A Close En­counter with Luke Cage’s Misty Knight.

SFX - - Contents - Words by Nick Setch­field /// Pho­tog­ra­phy by Maarten de Boer

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.

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