Stars from Marvel and Netflix’s new series Luke Cage have praised the show for bringing a leading black superhero to the mainstream media.

Former House Of Cards actor Mahershala Ali, who plays the series’ villain Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, said a programme like this was “overdue”.

Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter, is the leading character in Marvel’s first show focused on a black superhero.

Mahershala Ali plays Cottonmouth (Myles Aronowitz/Netflix)

Based on the original Luke Cage written into comic book history in the 1970s’ “blaxploitation” era, the character has been updated to fit into New York’s Harlem in 2016 and the series addresses some of the issues that people in the black community face in America on a daily basis.

Mahershala told the Press Association: “It’s not just about African-Americans – it’s about people of colour.

“There have been white people in leading positions for a very long time, and that’s fine; there just needs to be balance. And I’m not saying that people should go away, it just needs to be more diverse. That’s the world we live in.

“There are other people, other cultures, other points of view that need to be embraced and incorporated into the narrative so that people can see themselves.”

Mike Colter plays Luke Cage (Myles Aronowitz/Netflix)

Simone Missick plays Misty Knight – one of the first black female superheroes in comic book history – and she is incredibly “excited” to be taking on such an important role opposite Mike.

She said it was “definitely” the time for there to be a character like Luke Cage, with his bulletproof skin and living in Harlem, on TV and a show with a predominantly African-American cast and crew.

She said: “(The show) is introducing all of these characters in a time where we need to see more humanity of people of colour on TV.

Simone Missick plays Misty Knight (Myles Aronowitz/Netflix)

“We need to see them portrayed in a way that shows they are three-dimensional, and that they have the same thoughts and feelings and emotions as everyone; that we are humans.

“And I also think it is ushering in a new genre of superheroes of colour. We see a lot of shows created around that idea. But also strong women, and women of different ethnicities on TV and their storylines being held in the same regard as men.”

Simone added that “Netflix is so much further ahead of traditional TV” in terms of recognising the social and cultural differences among the viewing audience.

She said: “The social issues we deal with on the show are so timely, sadly enough, that it’s the right time to have this kind of show.”