by Maliik Obee, Staff Writer
Marvel’s Luke Cage television adaptation is one of the most anticipated series to hit Netflix for several reasons. The story of a black superhero attempting to save modern day Harlem infused with hip-hop makes for an interesting story. As the series prepared to release on Netflix, executive producer and show runner Cheo Hodari Coker stopped by Morgan State University during the show’s Historically Black College and University Tour.
Morgan State’s Murphy Fine Arts Center was decorated with Luke Cage paraphernalia for the event, from the flags outside the building sprawled with the face of lead actor Mike Colter, to the Luke Cage photo booth and tables adorned with Luke Cage coasters.
In a cozy auditorium nestled within the building, Coker instructed a master class for students, doing a live interview with Morgan State professor and journalist Milton Kent. Despite the premise of the tour being the show, Coker revolved the class around journalism, giving insight to students of how journalism opens doors.
“I consider this whole television writing thing my sabbatical from journalism,” said Coker.
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience, Coker penned hip-hop features and reviews for entities like the Los Angeles Times, The Source and Vibe Magazine through the 1990’s and 2000’s. Despite making the transition to the big and small screen after writing the 2009 biopic Notorious and 2011 television series Southland to name a few, Coker pledges that his journalism roots have prepared him for screenwriting.
“You can apply the skills that you learn from journalism in anything honestly,” said Coker “I hate writing, I love being finished. I think the part that sucks about writing is the isolation.”
One of the biggest takeaways from Coker’s Luke Cage series is the fusion of hip-hop and the nerdy elements of comic book heroes. Hip-hop fans were elated when news came out that the show’s episode titles were named after song titles from popular 90’s rap duo Gangstarr. Composed of the late emcee Guru and legendary producer DJ Premier, many wondered how the duo was chosen to have their works represented in the show.
“The thing about Gangstarr that I loved was how dramatic their titles were, it’s like the titles told a story,” said Coker.
Popular Gangstarr songs like “DWYCK”, “Just To Get A Rep” and “You Know My Steez” are represented.
Coker also addressed the changes in Hollywood, resulting in more accurate portrayals of the lifestyle of African-American’s because more people of color are involved in the process.
“This is the first generation of making shows where you don’t have executives putting this suburban filter on things.”
Following Kent’s questions, Coker engaged in a Q&A with students, giving more tips on how to break into the industry and maintain stability.
Following the master class, a reception for students was held, featuring food and drinks and live music by DJ TYE.
Students and faculty munched on chicken wings and meatballs, as well as fruit and desserts as students not involved with the master class lined up outside the Gilliam Concert Hall for a special presentation of the show.
Hundreds of students filed into the hall at 5:30 p.m. sharp, as moderator Leatrice Ellzy got the crowd pumped by debuting a special trailer for the show.
Following the trailer, Coker and actress Simone Missick, who plays
Detective/Superhero Misty Knight graced the stage for a live Q&A with Ellzy.
Students were granted a preview of a second special trailer, discussing the importance of the show being in Harlem, which featured native rapper A$AP Ferg and fashion icon Dapper Dan.
“Harlem to me is like Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and Atlanta all in one” said Coker.
Coker discussed the importance of making Knight a strong female character that defied the stereotypes of black women in film and television.
“I wanted to have black female characters that reflected the strong women that I grew up around,” said Coker.
Missick attributed to Knight’s character, getting applause from the women in the crowd after revealing that Knight’s character “does not revolve around a man.”
The event capped with a Luke Cage service award, given to Morgan State’s Iota Phi Theta Fraternity.
Season 1 of Netflix and Marvel’s Luke Cage is now available to Netflix subscribers worldwide.