SDCC 2017: Interviews With The Cast Of Black Lightning

One of the first black DC superheroes and his beautiful family graced this year’s Comic Con, which meant that Cress Williams and the cast of Black Lightning spent a few minutes hyping us for the 2018 premiere. Even though the pilot isn’t fully filmed yet, the Pierce family has already stolen our hearts and we can’t wait to see what acclaimed show runners Salim and Mara Brock Akil have in store for them. Check out the interviews below:

Though he’s only read the first script, Cress Williams already knows Jefferson Pierce like the back of his hand. When it comes to his daughters having powers, he looked to the comics to speculate how his character would react. “Once Jefferson finds out, he’s trying to discourage it every step of the way because it’s dangerous.” That being said, “he has to find a happy medium” and just make sure they’re properly trained and educated in using those powers.

Anissa and Jennifer are the center of Jefferson’s life, and in fact are a major part of the reason he suits back up. “What really pulls him back in is that he can’t protect them forever,” Williams explained. But there is more to the man than his family, and the actor teased that while Mr. Pierce is more “Obama-like” when it comes to how put together he is, his superhero alter ego has “a lot more flavor [and] a lot more sarcasm.”

It won’t all be humor and heroics, though. Williams was adamant that the show wouldn’t shy away from real life issues plaguing America today, especially when it comes to race. “We start with the family first and show the world as it really is,” he said, pointing to the original comics and how they contained stories that are still relevant now.

Nafessa Williams will be playing Anissa Pierce, the elder daughter who eventually becomes the superhero Thunder, and she’s already studying up on the comics. “She’s a force of her own,” Williams says about her character. “She stands up for what she believes in.” A core component of Anissa is the desire to save her community, and she joins forces with a group called the Outsiders to do so in the comics. Given the possibilities open to superheroes on the CW, might we eventually see some version of that team on the show?

Anissa’s sexuality is also an important subject, as she canonically becomes romantically involved with Grace Choi. While Williams didn’t know whether Black Lightning would delve into that side of her, “I expect them to stay true to what we see in the book.” That being said, she was confident the Akils would be “very authentic to the story, very authentic to black families in general.” And we can’t disagree.

Anissa’s younger sister Jennifer will be portrayed by the effervescent China Anne McClain, who shared some of her thoughts on her character and Black Lightning in general. “This show is definitely darker than a lot of the CW shows,” she teased, “which is great, because it’s really relatable.” That’s not to say Jennifer won’t have fun with her powers, though, because she definitely will.

But Jennifer doesn’t have her powers at the start of the show, or even know that powers run in her family. “So I’m just being a teenager, getting into a lot of trouble… and I’m struggling.” This leads to the onset of her new skills alienating her rather than helping her with her issues.

“I feel like it’s a very real family,” she gushed about the Pierce dynamic. “I love that Salim really explores that in our show.” But it’s not just superheroes and parental struggles, and McClain described a scene from the presentation that exemplifies the societal issues which the show plans to deal with as well.

Rounding out the Pierce family, Christine Adams plays mother and estranged wife Lynn. She echoed the McClain’s sentiments about the family unit, saying, “I think what’s special about it is that it feels more real than what we’ve seen.” The Pierces don’t have it all together, but they do love each other in a very relatable way.

As for Jefferson and Lynn specifically, “They’re college sweethearts,” Adams teased. Lynn knew about Jefferson’s powers from the start of their relationship, which always caused an issue because, “She doesn’t want to be a widow.” Which of course creates a moral dilemma when her children turn out to have the same powers that split her and her husband apart. “How do you navigate [when] you do one thing, you want your children to do another?”

Even though Jefferson and Lynn are coming back together primarily as parents, “There’s definitely going to be a lot of will-they, won’t-they.” Everyone loves a good love story, right? Especially when the obstacles seem insurmountable.

Black Lightning premieres on the CW in early 2018. Check back for interviews with the producers closer to the premiere date!