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10 Marvel Casting Choices That Elevated Lesser Known Talent

Marvel continues to cast from a pool of unknown actors and given their great track record, we’re into it.
Spider Man Far From Home Tom Holland
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on July 7th, 2017

Marvel continues to cast from a pool of unknown actors and given their great track record, we’re into it.

Luke Cage is looking to bulk up its Season 2 cast with two newcomers as it prepares for a 2018 release date. Following from the Harlem-based crime fighter’s crusades in The Defenders (set for release next month), Luke Cage’s second season will introduce Mustafa Shakir (The Night Of) and Gabrielle Dennis (Insecure) alongside the show’s existing cast. They will be playing characters with villainous roots in Marvel Comics. However, as per the studio’s usual protocol, details of their onscreen iterations remain under wraps.

Either way, these developments are extremely exciting, purely because of Marvel’s consistency with casting good actors. This happens regardless of fame and exposure.

While Marvel has recently gone for big-name villains and surprising cameos to ramp up interest in their projects, they are even better vehicles for lesser known actors to showcase their talents, gaining them dedicated followings and opening them up to future projects.

They change the MCU for the better by creating believable heroes audiences can invest in. Here are just some of our favorites:

Mike Colter (Luke Cage, The Defenders)

Colter had an extensive background in television before being cast as the impenetrable Defender. He was probably best known for his turn as a drug lord in The Good Wife named Lemond Bishop. He also starred in the short-lived Sarah Michelle Gellar headliner Ringer, which aired on the CW for one season.

Like Atwell, Colter found his big break with Marvel. Embodying someone as literally powerful as Luke Cage can be an acting conundrum. There’s always a distinct possibility of him being too infallible to be buoyant or charismatic. But much about Luke Cage is contextual as well. The show’s modern interpretation of the character in itself represents vital symbolism. That is, a bulletproof, dark-skinned black man with a gracious heart, even if he happens to be plagued by demons. Colter’s quiet charisma lends to the role beautifully and he is easily the most likable Defender from his first moment onscreen.

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter (Captain America, Agent Carter)

Prior to being cast as Peggy Carter in The First Avenger, Atwell was primarily known for British film and television projects. The Captain America franchise ended up being her biggest break. She proves much more memorable than the typical Marvel heroine, especially one that was introduced in Phase One. The initial sea of origin stories featured several women as mere secondary characters. They mostly served to prop up the male protagonists with limited agency.

Atwell brought a sense of timelessness to Peggy and took her beyond damsel status. As a character, Peggy was simultaneously powerful and vulnerable and truly affected the overall cinematic universe to a staggering degree. Atwell remains one of the few actors to crossover between Marvel’s film and television divisions. She headlined Agent Carter for two seasons and every Peggy cameo or mention made fans smile. Peggy is one of the MCU’s most enduring characters and it is all due to Atwell’s poise, charm, and authority.

Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther)

This was a trickier addition to this list. Boseman has had a steady reputation for headlining biopics (42, Get on Up) before taking on the role of T’Challa. He has had starring roles in TV as well, although never really finding shows to holistically match his caliber. At least, he was certainly the highlight of Persons Unknown (as much of it as I actually watched).

Boseman quickly became a fan favorite after a surprisingly substantial role in Captain America: Civil War. In a big film with such a massive, well-established cast, it can be difficult to be distinguishable. However, despite not yet appearing in his own solo film, T’Challa was one of the scene stealers that balanced anonymity and intrigue. The character functioned as a bridging force between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark but still manages to have a fuller arc in that movie than either of those characters. So while Boseman’s onscreen prowess has been well-documented in the past, playing T’Challa shot him to tangible international fame and mercifully did not scrimp on his talents in the slightest.


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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)