In an act of self and family preservation, Jefferson Pierce walked away from a life as Black Lightning. But thanks to Mara Brock Akil, her husband Salim Akil (Being Mary Jane, Girlfriends) and the support of producer Greg Berlanti (master of all things DC Comics on television), in 2018 the Pierce family returns on the CW Network to light up justice in their city with Black Lightning.
Black Lightning features the talents of Cress Williams (Hart of Dixie, Prison Break, Living Single) as Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning, China Anne McClain (Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, Descendants 2) as the elder daughter Jennifer/Lightning, Nafessa Williams (Twin Peaks, Code Black) as the younger daughter Anissa/Thunder, and Christine Adams (Batman Begins, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) as Lynn Pierce, Jefferson’s ex-wife. It was one of the most anticipated vehicles at San Diego Comic Con; unlike most superhero vehicles, puts a uniquely personal and intimate spin on the art of fighting street and organized crime: in the Pierce home, it’s a family affair.
Jefferson retired from the superhero game because of its destructive effects on his family; one effect being the end of his marriage to Lynn. Jennifer and Anissa have inherited variations of their father’s powers and, as their city becomes more and more of a battleground overrun by the crime group known as The 100,…well, drastic times call for drastic measures. But at the center of it all is a modern, real world family navigating modern, real world issues.
What we are dealing with is the continued and necessary progression of representation on the small screen. Celebrating it’s 40th anniversary, Black Lighting made its debut in the DC Comics Universe in the 70s and its reemergence today is a damned timely thing for various reasons. Not only does the story revolve around a family gifted with superpowers, but a Black family gifted with superpowers – which was pretty progressive for its day. During the convention we caught up with the cast and got a few thoughts on the show:
Cress Williams/Jefferson Pierce:
“We’re just really rooting it in life. We start with the family first and show the world as it really is, and we simply portray truth. It comes really from the comic book originally. The original 70s comic book had some issues where you’re like ‘That could be today.'”
China Anne McClain/Jennifer Pierce:
“There’s actually a scene that we shot just for the presentation where we’re driving, coming home…and our father gets pulled over by the cops, taken out of the car and slammed up against the car, in the pouring rain. Didn’t do anything. At this age, we can really only watch, because it happens to our parents and we’re just like, ‘This is wrong.’ But we don’t know what to do and we feel so helpless.
We don’t know what to do and our dad is just like, ‘Chill out. Everything is going to be okay.’ because we can’t make any dumb decisions in those kinds of moments. We deal with some very, very real stuff on these shows. These are very realistic issues and that’s another part I think is really going to resonate; not just with African-Americans, but everybody.”
Nafessa Williams/Anissa Pierce:
“I just want to stay true to who you know you guys know Thunder to be and fans of Black Lightning – what they know her to be. Mara and Salim, they’ve got that under control – they’re dope. They’re gonna be very authentic to the story, very authentic to Black families, in general.
I’ve been watching…Wonder Woman, how dope is she? I’ve been watching Cat Woman, I’ve obviously watched Supergirl. So, again, wanting to bring my own flavor, but just watching how they maneuver within their world as strong women. and again just bringing that strength of who I am as a woman I have a lot in common with Anissa.”
Christine Adams/Lynn Pierce:
“We need to teach them how to use those powers, because if you have a gift or a power, do you use your power for good? Do you use your power for evil? It’s like, again, it goes back to this real-life situation of how do you navigate that? How do you navigate you do one thing, you want your children to do another. Do I want my children to be actors? I don’t know.
I’m a mother…I’ve got two girls. I relate to Lynn on so many levels, being a working mum, being a Black woman, having children and trying to raise them to be decent and give them a good moral compass. I mean, that’s where I live. That’s where I’m living right now, so it’s not hard for me to get there, you know?”
Black Lightning’s pilot episode has not been shot yet and, currently, there are no plans for the Pierce family to crossover into the ArrowVerse (Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow) but never say never.
Are you ready? Black Lightning gets lit mid-season 2018.