'Cloak & Dagger': Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt Talk MCU, New Orleans, and Acting With Superpowers

Even after three decades of adventures in the comic book side of the Marvel Universe, the urban street-fighting duo Cloak and Dagger have never really achieved household name status – indeed, they remain largely cult-favorite characters in the comics themselves. But all of that may be about to change with the debut of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, Freeform’s edgy and stylistic new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ever-expanding TV pantheon.

The show is aimed at a younger-skewing demographic but also boldly and frankly taking on controversial topics facing a Millennial and younger audience -- an aspect that profoundly excited series stars Aubrey Joseph (playing Cloak/Tyrone Johnson) and Olivia Holt (as Dagger/Tandy Bowen) as much as getting into the superhero-style action, as they revealed to ComicBook.com during a roundtable with the press.

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On the excitement level and emotional reaction of being cast as Marvel superheroes:

Aubrey Joseph: It's kind of something you don't even dream of just as an actor, you know? I was in the acting school at the time and kind of hoping for a lead role, hoping that it was a regular show, maybe a guest star role or anything like that, and then Marvel comes along. Yeah, you can't say no to the audition, and you just hope that it goes well. Just being a superhero, but also being a part of a show like this that stands for so much, and has such a powerful message is perfect – it was like the perfect situation.

Olivia Holt: Yeah, I think for one being a part of the Marvel Universe is, like, insane! It's so surreal. I think we're both so grateful to be a part of the family now, but yeah this show, it does it stands for so much. I think it's not just about the superheroic team that they are, but it's also about them as humans and individuals and the things that they go through in reality, which I think is so important and so humane to what this show brings. I think that's sort of what separates it and makes it stand out a little bit.

On the show’s willingness to tackle weighty subjects like sexual assault, racial justice inequality, drug use and other hot-button issues:

Holt: So important. I feel like it's very rare that you see on television a show tackling such heavy topics, right? I mean it does – it focuses on sexual assault, police brutality, addiction, and so much more. The fact that we're doing that in such an effortless way, in an organic way and also in an honest, raw way is so important for us. Especially because we're young and we're able to be in a situation where we get to use our voices and our platform to tell a story that's so honest.

I think ultimately that's what we want for this show, is to not just entertain people, but to move them and impact them in a way that's going to push the culture and change the game for as long as we can.

Joseph: It's especially important right now – I was just telling Liv this: we have two groups of people, black men have been completely dehumanized in our media, in society, period. And women are always minimized: they always have to warrant that they get equal pay or ask to be represented as equals. So we really have this show that brings humanity to these two groups of people, and it's just time. It's time for this to come out, and I think this is going to just jumpstart the new normal.

On how the cultural conversation suddenly shifted toward the topics the show was tackling during the shooting of Season One:

Holt: Yeah, we started shooting at the end of July, and we started pre-production at the end of July. Then we really started shooting in August. So the movements were sort of happening, and a lot was actually happening when we were down in New Orleans. It sort of gave us perspective, and I think we were in a very new head space just because we became even more passionate about the stories and the journey that Tyrone and Tandy were on – the journey that they were on together, but also as individuals, and I think it definitely made a difference and an impact on us.

I think it made us feel like we were actually doing something to change society a little bit, and to also help people gain perspective on the situations that are going down. I almost felt like we saw the future a little bit because some of this stuff that was written was happening.

That was a little weird, but at the same time it's the perfect timing for a show like this to be coming out. Yeah, that was a very strange situation, but in the best way possible, because now we have the opportunity to tell a real, honest story.

On the impact of the actual New Orleans location on the overall mood and look of the show:

Joseph: New Orleans in itself is a character on the show. Like, it's literally, undeniably there – like, you can't miss it. You know New Orleans has beautiful architecture, it's a beautiful city, it has beautiful people, a lot of history. Even just going out there, myself it was an honor. It was my first time out there.

Yeah, New Orleans is a city that always fights and like never loses that fight in them, and I think that speaks a lot to who Tyrone and Tandy are. They know that no matter what the world throws at them, they prosper, and keep pushing. I think just that sense of never losing hope is huge for our show. Huge for New Orleans.

Holt: Yeah. I also think cinematically and stylistically it was gorgeous.

On exploring the Cloak & Dagger comic book source material to prepare for their roles:

Holt: I was very unfamiliar with the comics before even going into the audition process, and we also knew very little going into it. The information that they gave us was like...

Joseph: Scenes. Literally.

Holt: I personally felt like I needed to read the first comic, even if the origin story was a little bit different just to understand the tone and where Tandy and Tyrone come from. What their powers even are. That helped a little bit, and then once we actually booked the parts, it was pretty epic.

