The Netflix series “Luke Cage” has been trending all over the nation since its debut on Sept. 28, and one of the actors drawing attention is Pomfret’s Darius Kaleb.
The series, created by Cheo Hodari Coker, is based on the Marvel comic book character Luke Cage, originally Carl Lucas, and takes place in Harlem, New York. The most notable stars in the series — Mike Colter, Alfre Woodard, Rosario Dawson, Theo Rossi and Mahershala Ali — have stunned audiences with their intense roles.
But the show’s most controversial role of Lonnie Wilson, played by Darius, 13, has caused quite a stir among critics and viewers.
“Lonnie Wilson is one of the neighborhood kids in Harlem that always hangs around where Luke works and Luke watches out for Lonnie,” Darius said. “The police are looking for Luke Cage and one of my friends rats on me and tells the police that I know where he is. My character is fed up because I don’t have anything to do with it and I know Luke didn’t do what they are accusing him of.”
Luke Cage, played by Colter, is an ex-convict who was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit but gains the powers of superhuman strength and unbreakable skin after he was subjected to an involuntary experiment. Once freed, Cage becomes a hero for hire. Lonnie Wilson is a well-behaved kid that is brought to an interrogation room for questioning about Luke Cage’s whereabouts. Lonnie tells the interrogating officer that he was taken without probable cause and is then beaten by the cop. Soon after, a corrupt politician begins to use Lonnie’s beating as a political chip.
Darius is an award winning actor who has starred on Broadway in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” starring Denzel Washington and LaTanya Richardson Jackson, “Thriller Live” where he played the young Michael Jackson, and Berry Gordy Jr.’s hit musical, “Motown: The Musical,” as the young Berry Gordy Jr., Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. He said he had the most fun playing the role of Michael Jackson in “Motown: The Musical.”
“Many famous people came to my performance like Denzel Washington, Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama,” he said. “Working with Denzel was a good learning experience. He gave me some good advice, ran lines with me and I studied what he did when he was performing.”
Darius previously attended Dr. James Craik Elementary School. Both of his parents have lived in Pomfret for more than 20 years. Currently he is in the eighth grade and is being homeschooled because of his hectic schedule. He is involved with a lot of community activities, specifically football and basketball, and is currently in a music group called “The Brothers Harris” with his two older brothers.
His mother and father, Denise and Robert Harris, are also his talent managers. They said they loved seeing Darius grow into his character, Lonnie Wilson.
“It is exciting for me to see where he came from as a kid to where he is now,” Robert said. “He started singing and dancing when he was 18 months old. He would recite the entire Lion King musical on Broadway while his older brother acted in the play. The roles he has done since he was about 9 years old were all fun, energetic roles, live on Broadway, and he’s always the cutest kid on the set.”
“This being his first project with that kind of content [social issues], I believe he did an amazing job and it just looked flawless,” Denise said. “His role is very pertinent to what is happening today and I think that was done on purpose by the writer. Luke Cage is a respectable hero that is there to defend his community. I like seeing that in a black man on the big screen because they are typically depicted as angry. To see a black character get sort of top billing and it be a character of that caliber is something that we do need to see more of today.”
As Darius’ fame began to rise, his parents said the long drives to and from New York for auditions became strenuous, but talent made the extra effort totally worth it. His parents describe him as humble, and “a renaissance man” who will be at Denzel Washington’s status one day.
“For somebody his age to climb the ladder and work with so many A-List celebrities, that typically takes years to happen,” Robert said.
Darius said unfortunately there are many talented youth that go unrecognized in Charles County, and he knows dealing with rejection isn’t easy. His advice is to keep pushing and don’t stop before someone hires you or recognizes you. Darius said if he had given up, he would have never landed his big role in “Luke Cage.”
“I feel like ‘Luke Cage’ is the hottest show out there right now,” Darius said. “Not only is it popular because of Luke Cage but it also talks about social issues, police brutality and important topics. I didn’t even know he was a superhero before the show, but I think its great that it’s a mostly black cast because there’s not a lot of roles for us, especially kids my age. We mostly have to fight for one role but for the writer to create that many roles for us, it means we get our fair share.”
Darius, aka “The Prince of Swag,” describes himself as relentless. He has received the Black Essence Hall of Fame/Youth Division recognition and continues to shock others with his many talents. He is currently writing his own short film called “The Audition” and will be featured in an independent film called “STEPS.”