With the new CW series ‘Black Lightning,’ Salim and Mara Brock Akil introduce a superhero everyone can relate to.
By Denise Clay
During the day, Jefferson Pierce is a high school principal, molding the next generation of young minds including his two daughters, Anissa and Jennifer.
But at night, Pierce is the superhero Black Lightning, a hero who had gone into retirement at the request of his family, but now finds himself back on the front lines after the gang he put on ice — The 100 — makes a comeback. The comeback is courtesy of the hero’s archenemy, Tobias Whale, a local politician who killed Pierce’s father, a journalist that was exposing his secrets.
Just to make things interesting, Pierce’s daughters may have inherited their father’s ability to harness electricity…and his desire to make the streets safer as crime fighters.
This is just some of the plot of the new CW series, “Black Lightning.” The series, which stars Cress Williams (“Living Single”, “Hart Of Dixie”) as Jefferson Pierce, is produced by Salim and Mara Brock Akil, (“Girlfriends”, “Being Mary Jane,”and The Game) and Greg Berlanti, producer of the network’s successful DC comics “Arrowverse” lineup.
The Akils brought members of the cast of “Black Lightning”— Williams, Christine Adams (“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”), James Remar, (“Dexter”, “Gray’s Anatomy”), China Anne McClain (“The Gospel”), Martin “Krondon” Jones (“Harry’s Law”), and Damon Gupton (“Whiplash”) —to the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans to discuss the show.
The project was originally supposed to be on Fox’s fall schedule, but when the network passed, it made it’s way to the CW. Because of the relationship the Akils had with the network through the hit show “Girlfriends” and other projects, they brought it there, they said.
While he’s not one of DC’s best known characters, “Black Lightning” is a canvas that can house the kinds of stories that are important, but might not fit in a universe in which time travel and alien visits are the norm, Salim Akil said.
For that reason, it was necessary to set the show in a place that was relatable, which in this case was Atlanta.
“This is a comic that tackled a lot of social issues and was grounded in reality,” he said. “We wanted people to recognize their neighborhood and to recognize the issues they deal with.”
With Williams, who is probably still best known as “Scooter” on “Living Single,” the duo found someone who could make Jefferson Pierce relatable.
“He walked in and owned the part,” Mara Brock Akil said.
Because the show is set in Atlanta, viewers shouldn’t expect it to be folded into the Arrowverse, Salim Akil said.
Or at least not yet. The show needs to get its bearings first.
“Everyone has an idea of who ‘Black Lightning’ is,” he said. “But, people need to get to know Jefferson Pierce and his family first.”
“Black Lightning” is scheduled to premiere as a mid-season series on the CW network in 2018.