Our hair and makeup trailer actually had Cloak & Dagger comics plastered all over the walls, so while we were getting ready for the shooting day, we would just have like a fun little read. You know, I've met a lot of people who are fans of the comics, and they still seem pretty excited to see the differences a little bit, because it's been around for 30 plus years, started in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and it was perfect for that time.

I think changing it up a little bit, and making it more current and talking about, again, topics that are happening right now in 2018, makes it a little bit more relatable. I feel like the audience is going to connect to it in a way that they wouldn't if it was based in a different era, or even if they were going through things that were happening back then.

Now, since we're sort of focusing on something that's a little more current, and talking about what it's like to be a young black male in America in 2018, and what it's like to be a young, white female in America in 2018 is something that you know, we're excited about because we get to story tell in a creative way, but also in a way that is not just impacting the audience but impacting us as well.

On figuring out exactly how to “act” their superpowers:

Holt: We had a pretty epic team that helped us, I mean, as far as like, because we knew obviously a lot of the effects were going to happen in post-production, but our special effects team definitely helped us within that realm. That way we didn't underact or overact I think. It was definitely helpful.

I think it's a feeling that you just feel in the moment, and I think also depending on the scene the energy that's there, whether it be a mood that one of us are in. If it's angry or if it's just wanting power, there's got to be an intention behind why we use our powers, right?

It just always depended on what the scene was. As far as coping with the powers, that was the interesting part because we're not going to be badass from the get go, you know? Like we have to learn and cope how to deal with all those powers. That's also one thing that I found so fun and interesting and intriguing about like the specific, these specific characters, is that they're not just learning how to cope with real teenage life stuff, they're also learning how to cope with powers on top of all of it. So they have a lot on their plate.

I mean, I remember for me anyway with the daggers, at one point in the show I have to learn how to actually fight with them and throw them. I worked with a magician for a couple hours one day who taught me how to throw cards into like a hat. Which was like how I learned how to throw the daggers. Which was pretty epic.

Joseph: I had a lot of basketball. But just to talk about what she said with not having them be so badass at first, I remember we would always go into stunt rehearsal and have these crazy like fight scenes, and then they would be like, "Nah, dial that back down."

Holt: Yeah, we would want to kick ass, and they'd be like, "You can't do that because you don't know how to do that yet.”

Joseph: They don't teach superhero acting [in acting classes], but they do teach acting as living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

Holt: I feel like it's what you do as a kid, too, you know?

Joseph: Right, you just act like you have superpowers.

On the romantic – or platonic – potential between Tyrone and Tandy:

Holt: I know in the comics they were lovers, which was interesting, but I think at first we want to do a little bit of character development, show who they are as individuals, and also show the camaraderie and loyalty and trust that they have as friends. Because their relationship is very complicated – like, it's not an easy relationship. They've already gone through so much, and they already have a lot on their plate and everything is overwhelming and scary, and they also don't want to show those sides – but then do.

Joseph: I'm so in love with their friendship right now and just the fact that they need each other, and you're that one person that they can literally talk about anything to. That's what I'm obsessed with now, I don't know about the whole love thing yet. Maybe in later seasons.

On the possibility of Marvel Cinematic Universe crossovers:

Holt: We hope so. I feel like if there is going to be a crossover it will be with the Runaways, just because it makes sense.

Joseph: Yeah, that makes the most sense.

Holt: Yeah. We also love them as, like, just a cast.

Joseph: Yeah, we just saw them last night!

Holt: Yeah. I think it would just make a lot of sense, and I think they also crossover in the comics as well, so hopefully there will be an opportunity there somewhere. But yeah, we'll see.

On the sequences that really tested them as actors:

Joseph: The scene in the church [in Episode Four]. I feel like almost every scene we had in the church was an actors class, you know? Like it was all about being invested in each other. It was probably one of my favorite episodes to shoot, just because we were so invested, you know, and I feel like we did some of our best acting work all season on that episode too.

Holt: I also think in that fourth episode where Tandy and Tyrone finally hash it out, and they get a chance to really speak from their, not just heads, but their hearts and what they feel like they've been experiencing over their lives I think has been such, it's such an intense situation and the fact that they get to really confide in each other in that, and I think both of us felt really passionate about where their head spaces were as well.

I think almost Olivia and Aubrey were really speaking in those moments as well. I remember at the end of that day we were both just like so heated and exhausted and it just, it was a moment that I think we both genuinely felt powerful. It's one of those moving moments that you read it and you're like, "Whoa," but then you do it and you're like, "Whoa!" Yeah, it was emotionally and physically exhausting, but I think that moment in particular we felt like we had a show that was a game changer. That's just me being cocky.

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Marvel's Cloak & Dagger premieres tonight at 8 pm ET on Freeform. It is the first Marvel show for the network. You can read our spoiler-free review of the premiere here.