The second season of ‘Luke Cage‘ drops on Netflix this coming Friday (Junes 22nd). In addition of the new villain Bushmaster, played by Mustafa Shakir, the cast is also adding actress Gabrielle Dennis in the role of Tilda Johnson. Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Gabrielle by phone to discuss joining the cast, working with the legendary Alfre Woodard and her previous connection with Simone Missick.
James Enstall, host of Geek to Me Radio (JE) – I am joined now by Gabrielle Dennis talking about ‘Luke Cage’ Season 2. Thanks very much for your time this afternoon!
Gabrielle Dennis (GD) – Thank you!
JE – I’ve looked over your IMDB and you’ve been involved in so many projects. Coming into something like ‘Luke Cage’, which has that comic book background to it and it’s the second season so there is already a cast in place, what parts were most intimidating and what parts were most exciting?
GD – Oh wow! I would say the most exciting for sure is being able to work in that environment and space. I’ve never lived or worked in New York so being able to be plopped right into this world was extremely exciting and to have a new experience shooting there and then being a part of a show that I was already a fan of, that’s super exciting. I would say probably the most intimidating thing is just being the new kid on the block and trying to make sure you don’t step on anyone’s toes. You want to come in and do your job really well and make everyone proud. Being in the presence of the almighty Alfre Woodard, who is just an amazing powerhouse of an actress and human being, she is just great, being able to do scenes with her, that was…at first it was very intimidating to work with her up-close and personal but then you get in there and she is such a gracious actress. We had a ball. There were definitely more exciting moments than intimidating ones throughout this experience. That excitement is going to translate because when people watch this show, watch out!
JE – It was such a rich and powerful first season. The Netflix Marvel shows have been in some ways better than some of their big screen offerings. I will say it’s heartwarming to know that Alfre Woodard was as gracious in real life as she appears to be because I love seeing her on screen all the time so thank you for confirming my suspicion that she is indeed a great human being.
You said you were a fan of the show previously, so you watched the first season before you ever thought about coming on for the second season?
GD – Oh yeah! Absolutely! I started watching the Marvel series with ‘Daredevil‘ obviously and then when Luke Cage was introduced in ‘Jessica Jones‘. When Luke Cage dropped, it was super exciting because I wasn’t familiar with him prior to Netflix and Marvel partnering up. It was two-fold in my excitement; finding out about this new black superhero that I didn’t grow up knowing about and because I’m a huge supporter of all of my peers and friends and I went to college with Simone Missick who plays Misty, so that was part of the reason I was ecstatic with coming in. I’m definitely not going to miss this. I missed [Luke Cage season 1] the first night it dropped because Netflix broke but I definitely tuned in for all of the episodes and thoroughly enjoyed them.
JE – I did not know you went to college with her. Did you hang out during your college years?
GD – We knew each other. We had mutual friends. She was a theater major and there was a project we worked on one time together but it was a brief one night situation. We definitely had mutual friends. I think we had a couple of Thanksgivings together. She’s been to my house for cookouts. I’ve been to her house for New Year’s parties. We ride in the same circle of girlfriends. It’s always exciting to support one another.
JE – Yeah! I love the fact that the entire cast is so strong. We are getting the addition of Mr. Shakir who plays Bushmaster, a very underrated super-villain in the Marvel pantheon. How was the time on set with him?
GD – It was great! Mustafa is another amazing human being. He is almost a superhero in his own right. Such a real person. He is super fit. He eats really healthy. He is a vegan. He is very conscious and aware of things that are going on in the world. He is a very kindhearted person and he is really great in this roll. He is a little creepy and scary and can be intimidating. In our very first scene together he was freaking me out a little bit. He does such a great job of maintaining his accent in this series and his action is really good. His performance is really amazing. Cheo and the writers have done such a great job. Like you said, he was so underrated in the comic book world but he makes up for it in this. He is definitely a villain that people are going to root for. At the core of his villainous ways he is doing things for the better good in his mind. He is not a villain for the sake of killing people and causing chaos. He is doing it to protect his legacy and people. At the core of that he has a true purpose, it’s just the way he goes about it is a little scary.
JE – This new season of Luke Cage will be dropping on Friday, June 22nd on Netflix. If you can, tell us a little bit about what we can expect from your character, Tilda Johnson, and her relationship with Alfre Woodard’s character, Mariah Dillard.
GD – The latest trailer just dropped today which reveals that we are mother and daughter and there are a lot of twists and turns going on there. It is obvious that I don’t really trust her and I think people will get to go on this journey of this woman who is just trying to live her life and stay on the straight and narrow path and do what is right. She is a holistic doctor and a very forgiving and caring person. She loves to help others and it seems like the bad people keep showing up at her door. She can’t escape finding the trouble that surrounds her. That’s what happens when you are in bed with the likes of Mariah Dillard. She’s got seedy characters around her so eventually she will find herself in situations she really wishes she hadn’t. I think the journey of this is going to be very interesting. There are going to be a lot of twists and turns that people won’t see coming which is actually what excites me most when I watch the series. I just finished it this past weekend and I’m ready to watch it again to see the things I might have missed. Even having been a part of the series and watched it, I can be fooled by the direction I think they are going with something and then they completely twist it on its heels. That’s what I’m most excited about, people being surprised and being on the edge of their seats for all 13 episodes. Even Cheo says that this season is stronger than season one. I think it’s going to exceed expectation and fans are going to be overjoyed by the work we put in. I’m very proud of what we’ve done and it looks really good!
JE – That’s exciting because season one set the bar very high. If season two can top that it will be a very impressive feat.
Before I let you go, I know you also do stand-up and write and perform sketch comedy. Who are a couple people that inspire you in the comedic circles? Who makes you laugh and who do you take inspiration from when you are writing and doing your stand-up?
GD – I find most of my inspiration usually in my close circle. I haven’t been on stage in quite a while because this acting thing has really taken off for me! A lot of comedians that I was running in circles with, I find inspiration from them. They are so brilliant and so funny and the amount of work that goes into performing stand-up…I don’t think people understand that it is extremely hard and time-consuming. When I used to be out in the comedy clubs, Tiffany Haddish was there before me and she is still there now holding it strong, and she is just an inspiration and one of the people in my peer circle who has risen above and beyond and she is really doing it and it is inspiring that she has stayed true to herself this entire time. In comedy, it is all about the truth and the best and the strongest comedians stay true to themselves and find the humor in whatever that truth is, especially when it involves pain and darkness. When they can flip that on its head and find the funny in that, yeah, that’s the goal right there.
JE – Very cool! Gabrielle Dennis is Tilda Johnson in ‘Luke Cage’ season two dropping on Netflix, June 22nd. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/GabrielleDennis
Thank you so much for you time today!
GD – Thank you!
Make sure to keep up with Gabrielle and the rest of this sensational cast as Luke Cage hits the streets of Harlem once more on Netflix this coming Friday!!