of Jessica Jones. Follow-up Marvel superhero series Luke Cage hits Netflix in September, and star Mike Colter told TIME at Comic-Con that show will pick up where Jessica Jones left off and deal with the fallout of Jessica (Krysten Ritter) saying goodbye to Luke.
He also shared what he learned from playing a drug kingpin on The Good Wife and how Luke Cage will be different than the other Marvel TV shows.
TIME: Where do you think the character is emotionally after the intense ending of Jessica Jones?
Colter: I would say he’s probably somewhat emotionally spent. Up until that point of meeting Jessica [Krysten Ritter] he’d found a nice little groove for himself. He has his own bar, he’s his own boss. So it wasn’t too bad considering he was a fugitive on the run.
By the time the series ended, Jessica had brought on quite a bit of baggage, things he didn’t want to deal with. I think that there was promise in their relationship at first. Maybe he was hoping this would be someone to move on with in life. But it’s a drama, so it can’t be that easy. You can’t get to happily ever after in a season.
By the time we get to the beginning of Luke Cage, he’s had time to get himself back on his feet a little bit. But he’s weary of women. He’s weary of trusting people.
How will Luke Cage be different from Jessica Jones or Daredevil?
Daredevil has Hell’s Kitchen. Luke Cage has Harlem, and that has a totally different feel to it. The people who live there are different; the history is different. Harlem has this relationship with music that’s special—The Apollo Theater, The Cotton Club. For decades, artists lived in Harlem because they felt like it was a place they could thrive and live on their own terms.
The neighborhood went through a tough time in the late 70s and early 80s because of the influx of drugs and violence. So it took a bit of a rebuilding. Now, Harlem has gone through this whole gentrification process. And in this show past meets present.
But it’s very intimate. Jessica had a very personal story, dealing with one specific villain. Luke Cage is intimate in terms of the sense of community and a neighborhood. The people who live in the neighborhood connect with Luke Cage and want leadership.
Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker described Luke Cage as “The Wire for Marvel television.” Do you think that’s an apt comparison?
I haven’t seen all of The Wire, so it’s hard for me to speak to that comparison. I do know that Baltimore and The Wire are synonymous. I think our series hopes to link to Harlem in that way. There is a political angle to our series. You have criminals functioning alongside politicians.
You play a hero that has to step in because the justice system has failed. Did your time playing drug kingpin Lemond Bishop on The Good Wife—a show that really delved into how the justice system can be manipulated—influence how you thought about law and order going into Luke Cage?
Cops and criminals aren’t that different. They just play by different sets of rules. And the lines get blurred. There’s no such thing as “right” and “wrong.” There’s always a grey area. There are always hypocrisies.
When I think about The Good Wife, Lemond had no problem justifying his position. He didn’t think he was worse than anyone else. He always felt that most people around him were hypocrites, and he was one of the few that was at least willing to admit it. He did what he had to do, when he had to do it, without thinking twice about it.
Luke too sees the hypocrisies of the justice system, and he gets frustrated. But he was instilled with a certain set of values and wants to do things the right way. That allows him to not play judge, jury and executioner. He understands people have to make choices for themselves, and that’s difficult, but it’s what puts him on the side of good.
What’s the hardest thing about playing Luke Cage?
Expectations about what the character is and should be by the mass audience who have been waiting for this character for 40-odd years. You’re not going to satisfy everyone. You can’t allow everyone’s voice to be in your head about how it should be done. The difficulty is staying true to the creator’s version of the character, why he’s relevant now that society has changed, Harlem has changed, crime has changed.