When the fictional Roxxon Gulf oil platform exploded off the coast of south Louisiana, the action was just beginning in last season’s premiere of the hit Marvel Comics-inspired TV show, "Cloak & Dagger."
Filmed entirely in New Orleans, the series revolves around two teenagers from very different backgrounds who find themselves with emerging superpowers acquired from an energy force coming from that rig explosion. What the characters don’t know at first is that their individual powers are inexplicably intertwined.
Twenty-one-year-old actor Aubrey Joseph plays New Orleans crime-fighter Tyrone Johnson, who can transport his enemies into a dimension of darkness via his cloak, while he can also teleport himself over long distances. And, when he touches people, he sees their fears.
His superhero accomplice Tandy Bowen, portrayed by actress Olivia Holt, also 21, has the ability to emit light daggers from her fingers, which drain living beings of their vitality. When she touches people, she sees their hopes.
Their nicknames, Cloak and Dagger, articulate their powers but also symbolize the shadow and light of their character’s personas. Their very different personalities in the series made any immediate friendship rocky, but they bond over issues of teen angst and troubled pasts.
By the end of Season 1, the chemistry between the two is palpable — something that came naturally for the actors, dating to their first audition.
“Aubrey is a tremendous talent and an incredible scene partner,” said co-star Olivia Holt. “His natural instincts are way beyond the norm.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better Tandy,” said Aubrey Joseph of his partner in crime-fighting. “Her passion and drive were something I really connected with early on.”
The stars of the show are no strangers to center stage. Olivia Holt is a former Disney Channel star and was a competitive gymnast for years. Aubrey Joseph honed his chops in the film "Run All Night" with Liam Neeson and Ed Harris. He also played young Simba in "The Lion King" on Broadway and is a trained ballet dancer.
There’s no shortage of drama for these characters set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They deal with collusion, cover-ups and murder in Season 1, and the second season promises to delve into such heavyweight topics as gang violence, racial discrimination, police brutality and human trafficking.
The comic-book characters Cloak and Dagger, aka the Divine Pairing of New Orleans, as the duo is known in Marvel scripts, first appeared in print back in 1982 in "Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man."
So the characters come to the show with some history. But, it’s not much, since the only specifics given back then were that the two were teen runaways who became unwitting victims of a sinister experiment that went awry, and inadvertently gave them powers. Of course, that very lack of detail gives the show’s writers and producers latitude to take the show virtually in any direction they wish.
“To be part of a show that tackles real-life issues is an unbelievable opportunity,” said Joseph. “This is one of the craziest things that’s ever happened to me. I’m suddenly part of Marvel, one of the biggest platforms in the world. And, let’s face it. It’s every kid’s dream to be a superhero.”
During the filming, the cast and crew were camped out on Airline Highway for months. In Season 1 familiar landmarks popped up everywhere, and Olivia Holt has her own favorite haunts.
“I’m a big fan of the Columns in the Garden District and their mint juleps on the front porch, and the revolving Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel," she said.
"And, I live for the Southern-fried nuggets dipped in buffalo sauce at the vegan restaurant, Seed.”
Superhero high jinks aside, critics have lauded the show as a restrained coming-of-age story.
“It’s the somber telling of two deeply traumatized kids trying to heal,” wrote Kelly Lawler of USA Today. "Their powers manifest as a metaphor for post-traumatic stress disorder, forcing them to relive the worst parts of their lives. This is a superhero show for fans who prefer meaning over martial arts.”
The dynamic duo will have many crossroads ahead, and as the show likes to say, the choice between right and wrong is not always black and white.
“New Orleans is a gritty city and the perfect place to set our story,” said Joseph.
“I grew up in Brooklyn, where there’s a certain fight that lives within you. This city has that grit and fight to keep prospering against all odds. And that aspect of hope is a huge part of our heroes’ journey.”
The two have become great friends in real life and the show is bouncing off that energy. Rumor has it there may even be an on-show romance blooming. The two-hour season premiere airs Thursday (April 4) on the Disney-owned Freeform Channel at 7 p.m.
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