Luke Cage‘s newest villain, Bushmaster, is one of the best additions to the Marvel Netflix show. But the actor behind Bushmaster, Mustafa Shakir, said to Digital Spy that he auditioned for several prominent superhero roles, and after losing them, he felt like “the doors were closing in” on his goal of playing in the comic book arena.
First, he was about to play Cage’s first significant adversary in the first season, Cottonmouth, played spectacularly by Mahershala Ali.
“I couldn’t do it because I was under contract with another show, Quarry–they held me forever,” he said. “It’s hard to see Cottonmouth as anybody else now. Mahershala did his thing, and I’m glad that he did because Bushmaster is more my speed in fact. It incorporates a lot more of my abilities, and so that’s fun.”
Shakir also auditioned for Cress Williams’ lead role in The CW’s Black Lightning and Winston Duke’s role as M’Baku in Marvel’s Black Panther.
Shakir admitted Duke “killed it” in the role of M’Baku, saying “I couldn’t even imagine doing that,” but he was sure he’d get Black Lightning. “I usually don’t, but I campaigned for it. I was pretty sure I was going to get it. I was close,” he said. “But I didn’t get it. They said that I was a little too dark for the role. It just crushed my heart. There’s not a lot of black superheroes in the comic book lexicon, so I felt like the doors were closing…”
However, his break in the comic book world as Bushmaster came a month after losing out on Black Lightning. Shakir said he feels his role is part of the change in Hollywood when it comes to substantial roles for black actors.
“I loved watching Superman as a kid, but I can’t imagine, if Superman looked like me, what that would have done for me as a child,” he said. “So I think representation is huge–and if you really understand how the markets work, it’s just wise. If money is the bottom line, then you want to play with that a little bit more.”