Interview: How Simone Missick Brought Realism to Misty Knight’s Bionic Arm in Luke Cage Season 2
Misty Knight is nobody’s sidekick. From the first season of Marvel’s Luke Cage, Misty has been a cop on a mission to protect the people of Harlem, even amid police corruption and a slow disillusionment with the system that she has been tasked to work within.
With the loss of her arm in Defenders, we see Misty return to the second season of Luke Cage in conflict about who she is and how best to do her job as a cop. Although we know from the trailer and early stills that Misty does indeed gain a bionic arm (courtesy of Danny Rand instead of Stark Industries), it doesn’t take away from the emotional journey that Misty goes on.
We had the opportunity to speak to the daughter of the dragon herself, Simone Missick, who has brought this fantastic character to life for three seasons thus far.
In training for the emotional aspect of playing a character who has always been, as Missick put it, a “physical” and “sexual” person who has suddenly dealt with this level of physical trauma, Missick did research on those who have gone through it in real life.
“I did a lot of research on what people who have gone through physical trauma have experienced—things like phantom limb syndrome,” Missick explained. “The emotional part was the thing I was looking forward to exploring the most. What is it like when you don’t know who you are anymore, when it’s so tied to being physical? I did research on the survivors of the Boston bombing—people who sign up to do something most people in the world can’t do, pushing themselves to the physical limit, and then lose a limb or multiple limbs. It was an enriching and educational experience.”
Dealing with disability and ableism is still something most media struggles with. In fact, one of my fears about Misty getting a new arm early on in the second season was that it would mean skipping all of the emotional beats of going through that experience. Yet, the show does an excellent job of showing Misty as a hero and a fighter whether she has that arm or not. It also turns the lens on ourselves and shows how people can allow their discomfort with other people’s bodies to re-traumatize them over again. When Misty returns to work, she’s told that being there makes everyone else uncomfortable, as if Misty herself is not learning to process her own discomfort.
But when she does get her new arm, it is glorious, but it took a lot of work to get it right. “It was rough as hell,” Missick laughed. “They created this arm, and there were forty, fifty people around looking to see this arm. They put it on me, and I couldn’t move my arm. It went through 10 to 11 generations before it was right and I could use it. It was physically exhausting. On the last day of reshoots for Iron Fist season 2, my stunt double’s arm was so swollen she couldn’t remove the stunt arm! Hopefully, the fans love it and it’ll all be worth it!.”
As Misty re-entered the police force, filled with this palpable fury and frustration, I worried, at first, that she was displaying trademark elements of a cop gone bad. She was too quick to anger, would get rough with suspects, and would disobey orders constantly. However, upon rewatching the show and sitting on it, I realized that the disconnect wasn’t that Misty was a “bad cop,” it was that she was playing the typical white, male rogue cop role as a black woman, filled with that same fury we see so often in men. And no one treated her like she was crazy.
Bringing that anger to Misty was intentional. “Some of that dialogue happened at the table,” Missick explained, “of making sure those ideas were executed well and to allow Misty to sit in her anger and her fury, and for that to be coming from a real emotional place. Having lost Scarfe in season one, her sense of moral balance is skewed after finding out that she had a crooked partner. It’s one blow. Then the death of Candice is another, feeling responsible for her, and that it goes unavenged is another blow. Then, she gets her arm cut off. Her rage comes from a real place, and people get to see that.”
Missick says that Misty has this calling and desire to protect and defend black women, something we see throughout the series. Yet, there is a surprising absence of black female companionship in Misty’s life. The two women of color we see her interact with at work, Priscilla Ridley and Nandi Tyler, are painted with a thick layer of antagonism, which Simone confirmed was both intentional and something the show looks to explore later.
“Don’t you wish she had a girlfriend?” Missick asked in a playful tone. “I want Misty to be able to kiki at a brunch with some friends. What I think is something that I definitely was aware of when crafting the character of Misty, is that she has problems with women that exist from before we meet her in season one.” It’s an aspect that Missick and showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker have apparently discussed and are looking forward to exploring in an upcoming season. “To find out why she has this antagonistic relationship with women and women of color. It wasn’t a flippant choice for me as an actor. ”
Misty Knight has been a favorite for me for a long time for many reasons, not limited to her amazing afro. That hair has become an iconic part of her look, and when I heard that Misty Knight was going to be a part of Marvel’s Luke Cage, I was excited that they got not only a dark-skinned woman to play the role, but one with natural 4C hair. Funny enough, it was Missick’s positive relationship with her natural hair that helped her land the role.
“If you know anything about Marvel, they keep everything secret and so the character was working undercover in a diner. Something about her leapt out the page to me and I said, ‘I’m gonna wear my natural hair. I’m gonna wear a twist out.'” Missick explained that, while she usually does wear her hair natural, that’s not the norm for auditions because it is not accepted often in Hollywood. “Cheo said that [her hair] was what made me the natural choice to be Misty.”
For the future of Misty Knight in the Netflix MCU, I asked Missick if she feels Misty will always be a cop, especially with so much disillusionment that she has gone on with the character. “She is defiantly frustrated that people with abilities are able to go around the red tape of being a cop. I don’t know if we will get Daughters of the Dragon, but I know that Misty could never walk away from fighting for her community.”
Until then, we can still enjoy Misty Knight kicking ass and taking names on the second season of Marvel’s Luke Cage.
(image: David Lee/Netflix)
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