Harlem superhero Luke Cage will make many enemies in his self-titled Netflix series, debuting Sept. 30. One of the villains is the new character Zip, portrayed by Jaiden Kaine. “He’s very complex,” Kaine said during a phone interview with Psycho Drive-In. “He’s a bad guy, or a good guy who’s just misunderstood. It’s really all about power and respect for him.” Zip is a reoccurring character who, interestingly enough, was cleared by comic book legend Stan Lee. “My character was created specifically for this [show],” Kaine explained. “I didn’t have anything to draw from, like pre-written material. This is somebody I created, who I thought would be really, really cool.” Marvel’s Luke Cage stars Mike Colter (Jessica Jones) as the title character. The show tells the story of the wrongfully accused Cage, a black man given super strength and durability by a sabotaged experiment, who escapes prison to become a superhero for hire. However, nightclub owner Cornwell “Cottonmouth” Stokes becomes an unexpected foe for the hero. Stokes is portrayed by Mahershala Ali (House of Cards and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Parts 1 and 2). New York City native Kaine (Vampire Diaries and Hidden Figures) dished on breathing life into Zip, the impact of having black superheroes and why Colter is a great fit for Cage. Psycho Drive-In: What was your reaction to landing a role in Luke Cage, your first Marvel project? Jaiden Kaine: I already knew I was confirmed. But there’s a very specialized email that comes out. It kind of looks like it came out of Mission Impossible or something like that. It’s highly coded and has all of these back doors. It’s called the Fifth Element. It just says, “Welcome to Marvel. Welcome to the Marvel family.” That’s when it hit me and I said, “Oh my God, you’ve got to be kidding me – whoa.” PDI: Since Zip is a new character, what did you rely on to bring him to life? Kaine: If you saw Gary Oldman in True Romance or Larenz Tate from Menace II Society, I actually drew off those two movies to create the character Zip. You never know what he’s going to do. Those are the characters I’ve always been most intrigued by, because when they smile they could be angry. When they look angry they could be cracking up inside just to get a rise out of you – so you don’t know. I think that’s what makes him interesting. Jaiden Kaine and Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel’s Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix. PDI: How important is it for Luke Cage to come out now, at a time when racial tension is pretty high? Kaine: There couldn’t be a better time for this to come out, because the way we are stereotypically portrayed, as we all well know, has not been in a fortuitous way. It hasn’t been in a way that would inspire and transform one’s life. We need to see our own folks, people who look like us, in great roles that inspire and move and show heart, love and respect. There really hasn’t been people of color as superheroes. We are by large the minority. But look at the Olympics and sports in general, and even non-athletic mediums like medicine… when given the opportunity we’ve always thrived and a lot of that really hasn’t been put in the public eye, and certainly not enough of that for the kids. So with Luke Cage, Black Panther and that kind of thing, they’ll look at them like they looked to [Michael] Jordan and popular football players and rap artists. PDI: Black Panther has a new movie coming out. The new Iron Man is a black girl. There’s also a rumor that Spider-Man: Homecoming will feature a black actress for the role of Mary Jane. What do you think of Marvel shifting more black people into prominent roles in film and comics? Kaine: They’re going against the grain. I think they’re using the marketing expertise of The Fast and the Furious, arguably one of the best-selling franchises in movie history. If you look at that franchise, it has a little bit of everybody. That’s why it sells so well all over the world, because everybody can look at that movie and say, “this person looks like me.” PDI: What do you think of Mike Colter’s portrayal of Luke Cage? Kaine: I love Mike. He’s authentic. I don’t think he can lie on camera. He always brings a high level of integrity to everything he touches. And he’s super consistent. He’s been an unknown mentor to me, for many, many years. A lot of people aren’t aware of this, but I started off doing background work. I stood in for him, maybe, about a year and a half on The Good Wife. I learned so much from Mike. I think he’s as true to what I read about Luke Cage growing up, contemporarily speaking, of course, because this isn’t necessarily the “Luke Cage” of old. This is a much-updated version, but it’s still kept its integrity and it definitely has the soul and the flavor. It’s full of a lot of surprises. It’s nothing like Jessica Jones, even though we have a lot of similar people from that production as well. It’s a totally different beast. PDI: What comic books did you read as kid? Kaine: “Spider-Man,” “Luke Cage,” “The Hulk,” “Thor,” “Silver Surfer,” “Black Panther.” I’ve got a box [of comics] floating around somewhere. I’ve moved around so much. I was a foster kid, so I bounced around a lot. But there’s a box somewhere and it’s worth a lot of money. PDI: What is it about Marvel characters that draw you? Kaine: I remember when I first saw Luke Cage, I was like, “Oh my goodness!” He’s from the inner city. He has an afro. He has a bald head. I could relate to people in those comics. I could relate to the dialogue in those comics. That comic was part of the reason why I started marketing myself as the tough guy, the guy who was still smart but could handle himself physically, because I wanted to do things like that. PDI: Growing up in foster care, how were you able to overcome that and still carve out a career in acting? Kaine: I wasn’t always in foster care. My mom had to give me up because the household was deemed unfit. So two things helped me: one was wanting to help my mom through her pain; and two, me seeing something else that was possible. When I was a kid there was something called The Fresh Air Fund. A family would be paid by the city and/or the government to host a kid from an impoverished neighborhood for a couple of months in the summer. Even though I grew up in the lower, east side in the projects – we called it “the bricks” like they did in Newark, New Jersey, which is where I also lived for a time – I got out of there and experienced a family where the mom and dad were still together. They had a little boy and Labrador. They ate dinner together. They held hands and prayed. They didn’t yell at one another. It was very, very different. After those two months were done, I would come back and what I realized was – because I grew up very angry – that I didn’t have to be angry at my own people I was surrounded by, because what I understood from seeing something different was a lot of what was going on was due to the fact that people had a choice. Remember those old idioms: “You are who you hang with.” “Be careful of your surrounds.” “Show me your three closest friends and I’ll show you your future.” I said to myself, “God, I’m so happy I had that opportunity to have this experience of The Fresh Air Fund.” It was only for two summers, man, but it changed my life. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.