Marvel still can seemingly do no wrong, box-office wise, and that success has been largely mirrored through an ever-expanding array of television shows that presently air across the TV spectrum. The newest arrival, Cloak & Dagger (debuting on Freeform on Thursday, June 7), stands out from the rest. The show follows two teens who discover their dormant superpowers and realize they’re better as a team than apart. Yes, this sounds like another current Marvel show, Runaways, but Cloak & Dagger is infused with a gritty reality that extends its appeal from the targeted young adult audience to an older crowd.
The show’s two main characters — Tyrone Johnson (Aubrey Joseph), who possesses the ability to engulf others in darkness, and Tandy (Olivia Holt), who can emit light daggers — source back to 1980s Spider-Man issues and have briefly popped up in a number of Marvel comics. They’re finally getting their due with episodes that dig deep into their struggles and motivations, and while their essential characteristics from the comics remain, their backstories have been significantly tweaked to add more layers to an already rich history.
In an intriguing twist, the team behind Cloak & Dagger also moved the show’s setting from New York to New Orleans. Showrunner Joe Pokaski (producer and writer of many Heroes and Daredevil episodes) was gracious enough to speak with us about that and several other topics, including the decision to tackle heavy cultural issues. Here’s our conversation:
I watched several episodes with my daughter. She’s 17, and she just loved the show, and of course, she wanted you to know.
That is awesome to hear. She has very good taste.
Well, most of the time….
That’s exactly who we’re aiming for.
She digs Spider-Man, and of course, Cloak and Dagger debuted in Spider-Man comics, if I can go ahead and use him as a springboard?
Unlike Peter Parker, these two characters both suffer from class-based hardships. Considering this is a show about teen superheroes, what was the process in deciding to stick with such heavy themes?
I think we live in a heavy time, where we’re learning more and more that teenagers aren’t immune to it. We already wrote the first version of the scripts before Trayvon Martin, and even before some #MeToo things came out, and I think we kind of wanted to tell the story of the kind of heroes we need for the world right now.
Are today’s teens going to identify with these heroes?
I hope so, and I hope these heroes identify with these teens. I get a lot of inspiration from the Parkland kids. It seems like we live in a world where a lot of people, when you’re grown up, they say, “Too bad we can’t change that, that’s set in stone.” There’s some inspiration to be found in the real world of kids who say, “No, I’m gonna change it,” and hopefully the show will kind of provide a similar kind of inspiration to young kids growing up.
And what do you think adults will be able to gain from it?
I think a sense of hope again. A little sense of hope and bravery, I think we set up Tandy so she was this cynical human being, almost at an adult point of view, and thanks to this relationship with another human, kind of climbed her way back toward hope. And then Tyrone, just kind of living in fear, kind of learning to be brave again by way of Tandy. So hopefully, what I at least try to take from it is that we can all kind of embrace our inner kid and challenge the world to be a better place.