Five questions for acting grad Mike Colter, star of "Marvel's Luke Cage"

Sure, acting grad Mike Colter boasts an impressive résumé, with roles in the Academy Award-winning film Million Dollar Baby, as well as parts in TV series such as The Good Wife and American Horror Story.

But now he’s attained superhero status, as Luke Cage in the Netflix series Marvel's Jessica Jones. Colter is filming his character’s own spin-off show, Luke Cage, as well as The Defenders, an upcoming series that features Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Iron Fist taking on crime in the Big Apple. Below, Colter, who The New York Times named among "four actors to watch this season," answers a few questions about acting, his favorite superheroes, and the industry.

1.     What is your fondest memory of Mason Gross?

It was my acting classes. And my wonderful acting teachers. They were rough on me. Bill Esper, Maggie Flanigan, and Lenard Petit—I grew in their classes. They taught me my craft. I am forever grateful. Honorable mention for Eileen Blumenthal for giving me a second chance at a wasted first year and Carol Thompson who was the mother hen of the department. She kept my morale up on more than one occasion. Carol, if you're reading this, I’m sorry I missed your celebration. You’re the best!

2.     Did you read any comic books growing up? Who is your favorite superhero?

Hulk. Because he had that Jekyll/Hyde thing going--the alter ego that he could blame for all of the destruction he caused. I loved how he would try to reason with people before they got him angry. He also felt like it was a curse. Also, Spiderman: It was easy to pretend I was [both him and the Hulk] because their powers were not unbelievable to me. I literally thought a radioactive spider could do that to me. So I hopped around the yard and trees trying to simulate his agility. I also thought if I got angry enough I could turn into a Hulk.

3.     What’s the hardest thing about being an actor?

Having everyone assume you’re rich and that fame makes your life easier in all ways. It’s an obsession of the public to know an actor’s life details but no one would want those details of their lives made public. I share what’s reasonable, but I like my privacy.

4.     Do you have any rituals to get into character?

No, I don't have any set ritual because some things that work for one character may not work for another. But I do need to hear the character’s voice in my head. I need to know their POV. If I can’t answer a question that I’m asked as the character, then I need to know more about him. If I can’t, then I will have no desire to speak as the character, and that’s no good. That’s when I won’t know my lines. It’s that simple. If I don’t know why I’m saying something chances are I won’t remember what to say.

5.     In The New York Times article you participated in earlier this year (“What It’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood If You’re Not a Straight White Man”) you mentioned that you’re often the only black man in the room – do you think that there’s an advantage to that? If so, why?

I’m not sure if that's ever a real advantage but when it’s the hand you're dealt you make the best of it. I’m sure if I were in a room full of black men and there was one lone person of a different color I wouldn’t spend a lot of time wondering what that person was feeling. That non-black- to-black ratio is usually the norm in most circles in the United States. I make myself right at home. I’m probably more comfy in that setting than they are because I’m looking at the content of their character and not their skin anyway.

I honestly can say that I would say the same things in that room I’d say in a room where black people are the majority. I’m a straight shooter. We are all the same more or less. People try to focus on the differences because it makes them feel special and unique. That’s great for character work in acting, but in life that just drives a wedge between us all.

Photo by Kimberly Nicholais

Posted September 2016