Marvel's 'Cloak And Dagger' Showrunner On The Darkforce Dimension And Telling The Comics Out Of Order [Interview]

Marvel is slowly taking over all the television and streaming services. Launching Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC made sense since Disney owns both Marvel and the network. Then Netflix became home to their more adult shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and The Punisher. Hulu got Marvel's Runaways and now Marvel's Cloak & Dagger is premiering on Freeform.

Tandy (Olivia Holt) and Ty (Aubrey Joseph) are two teenagers from different backgrounds who discover they each have unique powers. Tandy can create daggers out of light, and Ty can teleport with his cloak. They both see into the Darkforce Dimension, too.

Joe Pokaski created Marvel's Cloak & Dagger for television, coming from the team on Daredevil and working on Underground in-between. Pokaski spoke with /Film by phone about the modern day adaptation of Cloak & Dagger. Marvel's Cloak & Dagger premieres June 7 on Freeform (read our rave review here).

I hope you take my first question in the spirit of fun but will Dabney Coleman ever make a cameo on your show?

[Laughs] You're the first person to ever, ever make that reference. Now I kind of want to. I've never thought of it but now I need to figure out a way for him or Henry Thomas to show up at some point.

I'm not really the first person to make a Cloak & Dagger joke, am I?

No.

I just had to get it out of my system.

That's completely fair. I have to say, it was one of my favorite movies growing up. I recently watched it with my kids again and it's so much fun.

How is working with Marvel on Freeform different from working with Marvel on Netflix?

To be 100% honest, not too different. I think Jeph Loeb really loves the characters first and foremost. So I've never met anyone with more encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel universe, that had the ability to adjust the tone of the storytelling to who the characters are. Netflix was kind of high stakes. It was their first show and it was fun to work with Drew [Goddard] and everybody on getting it up on its feet. This felt like Marvel was very exciting to do something with a slightly different look and feel and a slightly different tone. So both experiences were positive so far. I'm knocking on wood as we speak.

Was part of the adaptation adding parents to the story so Ty and Tandy are not runaways?

To some degree. It's funny, when you look at the old comics, they had those pages that were filled with way too many words and referenced their backstories where Tandy kind of ran away from a semi-abusive relationship, and Tyrone was living in Boston. They had these lives that we kind of skirt over in the comics and I thought showing their parents, showing where they came from in the long format felt the right thing to do to really understand them as human beings and also just to mess with their heads, because that's what parents are there for.

Could this ultimately lead to them going off on their own like in the comics?

I don't want to spoil anything but that's certainly an option that we always have in front of us and we always want to consider when the right time to do it is.

Are Ty and Tandy the only characters with powers on this show?

At the beginning, yes.

Was it important to make the dagger a tangible prop that Olivia Holt can hold in her hands?

We wanted to basically represent what a young woman growing up in America today would need. Me growing up as someone who I feel like I was never young and I was certainly never a woman, there are certain aspects of things I don't have to understand. So we talked a lot with [director] Gina [Prince-Bythewood], with the women in our writers room as to giving her a weapon, giving her something to protect herself. It felt like the dagger was a good version of that. As we move on in the season, we're going to play with different forms of the dagger. She's eventually going to learn how to throw it and things like that, but it felt like to make this real and to fit into the MCU as I understand it, you wanted that dagger to be a more solid thing.

What is the practical dagger we see at the beginning made out of?

Oh, the prop itself is made up of hundreds of hours of work of all of us. Our director of photography, our gaffer and our prop master, we all got together for a couple weekends. The original one was made of lucite and we have these special lights that we had to basically find small versions of that burned in both a tungsten and kind of a warmer color so we can adjust the color and even make it blue every once in a while. So it's a lucite casing around these specialized lights that we use.

So there's practical light coming from within?

Yes, there's always practical light in the dagger and we'll sometimes flavor how it looks with some VFX. The whole idea is when Tandy has a dagger, we want to see it reflect on her face as part of her emotional journey at the time.

Did you want to make the Darkforce Dimension just a little bit surreal but not totally otherworldly?

I think this is our first look at it. There's a couple steps that we're going to be exploring over the course of the series but the very first elements of it, we wanted Tyrone to be able to witness people's fears and Tandy to be able to witness people's hopes. So we wanted to just tweak it a little and make it seem a little unworldly but we're going to get a little bit weirder and weirder as people start getting comfortable. We might not ever see skeletons inside it but I think the idea is the fun of the series is Tandy and Tyrone will learn more and more about what they're capable of over the series.

Marvel stories have always been ways to help deal with real life issues. Was it important to deal with subjects like racial profiling, drug addiction and suicide?

Absolutely. I think it was one of the reasons I was really drawn to it. It was a different time, but I think Cloak & Dagger tried to deal with drug addiction, tried to deal with the runaway situation. I think looking at the time we were releasing this and we were working on this, we were just starting to understand the problems we had with the way police see certain people. And we were also dealing with the fact that women aren't safe everywhere. To tell a true Tandy and Tyrone story, it felt like we really need to understand where they were coming from in real life.

