Ali Talks Humanising The “Luke Cage” Villain

The third series in the Marvel and Netflix deal, “Luke Cage,” airs shortly and sees Mike Colter’s bulletproof hero protecting the streets of Harlem. Every hero needs a villain though and so far the two previous shows have delivered two of the best villains in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe to date – Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and David Tennant’s Kilgrave.

It’s a high standard, one that “House of Cards” and “The Hunger Games” actor Mahershala Ali will be taking on as he plays one of the show’s two villains in the form of crime lord Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes.

In a recent interview with Deadline, Ali was asked what fans can expect to see from his portrayal. He says its a man doing ultimately the right thing but in an unexpected way:

“With these villain characters, it’s about trying to make them human, because often they’re written in a way that is so slanted. And honestly, this really wasn’t the case with me on Luke Cage. Cottonmouth on Luke Cage – he’s really not a quote-unquote ‘bad guy’.

It’s just being able to work against how those characters are often thought of, and sometimes written, to make them human; and therefore, making a character that the audience feels conflicted about. You can do a lot with those roles – you really can. I don’t want to only do that, by any stretch, but I definitely see the value in doing that, because it is such a challenge, and there’s a lot of runway in those characters for an actor.

As much as it’s in that comic book world, and we’re all very aware that it’s a degree removed from our own reality, as an actor, playing a guy who is struggling with some of the things that he’s struggling with – who is trying to maintain a hold over his business, over his industry – there’s an aspect of family legacy, manhood, responsibility; these things that Luke Cage begins to be a threat toward.”

At this point not a lot is known how Stokes is involved with the main story, and how much Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard, the other big villain of the series, will tie in with Cottonmouth’s story. The first season of “Luke Cage” hits the streaming service on September 30th.