By Candace Havens
Is there room for one more superhero show on television? The answer is: Yes. If that show features a single dad and his two teen daughters trying to make their world a better place in BLACK LIGHTNING, premiering Tuesday at 9 p.m. on the CW. High school principle Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is a hero in his community. In a neighborhood overrun by gangs and drugs, he has created a safe-haven at his charter school. And he’s desperately trying to repair the relationship with his ex, Lynn (Christine Adams).
The last nine years, Jefferson has hidden his true identity as Black Lightning, a superhero. But something happens with his daughters Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain). He’s forced to bring back Black Lightning if he wants to save his girls. And while it takes a while to get there his daughters, who also have powers, will join him in the fight.
“I just drew from my life,” says executive producer Salim Akil. “When I started this, the character of Jefferson is already a community‑based superhero. He’s already a principal; he’s already a father. So, it gave me the opportunity to talk about things that were personal to me. And I grew up in a community like Freeland. I was surrounded by those things that you see in Freeland and in Chicago and Oakland and Watts. So, it came naturally. It wasn’t a choice made out of, hey, this is what we want to say; it came out of a choice of this is what I know, and this is what we know. So, let’s do what’s real. I guess the word people are using now is authentic.”
Black Lightning first appeared it the comic books in 1977. Williams wasn’t as familiar with the character as he was with some other superheroes, but he’s made up for it. “I was raised on television,” says Williams. “And so, my influence of superheroes was on television. I immediately went back and read not only the ‘70s, I, kind of, went chronologically. I read the ‘70s, I read the ‘90s, and I read the 2000s.
“And I think history is repeating itself, but, you know, wonderfully, we’re not the only ones repeating it. I mean, I think it’s beautiful that we have Luke Cage, that we have us, and we have Black Panther, so we’re, kind of, conquering every possible outlet. I think there’s an animated black Spiderman coming, you know. And, so, I’m stoked. Basically. All I had was Superman, but we have so many things to choose from. And I hope that that keeps growing, not only for African Americans but for every ethnicity, gender, religion. I mean, I think it’s, you know, important that, like, I want everyone ideally to be able to look and go, that’s me. I want them to find some sort of representative that they grow up and can look to the screens and say, ‘Yeah, I see me. I see me here; I see me there.” Not just for us, but for everyone.”