Faith

Cress Williams: The Holy Spirit Prepared Me 'Every Step of the Way' on the Set of 'Black Lightning'

Cress Williams attends the CW Network 2017 Upfront presentation at The London Hotel on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Cress Williams, the main star of the CW Network’s newest superhero show, “Black Lightning,” told PJ Media that he felt the Holy Spirit “every step of the way” on the set of the television show. He recalled praying and sharing his faith with two of his fellow stars, and feeling the hand of God throughout the process.

“We all got, the job, and we stared working, and we started to look around and realize there were a lot of Christians on the set,” Williams, who plays the title superhero Black Lightning (whose real name is Jefferson Pierce), said in a question and answer session at the Washington, D.C. Comic Con, Awesome Con.

“We looked around and said, ‘Wow, okay, there’s something going on here bigger than us,'” the star recalled.

Williams addressed the spiritual side of “Black Lightning” after this author brought up the report that actors and actresses on the set of the film “Black Panther” (2018) had reportedly been “testifying to God’s miracles.” The set of that iconic African-American superhero movie “felt almost like church,” according to actress Sope Aluko. I asked Williams if he had witnessed anything similar during his work on “Black Lightning.”

Williams recalled three events that stood out to him while working on the show. First, he realized the number of Christians working on the project. Later, he had two opportunities to share his faith with other actors.

“I remember Will Catlett, who plays Lala. We started shooting the first couple episodes right when he was just about to get married, and so we were at lunch and he’s a great guy, kind of a student by nature,” the actor said.

Williams remembered Catlett “talked to me and a couple of the guys who’ve been married for many years, and said, ‘Can you give me some advice about marriage?’ It turned into this conversation that led to this spiritual conversation about what it means to be a man, a man of God, to be a husband.”

“That’s just the nature of the people that we’re around,” the superhero star said. “And then it’s kind of rubbed off on people.”

In addition to William Catlett, Williams mentioned James Remar, who plays Peter Gambi on the show. “James Remar … I don’t think he would call himself a Christian, but he’s such an amazing man, he’s going to be a friend for the rest of my life,” the actor said.

He recalled a moment when “we were going on stage as a cast or something, and I was kind of overwhelmed and we were about to go on stage, and … I didn’t think to do it. James, of all people, was like, ‘Everybody put your hands in, let’s pray!’ And he started praying.”

“And it was like, ‘That’s different,'” Williams said, to laughter in the audience.

“It just feels like a special place in general,” he concluded. “Those moments you feel like, okay, it’s not just a job. You feel like you were prepared to be somewhere; you were supposed to be in this specific moment in this specific time. That’s how I feel.”

I asked, “Like the Holy Spirit prepared you?”

With a knowing laugh, Williams responded, “Every step of the way. Every step of the way.”

In Christian theology, the Holy Spirit is a Person of God, along with God the Father and Jesus Christ. While not explicitly Christian, “Black Lightning” does show an African-American church community march against crime in their neighborhood.

The show’s executive producer, Salim Akil, said Jefferson Pierce would showcase the epitome of the virtuous black man, loving his wife, his children, and the community. Akil also said that Pierce’s virtuous example should inspire all Americans, regardless of race. “What we all need to understand is that this is an American story, this is not a black story. … He is the American dream. Black Lightning, Jefferson Pierce, is the American dream,” he said.

“Black Lightning” has not yet finished its first season, but it already has a 97 percent “Fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes. Whether or not the Holy Spirit led Cress Williams into this role, it seems he will have a powerful cultural impact as “Black Lightning.”