Just ahead of the premiere of The CW’s Black Lightning, series star Cress Williams discusses its tale of rebirth and its connection to real-life issues. The new show marks a milestone for the network as it becomes the first DC Comics-inspired television series to tell the story of a black superhero. And as Williams notes, the series aims to ground the story and its characters in real-world concerns that will differentiate it from the network’s offerings even more.
Still, even with an emphasis on addressing matters of race and other important societal issues, the star is quick to point out that Black Lightning is, at its heart, a superhero series through and through. But unlike most comic book shows, this one isn’t telling an origin story. Instead, it focuses on the moment Williams’ Jefferson Pierce returns to the frontlines for the first time in nearly a decade and the many reasons that affect his decision to do so.
Screen Rant attended the recent DC in D.C. 2018 event this past weekend, and Williams spoke at length about Black Lightning and how it aims to be about something much more than superhero action. Williams said:
“[Fans] get their superhero fix with more. Can they get their cake and eat it too. You get all the action you're used to and the special effects are amazing. The soundtrack is absolute fire. But you also get a great family drama. You get not an origin story but a rebirth story that’s rooted in real-life issues. So I think they're gonna get action but more.”
Williams later elaborated what he meant by “more”, saying the series aims to “impact people in a good way” by addressing matters concerning race and diversity in a manner other shows in the superhero genre simply can’t. That means creating a series unlike what’s already out there, and although Black Lightning aims to be different, Williams said there wasn’t any real fear of pushback from the network or the studio; once the finished product was handed in, everyone was on board.
“As the actors, we wanted to tell truth, we wanted to take the superhero genre to a grounded level that would entertain but also impact people in a good way. Fortunately, if there was any pushback, Salim really protected us rom that. He even said to us, 'Look you guys don't worry about that. You just do what you need to do and I will take care of the rest.' Anytime you're doing something new, people need to see it first. So there's little bit more pushback, a little bit more 'Wait, what're you doing,' but then once they saw it they were like 'Oh, okay, go ahead.' I think there's less pushback now because they're really pleased with the product.”
With the series set to premiere tomorrow, it will finally give fans’ a chance to see Black Lightning come to life, and to find out just how it plans to handle its real-life aspects.
Black Lightning premieres Tuesday, January 14 @9pm on The CW.