[Warning: The following contains heavy spoilers for Marvel's Luke Cage episode 7. Read at your own risk!]
In a fit of rage, the city councilwoman pushes her cousin Cornell (Mahershala Ali) out of a window, and then beats him to death with a mic stand. Brutal, right? Woodard told a roundtable of reporters, including TVGuide.com, that it's the toughest scene she's ever had to commit to film — and was against filming it at first.
"I told [the producers], 'First of all, I don't want to do it, but why this way? This is crazy. It's unbelievable. it's bulls---t," Woodard explained. "So we talked about what would drive her all the way through to carry it out. It was the toughest thing that I ever did when I look back on it. I wept during the table read because I didn't want come to [set] that day."
Mariah's meltdown comes after flashbacks revealed a crucial night in both her and Cornell's childhoods. Cornell was forced by their grandmother to kill their Uncle Pete, the only man who ever believed in Cornell's potential for anything other than crime. It cements Cornell's journey to take over the family hustle business and his resentment for Mariah, who was sent off to proper schools to be educated — and to save her from Pete's unwanted advances. When Cornell insinuates that Mariah enjoyed Pete's attention, she goes off the handle.
"Family are the people that can hurt you the most," Ali noted. "You can meet someone on the street and they call you a name, but they don't know you. They can't hit you in the same spots that family can hit you because [your family] knows you intimately."
And Cornell knew exactly what spot to hit with Mariah. Knowing that this is a sore spot for her — to say the least — Mariah's cousin is about to bring back the exact feeling of her trauma, in order to make her flip out.
It wasn't like, 'This is the plan. This is how I'm going to do this to Cornell,'' Ali continued. "There was a fight that they can't come back from."
While the episode may be the end of Cornell's journey, it's only the beginning of Mariah's. Executive producer Cheo Hodari Coker explains that Luke Cage ends up being Mariah's origin story as much as it is the story of its titular character.
"What's great is that, if for Luke Cage as a character the Season 1 arc is the birth of a hero, it's also the birth of a villain — because when you see her and her evolution, it is something to behold. [Woodard] is absolutely amazing as Mariah Dillard," he said. "The first seven is just the beginning of it. She goes much deeper in the next six."
Marvel's Luke Cage is now streaming on Netflix.