‘Luke Cage’ Star Alfre Woodard Talks Family Ties and Black Mariah

By October 1, 2016
alfre woodard luke cage

Marvel fans this weekend will no doubt be glued to their televisions and streaming devices to experience the first season of Luke Cage, which finds Mike Colter reprising his Jessica Jones role as the indestructible hero from the streets of Harlem.

The series boasts an absolutely stellar cast which includes Alfre Woodard – who previously appeared as a different character in Captain America: Civil War – as fast-rising politician Mariah Dillard, whose desire to bring change to the community as hampered by the relationship with her cousin, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes.

Speaking with IGN this week, Woodard discussed the familial bonds that keep Mariah and Cornell attached, even though she may not necessarily approve of his lifestyle choices:

“Everybody is just trying to make order of life around them, and you have partnerships, and so, and especially if you have family, everybody is going to be in it. Some of every kind of person. But by the time you discover all your differences and your different ways of approaching things, you’ve already been weaned together, played together, you already have relationships. And so that’s how we learn how to be in the world, is by learning how to be with family. We learn how to love and how to fight in families, and how to create together.

So I think it paints a very realistic picture that a politician on the up and up has in their family a successful businessman who steps in and out of the gray areas. But you don’t divorce them. What are you going to do? It’s like, none of us would have relations, even with our friends, if we were only doing business or having relationships with people that were… What we would call morally centered. And what is morally centered? That depends on the person that’s looking.”

Longtime readers may also remember that in the comics, Mariah Dillard was better known as Black Mariah, leader of a street gang that often ran afoul of Luke Cage. The Netflix series obviously takes a much different approach to the character, but there’s still a nod to Mariah’s comic book roots – “Black Mariah” is a childhood nickname that Cornell uses to insult his cousin:

“Some of our characters, like Misty, like Luke, some of our characters and others come straight out of the comic. Others are inspired by them. But Cheo [Coker] wanted to give recognition and homage to Black Mariah, but I started saying, ‘Well, it depends on who calls me Black Mariah.’ And that’s when we see, ‘Oh Lord, she’s not a mild mannered city councilwoman.’ And it helped that they’re cousins, and it helped that I wasn’t dark skinned, so you knew it was about something else, so what else? So we talked about those things that would set it off, and it was, it is old schoolyard poop between cousins.”

The first season of Marvel’s Luke Cage is currently streaming on Netflix.

Brent Hankins

Brent Hankins

Contributing Writer at GeekNation
Brent Hankins is a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle and co-host of the Drinks and Discourse podcast. He's also the proud owner of an Italian Greyhound named Sullivan. He's adorable (the dog, not the author).