PHOTOGRAPHY BY MYLES LOFTIN
Fans of Marvel’s Luke Cage delighted in spotting Harlem and Washington Heights locations—from the ornate United Palace theater to the neoclassical Mount Olivet Baptist Church—throughout the Netflix show’s first season. “We’re in a heightened world, where people have superpowers,” says co–executive producer Aida Croal. “Anything we can do to ground the series makes the audience invest in the reality.”
For the second season, which starts streaming June 22, Croal wrote an episode that finds Harlem’s Hero (played by Mike Colter) in a showdown with a new villain on the High Bridge, a 140-foot-tall steel arch that spans the Harlem River, from Highbridge Park in Manhattan’s Washington Heights to the Bronx, just north of Yankee Stadium. “I was looking for something that felt like a confrontation in a Western—that High Noon–type feeling,” she says. “I couldn’t believe New York actually had something like this.”
The High Bridge opened in 1848—it beats the Brooklyn Bridge for the title of NYC’s oldest bridge by 35 years—as part of the Croton Aqueduct system, transporting water from the Croton River to Manhattan and becoming a kind of “19th-century High Line,” according to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. It was closed for more than 40 years before undergoing a three-year, $61.8 million restoration and reopening to the public in June 2015.
Beyond the confrontation on the bridge, Croal says that this season will see Cage more frequently venturing beyond Harlem in his quest to protect the neighborhood. “New York has so much texture,” she says. “Being able to film with directors who understand and capture that will allow people to buy into Luke Cage and his world and his struggles and the struggles of his community.”