The star of Black Lightning, Cress Williams, is hoping that the success of Black Panther in cinemas trickles down to TV's most prominent black superhero, Jefferson Pierce. Black Panther hasn't been a total surprise hit for Marvel, but its success has been staggering, proving, if nothing else, that those who believed audiences wouldn't watch a movie with a black lead in a powerful position were dead wrong. The extraordinary success of Black Panther should lead to some changes in the superhero genre. At the very least it's going to make T'Challa a huge star of the next phase of the MCU.
However, outside of The Avengers: Infinity War, the future of T'Challa is rather far off. This is a big part of Cress Willaims' hope that Marvel's success will help out longtime rival DC and their show Black Lightning. According to the actor, fans hungry for another black superhero can watch one weekly on The CW over on Black Lightning. Although Williams' hope does assume that one of the biggest factors of Black Panther's success was the skin color of the main cast.
Williams was asked directly about Black Panther, and what impact it could have on Black Lightning, by TV Guide. The actor, who took his family to see Black Panther, was quick to praise the movie but he did also share his dreams about how it could effect superhero property he leads. Cress Williams explained:
We're now on the other side of the Olympics and awards season and all that, so I think we'll see this kind of latter half what effect [Black Panther] had, I hope it has a positive effect. A lot of people were like, 'Oh man, your numbers are going to totally go up!' It actually makes sense because Black Panther was such a great movie and hopefully it whets your appetite for more, so then you have the opportunity to watch a TV show like every single week. So I hope so. We haven't really seen it yet
Williams' dreams for the future success of Black Lightning might mostly be wishful thinking but it's not too outlandish. There's rarely a direct connection to what's popular in cinemas and what's successful on TV. The opening of every superhero movie is a huge and expensive event but The CW, with it's own interconnected superhero universe in the Arrowverse, is far from the top dog when it comes to TV ratings. Marvel has even struggled to make their TV shows a smash hit on broadcast networks.
At the same time, Black Lightning is doing quite well for The CW. Even if it's judged by a much less aggressive standard, Black Lightning is one of the most highest rated shows for its network. The series premiere of Black Lightning was the biggest CW debut in two years. Regardless if Black Panther gives Black Lightning a ratings boost, the series doesn't really need one to remain successful for The CW.
Williams' desire to see Black Lightning's success rise in correlation with Black Panther's does seem to be predicated on the fact that the casts of both stories are predominantly African-American. However, Black Lightning and Black Panther do share more than the look of their cast and their similar sounding names. Like Black Panther's T'Challa, Black Lightning's Jefferson Pierce is a hero and leader of his community. It's just on a much smaller scale. T'Challa is a king of a nation and Jefferson is a high school principal.
Furthermore, both Black Lightning and Black Panther's superhero duties come up against their more personal responsibilities, especially as it relates to family. During Black Panther, T'Challa was trying to live up to his father's legacy and balance his relationships with his mother and younger sister. Jefferson is a bit older than T'Challa but deals with similar issues. Although part of Jefferson's drive does relate to his own murdered father, most of his responsibilities concern his grown children and ex-wife (who he still loves), Lynn.
Black Lightning turning out the same type of numbers as Black Panther is a bit of a pipe dream on Cress Williams' part. However, fans of one would almost certainly enjoy the other.
Black Lightning returns Tuesday, March 6 at 9pm on The CW.
Source: TV Guide