Black Lightning star Cress Williams hopes the series creates more opportunities for diversity in superhero TV. The upcoming series brings the DC Comics character to live-action and is the first comic book series on the CW to be led by a black actor and showrunner. The show aims to take a grounded approach to the typical superhero narrative by blending the comics-inspired action with matters of social justice and representation.
Williams and the rest of the Black Lightning cast and creators have all been vocal about what the show means for fans hoping to see greater diversity in the genre that’s dominating both film and television. While shows like Luke Cage and films like Black Panther have already or will soon premiere, there are so many more characters ready for a their chance on screen, and as Williams notes, he hopes this new series finds success and acts as a gateway for heroes from a variety of cultures and backgrounds to have their stories told in live-action.
During the recent DC in D.C. 2018 event, Williams touched on his desire to play a superhero and how short the list of available characters is. Thankfully, even though he wasn’t able to land the role of Luke Cage or Black Panther, he found he had more in common with Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning, which suited him just fine.
“I grew up every Saturday morning getting up at the crack of dawn to watch Super Friends. And even as an adult, enjoying Justice League and Young Justice. I remember the old X-Men series, I have been huge fan of all that stuff. But not seeing myself represented. And even as an actor, when I was like 'I want to be a superhero' I had to start going through and saying 'Okay, there's a short list' and all the sudden it was like 'Well, Luke Cage went away` and then it was like 'Black Panther went away'. I kept hoping they would do John Stewart and that hasn't come about yet. I wasn't really aware of Black Lightning growing up, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it happening. Once I saw the character I fell in love, I was like 'Wait, I like this character better than all of them!’”
Williams then touched not only on what the show could mean for marginalized characters in comics but also in film and television, and how important it can be for people to be able to look at a character and see a part of themselves represented on screen.
“I hope that it sparks an appetite for everyone to see more diversity. I've said it before, I want our show to go a long time and be very successful, but I hope it sparks someone wanting to tell the story of an Asian superhero, someone wanting to tell the story of a Hispanic superhero. I want little kids out there to all have someone to identify with and see themselves. The confidence and self-esteem that is built when you can see yourself and when you have that choice for Halloween. When you're a kid and you played pretend, and you're like 'I wanna be Superman, or I wanna be Batman' but to be able to say, 'I want to be Black Lightning' or any other superhero 'I wanna be Blue Beetle' It just does so much for a human's spirit. I hope that this is just the beginning.”
Black Lightning premieres Tuesday, January 14 @9pm on The CW.