‘Luke Cage’ Showrunner on How to Build a Successful Franchise-Within-a-Franchise

Cheo Hodari Coker, creator and showrunner of Marvel-Netflix series Luke Cage, says there’s not as much toe-stepping as you’d expect when operating in a shared universe already home to nearly two dozen other connected movies and television shows.

“One of the things that [Executive Vice President of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb] said is that, he described the Marvel television way as kind of an eight- or nine-lane highway,” Coker told Variety.

“That means you can drive, you can cross lines, and if you hit a guardrail, they’ll let you know. And that’s really what it is. It’s not that we plan so succinctly with all the shows, but any time we kind of are interfering with things that could affect the other shows, we let each other know. And it’s been that way since the very beginning.”

One example came when Coker’s leading man was being cast ahead of his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut over in season 1 of fellow Marvel-Netflix show Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg ultimately had final say in who would win the role of the bulletproof superhero, but Marvel wanted Coker’s input before the decision was made. In the end, all parties agreed on Colter, who has since gone on to play the role in The Defenders and two seasons of Luke Cage.

“[It’s] not my Luke Cage. It’s Marvel’s Luke Cage,” Coker said. “[Marvel] understands the power of their brand. They’re very particular about the brand, period. As a result, they’re very involved in protecting what the brand is. So the trick is to create a singular experience but at the same time work within that framework. So what I’ve learned is just be very communicative.”

“It all comes down to character and concept,” added The Vampire Diaries and The Originals EP Julie Plec. “If you get the characters right within the concept then you might be able to build those characters into more concepts.”

Coker agreed, saying, “You can’t give people something they don’t want.”

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“I think that’s the problem with people trying to build these universes. You wouldn’t want to hear from Method Man or Ghostface if the first Wu Tang album wasn’t hot. So build your foundation, then invite people into your house. So I think the problem with some of these other properties that are trying to copy Marvel and failed is they say, ‘OK, we’re going to come out with these five properties like this.’ It’s like, the one drops and then the whole thing falls apart, instead of focusing on making one thing the best it can be and then spinning off from that.”

Iron Fist (Finn Jones) — who in the comics is Cage's closest friend and most frequent superhero partner — will team with the Harlem hero during season 2 as a mini The Defenders reunion.

Luke Cage season 2 drops June 22 exclusively on Netflix.