(NEW YORK) — As Cheo Hodari Coker gears up for the second season return of his hit Netflix series, Luke Cage, the director-producer is also reflecting on the first season’s successes and challenges.
In season one, the now Oscar-winning actor Marhershala Ali played villain Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes. Coker says because of Ali’s outstanding performance, some fans were upset and somewhat turned off of the show when his character died.
“I mean, he won the Oscar later on for Moonlight — this was his time to transition into feature films on a more on a more permanent basis,” Coker tells ABC Radio, explaining Ali’s departure from the show. “And so, what appealed to him about doing the role of Cottonmouth was the fact that it was always planned for that character to die.”
Coker continues, “What we didn’t anticipate was that he was going to be so popular. I mean, Mahershala always brings his A-game. Like, he brought his A-game to such a point where it’s just like, killing him off shifted the series.”
While Coker reveals Ali didn’t want to do “a long-term commitment to another television show” after coming off his previous series, House of Cards, the director says the uproar surround Ali’s exit made fans essentially overlook another great actor on screen.
“It happens unfortunately to the detriment of Eric LaRay Harvey, because Eric LaRay Harvey, who played Diamondback, I find he did incredible job,” Coker explains of the villainous role. “[He’s] actually one of my favorite performances even though people are getting mad like, ‘Oh no, we like Cottonmouth better than Diamondback.'”
Ultimately, Coker believes there was no way to avoid the problem.
“As [Marvel TV executive] Jeph Loeb also says, ‘Mahershala couldn’t have replaced Mahershala.'”
Luke Cage returns June 22.
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