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Marvel and Netflix’s Luke Cage is currently filming in New York, and it is set to be the first of the solo series to premier following The Defenders event series. Mike Colter, Rosario Dawson, Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi and Simone Missick are all reprising their roles from the first season, but it’s been expected that the cast would also include some newcomers. Last week, Marvel announced they had added two new cast members portraying a couple of classic villains from the comics.
Mustafa Shakir (The Night Of) is portraying John McIver, “a leader that’s brimming with charisma, but whose mission is focused solely on Harlem and vengeance.” In the comics, McIver was a gang lord called Bushmaster who fought against Iron Fist as well as attempting to woo Misty Knight to his side. He later forced Luke Cage to kidnap her in exchange for evidence that Cage was framed for the heroin possession charge he was originally imprisoned for. He ended up undergoing a similar process that gave Luke his powers, only more intense. So much so, that his body continued to mutate, turning him into unliving metal. He later died from the mutation. His younger brother Quincy later took up the Bushmaster name for his own criminal career and John’s son Cruz later attempted to absorb the negative energies of the Bernstein process from his father’s remains and Luke Cage, but found his body possessed by his revived father instead, now going by Power Master. It’s likely John’s backstory and portrayal will be altered for the series, but I could see them dropping him into the narrative pretty much intact, particularly him having evidence to exonerate Luke and/or his attraction to Misty Knight.
Gabrielle Dennis (Rosewood, The Game) is playing Tilda Johnson, “a talented holistic doctor with a complicated history in Harlem – and who despite always trying to stay away from trouble, always seems to find it catching back up to her.” In the comics, Johnson was a prodigy who used her extensive knowledge of genetics, cybernetics, and physics to start a career as a criminal in order to escape poverty. She was known over the years as Deadly Nightshade, Doctor Nightshade and Nightshade in her battles against Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D., Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Later, she was saved from a group of thugs by the vigilante Nighthawk and began turning her life around by lending her talents to aid heroes such as Hawkeye. Recently, she took up Nighthawk’s mantle after he was murdered by Hydra.
Tilda Johnson seems to be the most altered character between her and McIver, with her characterization being geared toward her more recent heroic stint, almost. Of interesting note is the fact that singer Nabiyah Be revealed last month that she would be playing Tilda Johnson in next year’s Black Panther, where she appears to be aiding antagonist Erik Killmonger, played by Creed‘s Michael B. Jordan. Having the same character appear in dueling projects has been done, like when Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Evan Peters both appeared as Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron and X-Men: Apocalypse, respectively. The difference though is that those films took place in separate cinematic universes while Black Panther and Luke Cage are both in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It’s been said for awhile now that Marvel Studios and Marvel Television have been at odds with each other, exemplified in the films’ complete lack of direct reference to the ABC or Netflix series, while the latter contain multiple occurrences. It’s always possible that Nabiyah Be misspoke or confirmed her character before it was changed or finalized. If both actresses are portraying Johnson, it will most certainly throw the continuity of the MCU into question, which has apparently already happened if reviews of Spider-Man: Homecoming are accurate.