Exclusive: Isaiah Mustafa Talks Luke Cage

Actor and former football standout Isaiah Mustafa broke into the public consciousness in those unforgettable Old Spice commercials and is about to hit theaters in his first dramatic role in Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, a job he landed when no less than Oprah Winfrey introduced him to Perry on her daytime talk show, so he knows well that, as the Old Spice guy says, “Anything is possible.” And the possibility he’s hoping for is the chance to play Marvel’s ex-con-turned-superhero Luke Cage on the big screen.

Mustafa’s a longtime comic book fan and he tells SuperHeroHype that he’s definitely placed himself in contention for the role (potential director John Singleton has leaned toward Tyrese Gibson, while studio head Avi Arad has expressed interest in Jamie Foxx), why he wants the job so badly, and just how he handles his ever-increasing comic book collection.

SuperHeroHype: Did I read somewhere that you’re a big comic book fan?

Isaiah Mustafa: Yeah, I’m a huge comic book fan!

 SHH: How deep into it are you and for how long?

Mustafa: How deep down the rabbit hole would you like to go? [Laughs] For how long? Since 1980 – since I could read, six years old.

SHH: Are you trying to get meetings with Marvel?

Mustafa: I’ve already had a meeting with Marvel. I talked to them and I told them that I was a gracious reader of their comics and that I wanted to be Luke Cage. So we’ll see where they take it.

SHH: We see it, but why Luke Cage? There are a handful of heroes over there that you might be also right for, but why him in particular?

Mustafa: When you say “handful” you’re not joking around, but it’s because what’s going on with him right now in the Marvel Universe. I think all their [early black] characters were these Blaxploitation characters – these jokey, clownish characters – but now they’ve really developed the African-American characters. Luke Cage has a lot going on. He’s this man, he’s got all these powers and abilities and he can use them to save whatever major city, but instead of doing that he uses them to help Harlem. He wants to fix his neighborhood, and that’s what’s so admirable to me. Instead of leaving and going someplace bigger, he stays right where he needs to be and tries to do the best that they can.

SHH: Does Marvel currently have something actively cooking for Luke Cage, or are you trying to help them get a film off the ground?

Mustafa: They have something in mind, I think, and I definitely want them to see that I’m extremely passionate about it. I’m extremely passionate about being that character. I will do anything to get that role. It strikes me. It’s very personal to me. I hold onto it. It’s something that I desire more than just about anything that I can think of right now, as far as work goes.

SHH: Is there anything over at DC?

Mustafa: I mean, you have to pick what team you’re on, and I don’t want to say that I’m not a DC guy, but I definitely grew up a Marvel maniac. That’s what I read all the time. I don’t want to say that I don’t like Superman, Batman, Aquaman, all those guys in the Justice League. I think they’re all great, but my attention kind of goes towards “The Avengers” and “The New Avengers,” “The Secret Avengers” and everything that they’re doing now at Marvel I like.

SHH: Do you still have your entire comic book collection, from when you were a kid to now?

Mustafa: I do. They’re in storage and I don’t read them. I need to go and take a look at them, but I have all my comic books. The problem is that they take up space now. Now that you have an iPad, you can download these comics on your iPad. You just need to get the ones that they have, and their selection is limited. That’s the only drawback.

SHH: I’m going to have change apartments soon because my comic book collection has gotten so out of control.

Mustafa: Yeah! At one point in time I had I-don’t-know-how-many of those long boxes – I think it was just under ten long boxes. I was well into the teens with the short ones. Then after a while there were shoeboxes full of different comics. I have tons of them. To go through them is pointless, to change the bags on them is pointless because what happens is that you get three into it and you go, ‘Oh, yeah,’ and you start reading. Then you can never finish doing it. It’s always a labor of love, like, ‘I could go do this or that – but damn it!’

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family hits theaters this Friday, April 22nd. Here are a couple of Mustafa’s Old Spice commercials: