John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile) (Stephen King)

John Coffey

“We each owe a death in this life, there are no exceptions. I know that, but sometimes, oh God, the Green Mile is so long.”


John Coffey is a Stephen King character, appearing in The Green Mile. Living in Great Depression America, he is a strange man with supernatural powers – perhaps some sort of angel. Appearing as a hulking Black transient, he is soon condemned for a crime he did not commit.

Usually with Stephen King Universe characters, I prefer to concentrate exclusively on the literary version. However, Michael Clarke Duncan  brought such life into the character in the The Green Mile 1999 movie, and the film was so true to the literary version that I felt it was worth some trouble to integrate the two character versions.



  • Real Name: John Coffey.
  • Marital Status: Presumed single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: Inmate at Cold Mountain State Penitentiary, c. 1932.
  • Base Of Operations: Cold Mountain, Louisiana.
  • Height: 7’ 2” Weight: 400 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Bald

Powers and Abilities

John Coffey is an empath of particularly potent abilities. He can feel the emotional state of those around him to a high degree (in DC Heroes terms, Empathy). Those he feels must be relatively close to him (at least in the same general area. For example, he can sense those in cell block E, but not farther away than that, or in other blocks.)

When he uses his empathic power on a subject, he can probe the memories and thoughts of the target (Mind Probe).

Coffey is able to heal a wide range of injuries and diseases, from crushing injuries to systemic infections, to cancerous tumors (Damage Transference). He can heal even fatal wounds. When Coffey pulls the disease from the target, it manifests as a cloud of black, bug-like creatures, which Coffey then expels on his breath, and then disperses.


When Coffey heals a target, the lights and electronic equipment around him surge, radios squeal and bulbs often burst (EMP).

If Coffey chooses to, he can “retain” the illness rather than expell it, and pass it on to another. In doing so, he can force another to feel the emotions associated with the disease.(Broadcast Empath)

In the case of Percy Wetmore, he emptied his gun into William Wharton under the influence of the despair and hostility he received from Coffey. The Empathic attack shattered Percy’s mind, leaving him essentially witless.

Living in the Now

By his own testimony of events, Coffey barely recalls what has happened to him at any time, and he quickly lets go of events almost as soon as they occur. This makes getting information out of him exceedingly difficult, and he has trouble learning from his experiences.

Coffey lives in the perpetual “now” of an almost zen-like state, never really worrying about the future or concerned about the past. While this can be a positive boon to one’s peace of mind, it means that a lot of avenues of play are closed off.

Coffey, in particular, is burdened almost constantly by the pain of the world, and given his mental state of “now-ness”, he never sees it getting any better.

This is one reason why he eventually gave up on living.

The Power of the White Compels You

Whether it is of any particular use in this story or in its genre, Coffey definitely has the True Faith DC Heroes Advantage. He is very obviously to anyone who knows him touched by God, or as King describes it in other SKU works, “a servant of the White”.

King’s universal philosophy of religion has God as a much more impersonal force than in standard Christian iconography. ”The White” is the general force for Good, also called Reason or the Purpose) and unlike the force of Evil (known as “The Random” , the Beast” or “The Crimson King”), generally does not interfere directly in the Universe.

The White acts through its servants, and often only as a last resort, or simply to lend them the strength they require to persevere on their own.

The White makes no overt appearance in The Green Mile, but as Coffey is one of its servants, its influence is still subtly felt.


HD version of the official movie trailer.


The Green Mile is a story told in flashback by an elderly Paul Edgecombe in a nursing home. He tells a friend about the summer of 1932 when he was a corrections officer in charge of Death Row inmates in Louisiana’s Cold Mountain Penitentiary (the book does not mention the state Cold Mountain is in, but it is in the Deep South).

His domain was called “The Green Mile” because the condemned prisoners walking to their execution are said to be walking “the last mile” here, on a stretch of concrete floor painted lime-green. The main feature of the cellblock was “Old Sparky”, the electric chair.

One day, a new inmate arrives, John Coffey, a muscular 7-plus foot tall African-American man convicted of raping and killing two young white girls.

Upon being escorted to his cell, he demonstrates a “gentle giant” character—keeping to himself, afraid of the dark and being moved to tears on occasion. Soon enough, Coffey reveals his extraordinary healing powers by healing Edgecombe’s urinary tract infection and resurrecting a mouse.

Later, he would heal the terminally ill wife of Warden Hal Moores, who had a brain tumor the size of a lemon. Although it is clear that Coffey has a degree of control over his power, when asked to explain it, he merely says that he “took it back.”

Big house

At the same time, Percy Wetmore, a violent, sadistic, and potentially mentally ill guard who takes pleasure in intimidating and injuring inmates, exasperates everyone else in the cellblock. He “knows people, big people” (he was the nephew of the governor’s wife), preventing Edgecombe or anybody else from doing anything significant to curb his contentious behavior.

Wetmore recognizes that the other officers greatly dislike him, and uses that to demand being promoted or managing the next execution. After that, he promises, he will have himself transferred to an administrative post in the Briar Ridge mental hospital, and they will never hear from him again.

A reluctant agreement is made. However, Edgecombe comes to regret it after Wetmore deliberately sabotages the execution of Eduard Delacroix, a Cajun inmate who had previously embarrassed him. Even Percy is horrified by the gruesome spectacle, as Delacroix is literally fried to death.

Meanwhile, a violent prisoner named William Wharton arrives, due to be executed for multiple murders he committed during a robbery. At one point he seizes Coffey’s arm, and Coffey senses that Wharton is the true killer of the two girls, the crime for which Coffey was falsely convicted and sent to death row.

Coffey then uses his powers to compel Wetmore to empty his handgun into Wharton, after which Wetmore falls into a permanent catatonic state.

Supernatural justice

Stunned by these events, Edgecombe queries Coffey, who says he “punished them bad men”. The giant then takes Edgecombe’s hand and imparts the vision that he saw of what really happened to the girls, a vision that Edgecombe finds nearly unbearable to endure.

Wharton is dead at Wetmore’s hand, and Wetmore ends up as a patient at the very asylum to which he promised Edgecombe he would transfer.

Notwithstanding Coffey’s incredible abilities and the wrongness of his conviction, he ends up being executed out of rank racism.

Another key factor was Coffey’s constant depression caused by the pain in the world and “how people are always ugly to each other”. He described it as “like pieces of glass in my head”, driving him crazy. Coffey therefore refused to have his death sentence overturned, or to allow Paul to help him escape.

The proper story ends there. Edgecombe says he subsequently transferred from Death Row to a youth detention center, where he spent the remainder of his career.


The story then returns to the present, where Edgecombe explains to his friend why he is able to remember the events of 1935: he is in fact 108 years old and still in excellent health. This is apparently a side effect of the life-giving power of Coffey’s touch.

Mr. Jingles, the mouse resurrected by Coffey, is also still alive. However, Paul believes his outliving all of his relatives and friends to be a punishment from God for not stopping Coffey’s execution. Mr. Jingles, being a mouse, should only have had a maximum lifespan of 1 or 2 years, yet he has lived for over 50. Paul dreads to think how long he himself has left to live, being a human.


A huge black man of subtle spiritual power, John Coffey is a giant in poor, worn-out Depression-era clothing; a ratty t-shirt and denim overalls. He is usually barefoot simply because no shoes will fit his huge feet. John towers head-and-shoulders over everyone around him.

Though he is quiet and unassuming, he has an undeniable impression on everyone who spends any time around him. This was true even of Warden Moores, who only met him when John healed his wife’s tumor. John also managed to impress Paul on first meeting.

None of the E-block guards had any difficulty believing in Coffey’s innocence after having witnessed his power.


John Coffey is very quiet and prefers to keep to himself. He weeps almost constantly, and is afraid of the dark. Even at the end, during his execution, he asks Paul Edgecombe not to put on the black silk mask because he is afraid of the dark.

Coffey is described as “knowing his own name and not much else”, and lacks the ability to so much as tie a simple knot. He clearly lack the intellect to have committed the complex murder he’s accused of.

John is the calmest and mildest prisoner the guards have ever seen, despite his hulking form.


The quotes are from the movie adaptation.

(Holding the dead girls on his lap) “I’s sorry, Boss. I tried to take it back, but it ’us too late.”

“Do you leave a light on after bedtime ? Because I get a little scared in the dark sometimes. If it’s a strange place.”

