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How Albinism Prejudice Motivates Black Lightning’s Tobias Whale

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A new featurette and two posters have arrived for Black Lightning, while the actor behind the villainous Tobias Whale explains how albinism motivates his character. The CW has had a lot of success spinning Arrow out into a variety of different superhero shows. But even when the flagship series isn't the jumping off point, they've found a way to make some essential genre television. Black Lightning broke premiere records when it debuted a few weeks back, proving that even with its detachment from the other shows it can still pull in audiences.

While Black Lightning may operate on its own terms, it still seems to be part of a larger world. DC Comics Easter eggs in Black Lightning last week teased Big Belly Burger, The Outsiders, and more. But even without those nods, Black Lightning has excelled by telling grounded, real world stories set in a fantastical world. From police violence to the trials black communities face, Black Lightning is a show with something to say—even when it's spoken by the show's villains.

RELATED: Black Lightning Doesn't Need The Arrowverse

In anticipation of tonight's episode of Black Lightning, The CW released a new featurette breaking down a drug on the streets of Freeland giving people super-strength. Meanwhile, two new posters for the show highlight both the titular hero and his super-powered kids.

Along with the new promotional material, TV Line spoke with Marvin 'Krondon' Jones III about his role as Tobias Whale. One of the chief antagonists of the series, the rapper-turned-actor has proven to be a fitting find for the imposing rogue. But like the rest of the series, his character is written within a larger social context.

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"Tobias grew up, and people with albinism most of the time grow up, in a community that doesn’t understand their particular uniqueness or difference. In a Tobias Whale situation, an African-American with albinism, he suffered ridicule and degradation from his own people based off of their ignorance. So when he rises to a place of prominence and power, you can only imagine he had some sort of chip on his shoulder. He had this need and want to show his superiority — physically, spiritually, intellectually, socially — and ultimately his own people’s inferiority. It’s kind of like, 'You gave me ridicule for being different when I realized the thing that makes you guys so plain is that you’re all the same.' That’s what that whole Episode 2 tirade was about."

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While the focus on black communities and the unique issues they face is rare enough on TV, let alone a superhero show, exploring the prejudices associated with albinism is virtually unheard of. Comics have touched on it briefly with characters like Whale and Tombstone, but it's likely that few people with albinism are used to having their story told with such a prominent character. And as Jones points out, it's already become clear in Black Lightning how Whale's particular experiences have shaped his views of other African Americans.

As Black Lightning continues to resonate with audiences, there's always the chance it will get pulled into the main Arrowverse. But the possibility of a Lightningverse with characters like Static Shock and other superheroes of color is even more exciting. Black Lighting has similarly done amazing work highlighting queer women of color, another rare feat for TV and comic book shows. If it keeps up the good work, Black Lightning could become The CW's most essential series.

MORE: Thunder Joins Black Lightning’s Fight in ‘Black Jesus’ Trailer

Black Lightning airs tonight at 9pm ET on The CW.

Sources: The CW and TV Line

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