The CW network will launch a new show early next year, featuring a black superhero in a crime-ridden neighborhood. One of the producers of “Black Lightning” compared the hero to former President Barack Obama.
“Jefferson Pierce is the epitome of what black men are: He loves his wife, his children, and the community. This family is the Obamas of the superhero world,” executive producer Salim Akil said in a panel at Comic-Con, Variety reported. “This show will have an authentic black voice.”
The CW usually stays out of politics, but some shows have featured political subplots. “Supergirl” (2016- ) featured Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together,” and focused on harboring “undocumented” alien immigrants. The show also prominently features a lesbian couple.
While Akil praised Obama as a family man, this is not necessarily a political statement. Whatever his faults, and there have been many, Obama is indeed a devoted family man.
Akil futher added that “there’s definitely a problem with police brutality and we’ll get into that.” This suggested an echo of the Black Lives Matter movement, which Obama stoked. In the next sentence, however, the executive producer said, “There’s also a problem with us killing each other and we’ll talk about that too.”
This suggests a political balance — acknowledging police brutality (usually a liberal talking-point), and the scourge of black-on-black violence (usually a conservative talking-point). Along with a compelling trailer, the show seems promising.
“This character will add something to the conversation,” Akil said. “We’ve always been character-based and we’ll continue to be character-based. It’s about when and how he uses his powers and why. We want people to get to know this family. Their powers, like their race, is only part of who they are.”
According to the trailer, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is a father and superhero, Black Lightning, but his wife convinces him to retire from superhero work. He serves as a principal at his daughters’ high school, but eventually is forced to don the cape once again by the violence of the gang “the 100.” The trailer hints that Pierce’s daughters might also have super powers.
“Black Lightning” will be the CW’s fifth superhero show based off of characters from DC Comics. Three of the other shows — “Arrow,” “Flash,” and “Legends of Tomorrow” — occur within the “Arrowverse,” the CW’s own DC superhero universe. While there have been a few crossovers featuring “Supergirl,” that show is not technically part of the “Arrowverse.”
In May, CW Chief Mark Pedowitz told Entertainment Weekly that “‘Black Lightning,’ at this time, is not part of the Arrowverse. It’s a separate situation.” He did promise “a big fourth quarter crossover with all four of the shows that are on in the fall,” however.
Furthermore, the concept of the “multiverse,” which allows “Flash,” “Arrow,” and “Legends of Tomorrow” to intersect with “Supergirl,” could potentially connect them with “Black Lightning” at a later date.
Cress Williams, the actor set to play Jefferson Pierce, said, “I’ve played a lot of bad guys. I’m changing teams. I’m officially on the side of light. Jefferson is going into the community. We effect change positively from his family out to the community. He’s trying to save the world one person at a time.”