Luke Cage Star Simone Missick Talks Detroit Upbringing

Before she was Misty Knight, actress was a classical musician and track athlete at Renaissance High School

She may be making waves in the Marvel Universe as Harlem detective Misty Knight, but Netflix’s Luke Cage star Simone Missick is a Detroit woman through and through. With her current show receiving rave reviews (and a confirmed role in the mini-series The Defenders), Missick’s journey from classical musician and high school track athlete to action hero has brought her to new career heights, but she credits her Detroit roots with much of her success. 

Hour Detroit: What was your childhood like growing up in Detroit?

Simone Missick: I grew up in a working-class family with my brother and sister on the east side of Detroit. My dad was a teacher … an adult educator for over 20 years in Detroit. My mom was a health inspector for the city and then became a social worker. It was a very happy, typical life. 

I attended Bates Academy and then went on to attend Renaissance High School. During that time, I just experienced everything that my parents could think of for me to do as a kid. I played basketball and softball and tennis down at Coleman A. Young Community Center and ran track in high school and played the violin with Dave Berry over at Bates Academy. 

I got to do a lot of things thanks to my parents and the men and women in our community. 

HD: Did you ever consider pursuing music as a career?

SM: I did until my junior year of high school when I was in the Blue Lake International Orchestra. We traveled abroad and I really saw the amount of time that was necessary to succeed. [But] I knew that music was not where my passion [was]. I always knew I wanted to be an actor as a kid, and didn’t really know how that was going to come about because it was a secret desire, one that I hadn’t shared with my family really … they all thought I was going to play music.

HD: How did you come to join the cast of Luke Cage?

SM: I auditioned. I put myself on tape, meaning I recorded my audition in my living room at home and sent it off to my manager who was very excited about the audition, about my performance. [At a second, live audition] I ended up meeting the head of Marvel, the show runner, the head writer, and an executive producer. They kept their cards very close and their poker faces on. It wasn’t until much later, after I got the job, that they said, “We knew before you came in the room that you were Misty. We just wanted to see you live and in person and make sure you were the real deal.”

HD: Your character, Misty Knight, instantly feels different than the females in most superhero worlds. She’s tough. She’s grounded. How much of that was your influence?  

SM: Misty Knight is definitely based off of strong women, like Pam Grier, who we saw in the ’70s as this very sexy and alluring woman who was also witty and could kick ass. That is what I wanted to create when they created Misty. 

I guess that was always the plan from the beginning … to be true to the comic and to give her this confidence and this bravado and this swagger that people have grown to love… [I think] it’s impossible to be a woman who’s a detective in a city like New York and to not be very confident and strong and capable and self-assured. 

HD: Luke Cage is heavily influenced by its Harlem setting. Did your formative years in Detroit inform your approach to playing off of that environment?

SM: This is my first time playing a role like this, so I definitely did my research, but there is a kinship between the people who grow up in a borough like Harlem. It’s the same with people who grow up in a city like Atlanta or Inglewood, California, or Chicago. … I think that growing up in Detroit definitely influenced my understanding of who a woman like [Misty] is.