In its second season, Netflix’s Luke Cage is a more beguiling, knotted story than it was previously, granting complex story lines to each of its characters. But what hasn’t changed from its freshman outing is that the female characters remain the crown jewels of the show. This is especially true for Misty Knight, the intelligent and badass detective brought to life by Simone Missick. Vulture recently spoke to Missick about Misty’s intensely emotional and physical journey in season two, the importance of Luke Cage in pop culture, and what to expect of her character’s friendship going forward with Iron Fist’s Colleen Wing.
One thing I love about Misty Knight is that, yes, she is definitely a badass, but she’s also very vulnerable. Can you talk a little bit about her arc this season?
It was such a joy to be able to play Misty in both seasons, but this season especially, because of her vulnerability. You get to see what is it like to become disabled, to lose a limb, and not just physically. So often, we think about the physical ramifications — the pain, the phantom limb syndrome — but we also explore the emotional pain that comes from that, especially for a woman whose identity has been tied up into who she is physically. Misty is a basketball player, has been her whole life, and was successful at that. Then she became a detective. She obviously used her keen instincts and intelligence, but it’s also a physically taxing profession. So, what is your life like when you no longer have that as your identity?
Are there any moments that surprised you about her journey this season?
The first fight that Misty has definitely surprised me. I assumed that it was going to be with a prosthetic arm and she’s going to be kicking ass. Instead, her first fight is her with one arm. It was such an amazing gift to watch her go to throw that punch and her arm isn’t there. It demonstrates that feeling of, God, just when I think I’m good, I’m capable, I’m reminded of my own weakness.
Then, and I’m not sure if this moment made it into the final edit, but if it didn’t make it, this is a lovely behind the scenes to share with the fans. There’s this moment at the end of the season where Misty goes to arrest Shades. She knows that he is responsible for a lot of death and a lot of pain in her community. When she arrests him, she looks down and sees this newspaper with Mariah’s face on it, that she had just died, and you would think that it would be this overwhelming feeling of, Yes, I finally got him. But I, as the actor, cried because all of the loss. Misty’s motivation for getting Mariah was not just all of the things that she had done, but specifically, the death of Candace Miller, played by Deborah Ayorinde in season one. That death was covered up and her life was never avenged.
In that moment, I cried. I remember the director being like, “I don’t really know if that’s appropriate.” And I’m like, “It is for a person who lives and dies for her community and who became a cop because her own cousin was victimized and murdered.”
From what I remember it plays differently in the finale, but she does have a moment when she looks at that newspaper announcing Mariah’s death. It would have come across quite differently with Misty crying.
It’s just a heartbreaking moment. It goes into the idea of, who looks out for black women? Who is avenging our murders? Who is fighting for justice for us?
About midway though the season, Misty finally gets her bionic arm. Can you talk about her relationship with her body?
Misty’s identity is so tied to her physical capabilities. She’s a woman whose very confident in her body. One of the things that was such a gift to explore in season one was Misty’s sexuality. You know, we don’t often see black women be unapologetically sexy without some negative connotation put on it by people who are not black women, or sometimes we put that on ourselves and on each other.
Going into season two, all of that confidence, all of that self-knowledge and awareness and comfort is gone. I think that it takes a special person to still feel like themselves after losing a limb. It’s the idea of, who will love me, who will accept me, who will see me as I am and not just see me for my disability?
How did you prepare once you knew Misty’s arc for the season?
I don’t ever really know what’s going to happen, I guess that’s above my pay grade. [Laughs.] All I knew was that she’s no longer on the force and she doesn’t have her arm, so I did a lot of research into people who have gone through loss like that, people who’ve lost limbs. I did a lot of reading and watched a lot of documentaries. Ones that truly stood out to me were on the Boston Marathon survivors because these are people who were at the top of their game physically, only to have that taken away from them tragically.
Episode three is a big turning point for Misty, especially when she gets into a bar fight with Colleen Wing. How was it shooting that scene?
The bar fight scene is probably one of my favorite scenes of the series because Jessica Henwick, who plays Colleen, is one of my favorite people in the Marvel Universe to work with. Her fighting and fighting style is a gift to watch. She picks up choreography so well and it seems like she does it so effortlessly, but she is in the stunt dojo killing herself for every fight because she’s just this committed. It’s not her show, and she’s not about to let that deter her from making the moment special.
Also, knowing that we were giving the fans what they want — to see the Daughters of the Dragon onscreen — that was another thing I was aware of. You have these two women fighting side by side, but not in the way that you expect. You expect, Misty is going to look at Colleen, Colleen is going to look at Misty and they are going to be like, “Let’s do this!” Instead, what actually happens is Misty gets smacked down to the ground and Colleen looks at her like, “What you gonna do. Are you going to stay down or are you going to get up?” That relationship is so beautiful, to see two women connect at the same time they are struggling with their identities.
Let’s talk about the season finale. After Luke gains ownership of Harlem’s Paradise, he and Misty share a fascinating moment when she seems to realize that he is changing. What does that say about their relationship?
That moment was crafted 100 percent by Cheo, our showrunner. It’s really setting us up for what that will be in season three, whenever that comes to pass. Misty is definitely not going to suffer Luke thinking that he is the king of Harlem without giving some pushback, because absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think Luke is of the mind-set that he knows what’s best, especially since he’s got the bulletproof skin and he’s running Harlem’s Paradise. Misty’s smarter than that.
Luke Cage premiered before the amazing success of Black Panther and before other superhero shows like Black Lightning. What do you feel it adds to the pop-culture landscape?
Well, we were the first. The success of Luke Cage breaking Netflix was the reason why we have Black Panther and why we have Black Lightning, Cloak & Dagger, and all of these shows that are popping that represent this reinvigoration of people’s love and interest in black superheroes. The success of these shows is allowing people to see the humanity of black people in ways that they were not exposed to. Luke Cage breaking Netflix because it was the first show to air in 190 countries showed that people all around the world wanted to see a black superhero. Black Panther’s box-office success showed that people all over the globe wanted to see this movie. I think it only helps to have more of these. There is enough sun for us all to sit in.
This interview has been edited and condensed.