Paul Edgecomb: “John, do you know where we’re taking you ?”
John Coffey: “Help a lady ?”
“Brutal” Howell: “That’s right. But how’d you know ? ”
Coffey: “Don’t know. To tell the truth, Boss, I don’t know much o’ anything.”

William ’Billy the Kid‘ Wharton, grabbing Coffey’s arm drunkenly: “Where you think you’re goin’ ?”
Coffey (frightened): “You a bad man.”
Wharton: “That’s right… bad as you like.”

Melinda Moores, after being healed of a brain tumor: “What is your name ?”
Coffey:”John Coffey, ma’am.”
Melinda: “… Like the drink, only not spelled the same.”
Coffey: “No, ma’am. Not spelt the same at all.”
Melinda: “I dreamed of you. I dreamed you were wandering in the dark, and so was I. We found each other. We found each other in the dark. ”

(After being grabbed by Wharton) “He killed them wi‘ their love. Wi‘ their love fo’ each other. That’s how it is, every day, all over the world.”

(Just before John’s execution)
Paul: “John, we have got to talk now…”
Coffey: “I knows what you wants to talk on, Boss Edgecomb. You jus’ don’t think on it now.”
Paul: “I have to, John. What do you want me to do John ? I’ll do it. You want me to let you walk out of here and see how far you can get ?”

Coffey: “Now why would you want to do a foolish thing like that ?”
Paul: “On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say ? That is was my job ? My job ?”
Coffey: “You tell God the Father it was a kindness you done. I know you hurtin’ and worryin’, I can feel it on you, but you oughta quit on it now. Because I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. They’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand ?”
Paul: “Yes, John. I think I can. ”

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

John Coffey

A 350 Point Character

Dex: 04 Str: 06 Bod: 06 Motivation: Unwanted Power
Int: 02 Wil: 06 Min: 04 Occupation: Death Row Inmate
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 000
Init: 014 HP: 020

Empathy: 08, Broadcast Empath: 08, Damage Transference: 12, Electromagnetic Pulse: 04, Mind Probe: 08, Growth: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers except for Growth are Mystic Linked.
  • Empathy: Reduced Range (-1), Usable on Others (+5), Always On (-1).
  • Broadcast Empath: Fatiguing (-2), Reduced Range (-1), Only Usable w/ DT (-1), Contingent to Empathy (-1).
  • Damage Transference: Fatiguing (-2), Contingent to Empathy (-1).
  • EMP: Can Only be Used w/ DT (-1), Not Subject to User’s Control (Automatically Used whenever DT is Activated, -2), Contingent to DT (-1).
  • Mind Probe: Targets of Empathy Only (-1), Reduced Range (-1), Contingent to Empathy (-1).
  • Growth is Always On (-1) and Already Factored In (+1).

Occultist (Premonition): 04

Lightning Reflexes, True Faith.

Paul Edgecomb (Head Corrections Officer, Block E) (High) Block E guards, primarily Brutus “Brutal” Howell, Harry Terwilliger & Dean Stanton (Low).

Exile (Involuntary), Innocent, Illiteracy, MIF (The Dark), Mistrust, MPI (Mild intellectual disability), Public Identity, Strange Appearance, Traumatic Flashbacks , Uncertainty, Unluck, Misc: “Now” Mentality.

Examples of healing

When Percy Wetmore crushed Mr Jingles (a mouse), he inflicted no more than 2 RAPs of Killing damage. Coffey used his Damage Transfer to heal 2 RAPs of Damage, bringing Mr Jingles back to full health (BODY 01).

If he is healing a disease, the GM should be willing to assess a difficulty penalty based on the systemic destruction the disease is wreaking.

For instance, when Coffey cured Paul Edgecomb of his Bladder Infection, he rolled against an OV/RV of 4/4 (Base Difficulty of 2/2, + 2 Difficulty for Difficult, since the Infection was particularly Invasive and Difficult to Eradicate.).

When Coffey cured Warden Moores’ wife of a cancerous brain tumor the size of a lemon, he was working against a Difficulty of 10/10 (Base Difficulty of 6/6 for the EV of the Cancer (Cell Rot), +4 for Extreme Difficulty).

By Pufnstuff.

Helper(s): Mike Davis,  (quotes), The Stephen King Universe by Stanley Wiater, Christopher Golden and Hank Wagner.

Source of Character: Stephen King Universe (SKU), The Green Mile book and film.