Simone Missick on ‘Luke Cage’ & Pushing Pass ‘No’

“No” is not the final destination when it comes to running after your dreams.

For the last 10 years, Simone Missick took on commercial work, short films and independent projects awaiting the moment her mighty “yes” would come through and further propel her career.

That moment came when the Howard University alumni landed the role of Misty Knight, a superhuman with a bionic arm made popular in Marvel’s Luke Cage comic book series, 40 years ago. The series is now a successful Netflix original co-starring Mike Colter and Alfre Woodard, with a streaming base of 190 countries.

“For this job to be this big of a deal as it is, it just shows me that, every no was not a “no”, but God preparing me for something that was ultimately greater than anything that I could comprehend,” Missick tells JET.

The Detroit-bred actress attributes the city for preparing her for the role of Knight, a no nonsense taking detective and martial artist.  Much like the “dirty mitten”, she’s aggressive but once you’ve hit her heart, there is a softness.

“We’re like these hard rocks but on the inside it’s a gem,” she explains when describing the Detroit woman. “We have a little bit of a tough exterior and we have to because you’re not just going to come at me any type of way.  But on the inside, yes I’m smart, well read, and I travel.”

Missick adds, “So that helps you get into any character.”

In the first 13 episodes of the Marvel hit, Missick’s badass-ness builds as the storyline develops and, though “the arm” hasn’t made an appearance yet, I’m pretty sure we’re getting closer to experiencing the full power of Ms. Misty Knight.

JET caught up with Simone Missick, who now resides in Los Angeles and discussed how Detroit’s culture helped shape her artistry, the Blackness of Luke Cage,  and never giving up on your dream.

JET: You spoke about being in the business for years and constantly hearing “no”. What motivated you to keep going?

Simone Missick: It’s interesting because it was disheartening to go for years and not really feeling like the needle was moving and like I wasn’t progressing. There was a lot of heartfelt desperate prayer asking God if this isn’t for me, just remove it from my heart. Five years after that prayer, I met my husband and he just helped to keep me motivated and would say ‘I know you’re right there. You’re so close.'”

JET: And he wasn’t wrong!

Simone Missick: There was a lot of pilot seasons where it was “not right now.” Had I done those things, it would not have put me in a position to be [Misty Knight]. So, I’m thankful that I get to represent this woman that people have fallen in love with over 40 years through comic books and that new fans have an appreciation for. We want the legacy to live on for decades. But, it’s still great to be the first.

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JET: Right! Congrats on that. From one Detroit chick to another, how did the city help shape your artistry?

Simone Missick: Detroit was where I first did theater, interestingly enough. Just really growing up with such a strong foundation in Black culture, Black history and Black pride made me the woman that I am. I was never ever anywhere in the world where I felt less than because I was Black. I feel like to know who we come from, knowing who my grandmother was, who my mother was as women growing up in Detroit  was so influential to me. And to be able to see my teachers, who were strong successful Black women with a  little sass, bit of humor and loved God.  I mean it’s Black Girl Magic all wrapped up in a Detroit woman.  Then you’ve got the history and soul of Motown wrapped all around that. So, that helps you go into any character.

JET: You nailed that description! Speaking of Black culture, history and pride, there’s so much of that infused in Luke Cage in terms of Harlem and black arts. In what way is it ‘freeing’ to be a part of a project with a dynamic Black tone?

Simmone Missick: Yeah! Cheo, the writer and creator and all the writing staff took such attention to those details. There are things in that script, that I’m not even familiar with. And my husband is like ‘Oh, I can’t believe they talk about that!’  We speak our history in everything that we say.  We quote movies, writers, and books and that is almost like an oral history that we pass on from generation to generation. It’s great to be a part of a show that’s so culturally relevant and that isn’t exploiting but celebrating the culture and all the facets of it. It’s really exciting. And then to be shown in 190 countries to people who don’t know African-American culture other than what they hear and see on the news, which is ‘ all Black people are bad, Donald Trump wants to kick them out of the country because they’re all animals,’ it’s great that these other images are being projected out into the world.

JET: Do you think the symbolism and Black history embedded in the show will reshape the conversation relating to Black Lives Matter and the overall acknowledgement of Black creatives contributions to the art space and powerful thought? 

Simone Missick: I think that at the base,  it’s a fantasy show. It’s a comic book. Something that people feel that they can get lost in. But I think that inevitably, it will cause people to start to question their own consciousness. ‘Why do I look at people of color like they are criminals? Why do I assume that if a Black man gets shot by a police officer that he must have been doing something wrong? Why do I think it’s okay that people are targeted because they’re wearing a certain type of clothing?’  I think that it will reinvigorate the discussion surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin in circles where people might have thought ‘well the kid should not have ran. He should not have fought back. he was wearing a hood.’ How much do I think it will change people’s initial gut reaction? Not much.  but  I think their second thought will be “…but…” and they will think of the converse side of the argument. We hope that if you can consume our art, and love our music, and our actors and our culture, you would love us as human beings and fellow citizens of America and give a damn when we’re unjustly treated.

LaToya “Toi” Cross is the Senior Editor/ Entertainment and Culture  for  EBONY Magazine, and You can catch this laughing creative sharing work, art and capturing life via her iPhone 6 via her handle of @ToizStory on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.