Actor Mike Colter is best known for playing the title role in Luke Cage, a Netflix action drama based on the 1970s Marvel Comics superhero. Colter initially played the role for the Netflix series Jessica Jones (2015) before earning an opportunity to be the lead in his own series. Although he has bulletproof skin and superhuman strength, Luke Cage (also known as Carl Lucas) is more vulnerable, and troubled, than other characters from the Marvel universe. "He doesn't profess to know everything," Colter told Jason Tanz of Wired in 2016. "He's a work in progress." Before becoming Luke Cage, Colter enjoyed success as a versatile character actor on television series such as The Good Wife, Ringer, and The Following. Colter has also earned praise for his work on the big screen, with notable film credits including Million Dollar Baby (2004), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), and Girls Trip (2017).
Dedicated Himself to Acting during Childhood
Mike Randal Colter was born on August 26, 1976, in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the youngest child of Eddie Lee Colter Sr. and Freddie Marion Colter. Colter first discovered his passion for acting at age eight, after watching the Norman Jewison drama A Soldier's Story (1984). As a student at Calhoun County High School, Colter helped form a drama society, eventually becoming the club's president. After graduating, Colter briefly attended Benedict College in Columbia, where he honed his craft under the guidance of drama professor Scott Blanks. Colter transferred to the University of South Carolina, where he completed his bachelor of arts degree in theater in 1999. He continued his theatrical studies at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, where he earned a master's degree in 2001.
Upon completing his education, Colter moved to Los Angeles to audition for television and film roles. His first notable opportunity came in 2002, when he landed a guest role on the NBC hospital drama ER. That same year, Colter played the part of Lamar in an episode of the UPN comedy series The Parkers. Colter moved for a time to New York City with the aim of pursuing work in the theater. He soon found himself back in Hollywood, however, after he was cast as boxer Big Willie Little in the Clint Eastwood drama Million Dollar Baby (2004). The film proved to be a significant breakthrough for Colter. Widely celebrated by critics, Million Dollar Baby earned four Academy Awards, including the Oscar for best picture.
On the heels of Million Dollar Baby, Colter landed a number of minor film and television roles. In 2005 he played a police officer in an episode of the NBC crime drama Law & Order: Trial by Jury while also appearing in the made-for-television Christmas drama Silver Bells. That same year Colter acted alongside Danny Aiello and Jane Curtin in Brooklyn Lobster (2005), a dramatic comedy revolving around a family-operated lobster farm in Brooklyn. During this time Colter made his New York stage debut, playing Private C. J. Memphis in an off-Broadway revival of the Charles Fuller drama A Soldier's Play. First produced in 1981, the play was also the basis of the 1984 film A Soldier's Story, lending the production uniquely personal significance for Colter.
Over the second half of the decade, Colter continued to find steady acting work, both on television and on the big screen. In addition to appearing in episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2007) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2009), Colter was featured in such television movies as Solving Charlie (2009) and Taking Chance (2009). His next notable film role came in 2010, when he played a tactical commander for the Central Intelligence Agency in the Phillip Noyce spy drama Salt. That same year Colter landed his first regular part in a major television series, when he was cast as Lemond Bishop in the acclaimed network crime drama The Good Wife. As Bishop, Colter plays a suave but unscrupulous drug kingpin who retains the legal counsel of Lockhart Gardner, the law firm at the center of the series. Over several seasons on the show, Colter brings a ruthless intensity to his portrayal of Bishop, while forcing his attorneys to confront uncomfortable ethical situations relating to their decision to represent him.
Became a Marvel Superhero
Throughout his years as a cast member on The Good Wife, Colter appeared in various side projects. After making a guest appearance on the CBS series Blue Bloods in 2011, Colter was given a recurring role in the crime drama Ringer, playing Malcolm Ward in 16 episodes of the series over the 2011-12 television season. Colter returned to the big screen in 2012, appearing in the feature films Men in Black 3 and Zero Dark Thirty. In 2013 Colter performed alongside Kevin Bacon in the debut season of The Following, appearing as Nick Donovan in five episodes of the crime drama. Colter later reprised the character of Donovan during the show's third season, appearing in three additional episodes in 2015.
During this time, Colter was offered the role of Luke Cage in Jessica Jones. He was initially reluctant to accept the part. Indeed, when he first reviewed old copies of the original Marvel Comic Luke Cage series, the veteran actor felt the superhero was too one-dimensional for his liking. "The first thing I saw was this '70s version, Blaxploitation Luke Cage," he recalled to David Betancourt of the Washington Post in 2015, "and I said: 'Uh-oh, this is not something that I want to be a part of.'" After receiving assurances from the show's creators that they envisioned the updated Luke Cage to be a more fully developed and nuanced character, however, Colter agreed to take on the role. In preparing for filming, he undertook an intensive physical training regimen, eventually adding more than 30 pounds of muscle to his frame. Starring alongside Krysten Ritter's Jessica Jones, Colter imbued the character of Luke Cage with a quiet intensity, one that concealed the superhero's tragic personal history.
