A Close Encounter with Luke Cage’s Misty Knight.
When SFX asks Simone Missick how it feels to play one of the first black female heroes in comics, she corrects us with a smile. “The first,” Missick insists, proudly. “The first.” Misty Knight debuted in 1975, a badass cop who lost an arm to a bomb only to be gifted with a cybernetic substitute by none other than Tony Stark. Imagine Pam Grier fused with the Bionic Woman only somehow, impossibly, cooler. Now Missick’s bringing Misty to the screen – minus the bionic trimmings, at least for now – in Luke Cage, Netflix’s latest fix of street-view superheroics. It’s a breakthrough role for the Detroit-born actress, pushing her into the hot spotlight of the Marvel Universe. Has her world gone crazy? “No,” she laughs. “Obviously all of the press has been pretty intense and spectacular but when I’m not all dolled up I’m just regular old Simone!” Did you get a chance to dig into the comics when you got the part?
I didn’t. I wasn’t familiar with Misty Knight so immediately I thought, “Let me run out and buy some comic books and read everything that I can!” And Jeph Loeb, the head of Marvel Television, was like, “Don’t go to any comic book stores! People will know that you’re Misty Knight and then it’ll leak on the internet!” So I just did a little bit of research online… Did you feel the weight of that comic book legacy? Fans can be very protective of these characters…
Yeah, they are. There were fans who had ideas of who they would’ve loved to see play this role – all actresses who I respect and admire and could definitely fit the look of Misty. But when I was announced no one said, “Who is this person? They should have chosen such and such!” They were just so excited that Misty Knight was finally going to be seen on television. The fans have been so supportive and it takes away the pressure of feeling like they’re not already rooting for you. But then there is the added pressure of thinking, “Are you doing her justice?” Artistically you have to put Simone’s ego aside and say, “Okay, I’m Misty Knight for these 12-14 hours that I’m on set, and these seven months that we’re shooting.” That’s all I can focus on. Misty’s a more fantastical character in the comics, with the bionic arm and the martial arts skills. What did you make of all that stuff ?
I think that is so outstanding to see – for them to have created this character in the ’70s when those were not the images that were portrayed of women of colour. We’ve seen Storm, who is an otherworldly superhero, but to see a woman who’s a street level hero, who was born a regular woman with both arms intact… For people to see the evolution of that character in this show is exciting, because it makes her more accessible and relatable. In one interview you said you had a ’70s soul. What did you mean by that?
It’s funny – my husband says I have a ’70s soul because he thinks I look like a woman from the ’70s! I’m shaped like women were back then. There are so many things portrayed in the media today where the women are all very dolled up and fake and plastic and everything sits up underneath their necks! The things we identify with are reality TV and things that just aren’t real. I just feel so much older in the sense that I look for music to have good instrumentation and the lyrics to mean something and women to be natural. I don’t frown upon people who change their bodies but I enjoy my body the way it is [laughs]! The Luke Cage comics grew out of the Blaxploitation craze of the early ’70s. What’s your take on that genre?
Blaxploitation movies were a way to see black heroes, to see a black man walk into a room and kick ass and get the woman. Or a black woman, like Pam Grier, to walk into a room and kick ass and get the man, which you did not see anywhere else. And yes, there were different iterations of Blaxploitation that were buffoonish in some ways. But it gave those actors an opportunity and it also gave the audience the opportunity to see black people in a different light. It was the inspiration for the reason we’re here right now. I think all art is valid – it might not be everyone’s preference but it’s art, you take it, you leave it. Misty’s part of the Daughters of the Dragon team in the comics. Is that a spin-off you’d love to see?
Absolutely! I think any comic series brought to life with strong women would be an amazing opportunity. And the fans on Twitter and Instagram are so excited about that idea. That would be an amazing thing, if Netflix was able to bring it to the screen.
Luke Cage is available on Netflix now.