The CW has established itself as the go-to network for comic book-based television, now boasting four Arrowverse TV shows (in the forms of Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl), as well as non-superhero comic book adaptations iZombie and Riverdale to its name. Arrowverse co-creator and Riverdale producer, Greg Berlanti is now lending his name to another DC Comics TV adaptation set to call The CW its home; namely, Black Lightning, a small screen take on the superhero of the same name, who was one of DC’s first African-American superheroes when he debuted on the comic book page in 1977.
Black Lightning, aka. Jefferson Pierce, will have been retired from the life of a superhero for several years, when The CW’s TV series initially picks up. It was only just reported that Black Lightning co-showrunner Salim Akil is going to be calling the shots on the pilot episode for the TV show – and now, we know who will be bringing its namesake to life on the small screen, too.
Deadline is reporting that Cress Williams is now set to play Jefferson Pierce on the live-action Black Lightning TV show, with Akil co-running the series alongside his wife and producing partner, Mara Brock Akil, as well as Berlanti and his Arrowverse producer, Sarah Schechter in an executive producing capacity. Williams is no stranger to The CW, having previously appeared in multiple seasons of the network’s drama series, Heart of Dixie. Williams more recently appeared on CBS’ TV medical drama Code Black and even has a recurring role from The CW’s mid-2000s cult hit Veronica Mars, under his belt.
Black Lightning, as indicated before, isn’t going to be embracing the archetypical superhero narrative blueprint used by The CW’s Arrowverse TV shows. Indeed, when the former picks up, its ex-superhero namesake only returns to action after his daughter sets out in search of justice herself; prompting her dad to return to his costumed vigilante ways. The father/daughter angle only further sets Black Lightning apart from its peers on The CW as something unique, seeing as most of the Arrowverse’s main superheroes are 20-somethings without kids of their own – with exceptions, of course (see Professor Martin Stein on Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow himself, Oliver Queen).
The fact that Black Lightning will be the first of The CW’s DCTV shows anchored by a non-white protagonist only further distinguishes the series from its peers and suggests it may yet find room to prosper on the network, even as The CW’s comic book TV show lineup continues to expand in the future. With a solid leading man now onboard in the form of Williams in place and two talented showrunners at the helm, additional casting announcements ought to be arriving soon – keeping Black Lightning moving along smoothly down the pipeline, ahead of filming on the pilot episode getting underway next month.