For Colter, Luke Cage also served as a way to explore the social issues affecting African Americans in the 21st century. Indeed, the character's complexity lent itself to a more probing examination of the question of racial justice. "We have a long path, and we try to tell a long story with Luke Cage," he told Meredith Woerner of the Los Angeles Times in December of 2015. "The things that he's going through will ring true for a lot of people in law enforcement and for those who are not in law enforcement. And people who are on the street will also relate to this character." At the same time, Colter envisioned the superhero's character development in individual terms. It's also about redemption," he told Woerner. "He's a renaissance man, he's trying to better himself and there's something to be said about someone who's always trying to make themselves better, trying to change. That's what life is about, to me, anyway. That's what life seems to be about for Luke Cage."
Following the success of Jessica Jones, Colter was given the chance to play the superhero in his own series. Luke Cage premiered on Netflix in September of 2016, receiving high praise from critics while attracting a wide audience. By the following year, the network announced plans to launch a second season of the program in 2018. In the meantime, Colter played Luke Cage in another Netflix series, The Defenders, which debuted in August of 2017. As one of cable television's most intriguing superheroes, Colter had clearly established himself as a major television actor.
Born Mike Randal Colter on August 26, 1976, in Columbia, SC; son of Eddie Lee Sr. and Freddie Marion Colter; married Iva Popovicova, 2016; children: Naiella. Education: Attended Benedict College, mid-1990s(?); University of South Carolina, BA, theater, 1999; Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts, MFA, 2001. Addresses: Office--c/o Silver Lining Entertainment, 6230 Wilshire Blvd., #1774, Los Angeles, CA, 90048. Twitter--@mikecolter_.
Film and television actor, 2002--.
- ER, NBC, 2002.
- The Parkers, UPN, 2002.
- Law & Order: Trial by Jury, NBC, 2005.
- Silver Bells, CBS, 2005.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent, NBC, 2007.
- Solving Charlie, ABC Studios, 2009.
- Taking Chance, HBO Films, 2009.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, NBC, 2009.
- Royal Pains, USA, 2010.
- The Good Wife, CBS, 2010-15.
- Blue Bloods, CBS, 2011.
- Ringer, CW, 2011-12.
- The Surgeon General, CBS, 2013.
- Criminal Minds, CBS, 2013.
- American Horror Story, FX, 2013-14.
- The Following, Fox, 2013-15.
- Halo: Nightfall, Bounder & Cad, 2014.
- Jessica Jones, Netflix, 2015.
- Agent X, TNT, 2015.
- Luke Cage, Netflix, 2016--.
- The Defenders, Netflix, 2017.
- Million Dollar Baby, Warner Bros., 2004.
- Brooklyn Lobster, Red Claw/Moe Greene Associates, 2005.
- And Then Came Love, Fox Meadow, 2007.
- Salt, Columbia, 2010.
- Men in Black 3, Columbia, 2012.
- Zero Dark Thirty, Columbia, 2012.
- Girls Trip, Universal, 2017.
Washington Post, November 18, 2015; September 30, 2016.
Fallon, Kevin, "'The Good Wife' Star Mike Colter Defends Lemond Bishop's Killer Instincts," The Daily Beast, September 29, 2014, https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-good-wife-star-mike-colter-defends-lemond-bishops-killer-instincts (accessed January 10, 2018).
Gleaton, Dionne, "A Superhero with Local Roots: St. Matthews Native Starring in Netflix's 'Luke Cage,'" The T&D, August 26, 2017, http://thetandd.com/lifestyles/a-superhero-with-local-roots-st-matthews-native-starring-in/article_7cf8e130-c3a6-5c1a-b810-d655941d5ccf.html (accessed January 10, 2018).
Tanz, Jason, "Modern Marvel: Why Netflix's Luke Cage Is the Superhero We Really Need Now," Wired, August 16, 2016, https://www.wired.com/2016/08/mike-colter-luke-cage/ (accessed January 10, 2018).
Thorp, Charles, "How Mike Colter Got Ripped for 'Luke Cage,'" MensJournal.com, 2017, http://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/articles/how-mike-colter-got-ripped-for-luke-cage-w444279 (accessed January 10, 2018).
Woerner, Meredith, "Mike Colter, Marvel's New Luke Cage, Talks about the Soul of His New Netflix Series," LATimes.com, December 29, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/herocomplex/la-et-hc-mike-colter-20151229-story.html (accessed January 10, 2018).
Zapata, Christian, "Netflix Star Mike Colter Holds Q&A Session at Rutgers," Daily Targum, April 9, 2017, http://www.dailytargum.com/article/2017/04/netflix-star-mike-colter-holds-qa-at-rutgers (accessed January 10, 2018).