Cloak and Dagger trailer 2

Now that unfortunately these issues continue in real life, can you adapt later episodes or future seasons to address current issues?

Absolutely. I think we want to tell good stories first and foremost. I talk a lot with both Olivia and Aubrey in particular about what kind of message we want to send. We talk about when things happen and how we're responding to them. As we started talking about season two, we think about the Parkland kids and how they're inspirational as heroes unto themselves. In a world where grown-ups say you can't move the needle on gun control, these kids are saying, "Watch us." Absolutely we want art to reflect life, we want life to reflect art. We don't get too crazy about anticipating things or reacting to things but sadly a lot of these things just happen time and time and time again until somebody stands up and stops them, which is kind of what our show is about.

Even with the Parkland students, some of the African-American students are having separate press conferences and events to point out even with that inspirational movement, it's still a struggle for people of color to be heard.

Absolutely and I think that's true across so many platforms, not just in gun control. I think the fact that we're having that discussion is great but we definitely need to adjust how we filter things, particularly in the media.

With the 2004 Punisher movie, fans weren't happy about moving Frank Castle to Miami. Was moving Cloak & Dagger to New Orleans pretty well accepted?

Yeah, people seem excited about it so far. I don't think there's a human being on this planet who can argue that New York doesn't have enough superheroes. I think there's something, we found something magical in moving Tandy and Tyrone to New Orleans because their story always has been a little dark and a little gothic. There's nothing darker and gothic and really more European in America than New Orleans. So I have a feeling the people who actually watch the first couple hours will embrace it. I think the Marvel universe is so big and so great, the rest of America and the rest of the world needs it a little more.

Has it given you all of the local culture and factions to play with in the story?

Yeah, I think even right from the get go, we found an interesting way to introduce the first sign of Tyrone's cloak for example, by way of something specific to New Orleans and the Mardi Gras Indians. The idea of this city that needs a hero, the city that refuses to die felt very Cloak & Dagger.

Will Tyrone's father's relationships in the community be an integral part of the story?

Absolutely. I think we were very lucky to have a couple writers who spent a lot of time in New Orleans. We were able to really get the real on what people from all walks of life were doing. I think that's part of what informed these Mardi Gras Indians, the basis of this tradition is the enslaved being thankful to the Indians who helped them survive, whether they ran away or after they were freed. That sense of gratitude and that sense of honoring them just felt very Marvel.

Are the Mardi Gras Indians completely original to the show?

That's completely New Orleans. It just felt once we started talking about it and once we started talking about really setting up at least a primary origin story for this cloak, it felt like a great marriage.

Is Tandy's mom a new conflict because she's clearly not a supermodel in this incarnation, and now her father is out of the picture?

Yeah, listen, it's funny, part of the reason we cast Andrea [Roth] who's beautiful, we talked about someone who possibly used to be a supermodel. Tandy's mom I think is going to surprise you. I don't want to give away too much, but I think the whole idea is that the audience and Tandy herself will think they have Tandy's mom's number but she's going to surprise us in a few ways.

Is the music very Freeform friendly?

I think the music is probably more Joe Pokaski friendly. I think so. I'm a big music person. Back on Underground, Misha [Green] and I used to go crazy and listen to 100, 200 songs for each spot to make sure we got the right vibe. Our only rule was that it just had to be different and cool. I was able to work with a lot of the same people we worked with on Underground to just find some new artists. A lot of it feels young.

Does Freeform help with licensing since they have all these relationships already?

Yeah, I mean, listen, ABC Music, who generally gives us our hands with Freeform, does a great job in trying to help our licensing and also to suggest new artists. I've been blown away with our ability to, I think we produced a new song, you hear it in episode 4 for the Mardi Gras Indians, and some original stuff in episode 3. It's just amazing when you have enough people who care enough to help you actually create new versions of songs for your story.

Daredevil is still running but were you able to bring any behind the scenes talent from there to Cloak & Dagger?

To be honest, the people at Marvel Television are always great in sharing some secrets every once in a while. So I think a lot of the stuff we did in post on Daredevil, I was able to copy it to some degree. There are a few behind the scenes people, I'm not sure I'm able to mention them, who were super helpful in getting us up off the ground and making sure we had as gritty a look and feel that Daredevil has.

At the same time, Cloak & Dagger is more supernatural than Daredevil, right?

Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a little more of the mystical, there's obviously the light dagger and the teleportation by way of cloak. It goes a little further than Matt Murdock beating the sh*t out of people.

For fans who read all the comics, are you making any changes to the overlying conspiracy so that people who read it don't know exactly what's coming every week?

Yeah, I think what I want for them, I think it's going to feel very different to them at first. And I think with every week, they're going to realize we're telling the same story, just way the hell out of order. So I'm excited. I'm girding myself for the one or two purists who are angry that she doesn't have her costume down to her navel at the beginning, but I'm actually very excited for the open minded fans to watch it and then kind of smile a couple times an episode and realizing that we're kind of sneaking it all back to what they want.