Danielle A. Scruggs has completed the second season of Marvel and Netflix’s superhero saga, Luke Cage, and details the female voices behind the scenes.
Call it the Ava Effect.
Two years after the groundbreaking filmmaker Ava DuVernay hired an all-women roster of directors for the critically acclaimed OWN drama Queen Sugar, several TV shows have now been regularly hiring women, including Marvel’s Luke Cage, whose second season debuts June 22.
Six out of 13 episodes of season two are directed by women after season one featured zero women in the director’s chair. Other shows have followed in DuVernay’s footsteps, including Jessica Jones, which boasted an all-women directing roster for its second season. TV studios are recognizing the importance of expanding the pool of talent when it comes to bringing all kinds of stories to life and I couldn’t be happier.
Let’s take a look at the full roster for season two of Luke Cage, which includes a diverse array of talent who come from the worlds of TV and film.
Lucy Liu, who directed Luke Cage’s second season premiere, has starred in several iconic roles throughout her 27-year career, including O-ren Ishii, the deadly Chinese-Japanese assassin who dueled with Uma Thurman’s The Bride in Kill Bill, Alex Munday in McG’s over-the-top reimagining of Charlie’s Angels, Ling Woo on Ally McBeal, and now as Watson on Elementary, the latest take on the mythology of Sherlock Holmes. Liu first directorial effort was Meena, which she co-directed with Collin K. Ray in 2012. She has also directed several episodes of Elementary since its debut in 2014.
Steph Green is an Oscar-nominated director for the film New Boy (2007), a short film that captures the experience of being the new kid in school, through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy named Joseph. Green’s previous TV credits include Preacher, The Americans, Scandal and The Man in High Castle.
Salli Richardson-Whitfield (who is married to actor Dondre Whitfield) is an actress and director who has moved seamlessly between these two roles for more than 20 years. Her acting credits include the film Posse (Mario Van Peebles’ highly underrated take on Westerns, I Am Legend, Black Dynamite, voicework on the classic animated show Gargoyles, Newsroom, Being Mary Jane, and I Will Follow, the feature film directorial debut of Ava DuVernay. Richardson-Whitfield’s directing resume is just as remarkable; credits include Queen Sugar, Scandal, Underground, Dear White People, Black Lightning, and Love Is.
Eve’s Bayou, Kasi Lemmons’ 1997 award-winning and critically acclaimed directorial debut, is an absorbing Southern Gothic tale whose visual impact can be seen in Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album, Lemonade (along with Julie Dash’s 1991 classic Daughters of the Dust.) Lemmons has also directed Talk To Me, a hilarious biopic starring Don Cheadle and Taraji P. Henson about DC radio legend Petey Greene, The Caveman’s Valentine, Black Nativity, and an episode of Shots Fired, the critically acclaimed limited series created by Gina Prince-Bythewood. And much like Richardson-Whitfield, Lemmons was also an actress before setting her sights on directing, having starred in The Five Heartbeats, The Silence of the Lambs, Candyman, and the cult comedy Fear of a Black Hat.
Millicent Shelton has more than 70 directing credits under her belt. Her career started as a wardrobe production assistant on Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing. Since then, she has directed a movie (the 1998 comedy Ride) and episodes for several modern classic TV shows, including Everybody Hates Chris, 30 Rock, Scandal, Black-ish and the highly anticipated third season of Insecure. No word though if she’s Team Issa or part of #LawrenceHive.
Neema Barnette has been working in film and TV for more than 30 years. Her earliest credits include What’s Happening Now and A Different World. She also directed the 2002 film Civil Brand, an underrated film starring N’Bushe Wright about the harsh conditions a group of black women faced in prison, tackling the prison industrial complex long before Orange is the New Black popped up in our Netflix queues. Barnette is also on the all-women directors roster for Queen Sugar and will also be a director for OWN’s latest drama Love Is…, based on Mara Brock Akil’s early career and love story with husband and creative partner Samil Akil.
Marvel and Netflix’s Luke Cage will makes it return to the streaming service this Friday, June 22.
Danielle A. Scruggs is a photo editor, photographer, and writer from Chicago, IL and currently based in Washington, D.C. She is also the founder of Black Women Directors, an online platform dedicated to celebrating the work of women and nonbinary filmmakers of African descent.