Luke Cage Season 2 finally arrived on Netflix over the weekend. Den of Geek spoke with actor Theo Rossi about Shades’ evolution this season, what he wants viewers to say about the sympathetic villain after the credits roll, and what’s in store for Shades in the future.
Den of Geek: So what is the evolution of Shades’ and Mariah’s relationship this season?
Theo Rossi: You know, we did something last year that I don’t think any other Marvel Netflix show had done, which is you have these two villains, technically, standing on the perch basically winning, and you have our hero being carted off in cuffs. What was even more memorable about that was you had two villains that were supposed to be the big bad, gone. Cornell was gone, you know Cottonmouth, and Diamondback’s gone.
Here you have Mariah and Shades standing there, these unsuspecting villains the entire first season. So now where we’ve picked them up, is they have now been obviously in business for a while. He has kind of built her up even more. He doesn’t want to be the face of the company, but he wants to kinda control the books. He’s creating and putting her in this position, but what he doesn’t realize, and ultimately what she doesn’t realize about him, is that these are two individuals who have their own stories, their own pasts. Her past starts to affect her in the more power she gains, and she really starts to take on more of that Stokes quality, that gangster thing that is kind of in her DNA.
I believe their relationship is even more genuine than any relationship on television. I think it’s so interesting, because … I could go into a whole soap-box thing of I think why it affects people in a really positive, and in a negative way. Their relationship, you know an older powerful, extremely powerful woman, with her younger man, this whole thing.
I just think that a lot of people are not used to seeing that on television, like a true relationship like that, but also in a very villainous fashion. They’re almost like Bonnie and Clyde of Harlem, in every way. Where they’re at and where it goes is they start off in a power position, but how are they going to co-exist together in what they want? Maybe what they want is something different. I just love the arc of it all.
Who or what would you say is Shades’ biggest nemesis in this season?
Himself, who he is. Comanche brings something up in him, that he did not expect, nor do I believe he wanted. If there’s no Comanche, Shades is on that like … move forward let’s do this, this, and this, and let’s keep the gun business, let’s take over, and let’s raise hell. Maybe if it wasn’t Comanche, Tilda might have affected his plans in a way. Comanche really threw a wrench into his entire system, because it humanized him. It made him become what maybe he tried not to be any more. His emotions got the best of him and that ultimately, that caused a chain reaction of him doing something that he definitely did not want to do, which was take out someone who probably meant more to him than anyone in his life, in Comanche.
He says, “I didn’t see the snitch in you, what does that say about me?” He knows that he is not who he used to be. Ultimately, that makes him resent Mariah, because she starts prodding him and saying all those things to him. You know, “what, were you just gay for this day” and all that kind of stuff. A woman always knows, and she goes at him. He then comes and lets his emotions get the best of him, again. We see that right away from season 2, you know, when he shoots Arturo ‘El Rey’ Gomez.
So you’ve got Comanche in one ear, telling him, “Why are you doing this, with this woman? This isn’t who you are, you don’t let anyone get in your head like this.” Then you have her, “what are you all emotional because of this dude, because who he was, I knew all about it.” So he’s getting tugged emotionally in all ways, so his biggest nemesis [and] the worst thing that can happen to him, is himself. I do believe, after it’s all said and done, at the end, his speech to Luke … is a bit of a rebirth for him, because maybe he set him up … The way he wanted to, to again, benefit his ambition. We’ll have to see. He didn’t give that big speech to Luke for no reason. He didn’t put Luke on that perch for no reason. I think he got himself together and there’s a plan, he’s back in away. I love that.
What was your reaction during the table read of the revelation of Shade’s and Comanche’s relationship?
Incredible. Beautiful. Because all you ask for, as an actor and as an artist in this business is layers and history. What has this person been through, what have their relationships been, who did they love, who have they not loved, who do they hate? All that does is build a more complex character, for bad and for good. We started to find out things, about how in season one, we found out how much he admired the Stokes family. How much they were almost like his role models growing up.
That was really kind of what we knew. We found out that him and Cornell had known each other their whole lives. We found out that he was in the Rivals at one point with Comanche, but that was it. We didn’t get to meet Comanche, until now. When I found out about that, which was pretty early on. I knew way before we were filming that …I just thought it was absolutely beautiful and more importantly, what our show did … we tackled things that nobody is doing.
I’m pretty good with the MCU and I’m usually, definitely, better with comics, but in the television and film sense, this has not been done, not like this. It definitely hasn’t been done in this atmosphere of gangsters and street culture, within the Marvel universe. These are true characters that would not do that. You have to understand these are two OG characters from the 1972 arc… These are guys from jump, from the beginning. So I thought [showrunner] Cheo Hodari Coker and [producer] Aïda Mashaka Croal … I have to give Aïda so much credit, one of the writer-producers who really kind of conceptualized this with Cheo … I just thought it was so beautifully done, that’s the best that I can say. Also, at the same time, so incredibly heartbreaking for the way it goes.
What do you want people to say about Shades, when they walk away from season 2?
That they’re conflicted. There’s a bunch of things that were done well this year, but I’ll speak to two of them. One thing was, we talked about things that nobody talks about on television, not in the way and the place we did it. One of those we just spoke about, and one of them, in the MCU I would say, one of them is the incredible revelation between Mariah and Tilda. You know, of where she comes from and who her father is and all that. Talk about an incredible scene.
The one thing I’ll say about the show this year is, villains and heroes is only a word that we use because it is a superhero genre, but really are they villains? Is Bushmaster really a villain? Are Mariah and Shades really villains? I think at the end of the show, the audience has to make their own assessment of that, and I don’t know if they’re all going to be in agreement on who the villains and heroes are, especially when Luke lines up, and especially where we have all lined up. I think that is what is so well done, and so different then any other show.
Clearly Luke is on a different journey right now. Clearly all these other people have reasonings for what they did. So “conflicted” would be my favorite response to all of them, conflicted if they love them or hate them.
Luke Cage Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.