ATLANTA — “Black Panther” broke box office records, but “Luke Cage” once crashed Netflix.
The streaming service suffered a massive outage for more than two hours in 2016, one day after the premiere of “Luke Cage,” a drama-action series starring Mike Colter who plays the show’s superhero with indestructible and bulletproof skin.
Heading into its first season in 2016, the show was highly anticipated as the only television series with a black superhero as the lead character at the time.
With season two of “Luke Cage” premiering Friday on Netflix, Colter hopes the series can keep the momentum going. Especially after the success of other black-leading superhero characters, like CW’s “Black Lightning” and the film “Black Panther,” which had a record-setting $192 million debut in U.S. and Canada theatres and nearly $700 million overall this year.
“Luke Cage” received high marks from most reviewers for the show’s politically and socially conscious story angles, strong writing and Colter’s performance. The deep-voiced actor said society — not only in the African-American community — was ready to see a black superhero as a lead character.
Colter said he spoke with many people across the world telling him they related to Cage’s character. The original character first appeared in comic books in 1972.
“For people of colour, it inspires them to believe they can be a superhero in their own way, too,” said the 6-foot-3 Colter, who bulked up 30 pounds for the role.
“There’s a certain portion of the population that needs to see someone that represents them,” he added. “Sometimes that’s not just physically. It’s a point of view. I get a lot of fans who are white, Asian, Brazilian. They relate to the character because of their approach to the world. Ultimately, they feel like this guy is blue collared and he is striving to do something with his life with all his limitations financially. He’s not feeling sorry for himself or having a pity party. He’s just trying to keep on, keepin’ on. That’s what people relate to.”
Cage is an ex-convict wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, developing his superpowers after a botched experimental procedure. After clearing his name, he becomes a Harlem celebrity for his heroic efforts to protect the community. The character has appeared in other Marvel Cinematic Universe shows, including Netflix’s “Jessica Jones” and “The Defenders.”
In season two, Cage struggles to find a good paying job until he decides to cash in on his abilities as a hero-for-hire.
Colter’s fellow cast members called him a “perfect fit” for the Cage role.
“No matter how tired Luke Cage is, he has to protect Harlem. Mike leads our show in the same way,” said Simone Missick, who reprises the role of Misty Knight. “He fits the bill physically. He approaches his character with a vulnerability you don’t often see in characters like that. It’s endearing to people. I think with Mike being the leader of this new school of superheros, he does an amazing job.”
Theo Rossi, who plays the villain Shades, said he likens Colter’s real-life persona to Cage.
“If you’ve ever been around Mike, talked or hung out with Mike, he is Luke Cage,” Rossi said. “I mean, he’s massive. But at the same time, he’s got a swagger and a personality that’s so incredible. He’s so big and could be intimidating, but he’s not because he has this incredible presence about him.”
Not bad for Colter, who called himself a loner in high school. During his career, he made guest TV appearances on several shows including “ER” and “Law & Order,” until he got his big break to play a boxer in “Million Dollar Baby,” which won an Oscar for best film in 2005.
Colter’s performance in “Luke Cage” has opened doors for other acting opportunities. He’s expected to appear in the faith-based drama “The Impossible” and co-star in “Skin,” a true story about a former neo-Nazi.
With “Luke Cage,” Colter hopes his show can continue to open doors and break down barriers for others of colour.
“‘Luke Cage’ delivered a jab, while ‘Panther’ and ‘Black Lightning’ both delivered jabs and uppercuts,” he said. “We had to get their attention first. I’m hoping there’s more to come, so we can stop talking about it and say that it’s just another superhero, instead of just being a black superhero.”