What We Know: Black Lightning


By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

DC Comics properties are all over the television airwaves, thanks in large part to the genius efforts of Greg Berlanti. The CW is at the forefront of superhero TV and they’ve officially added another DC based show to their repertoire: Black Lightning. Keep reading to find out what we know about the show so far!

Created by Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil (with some help from Greg Berlanti), Black Lightning originally began its television journey with a pilot production commitment by Fox in September 2016. However, in February 2017, Fox passed on the series (feeling that they were already genre heavy). The CW picked up the show instead, with a new script for the pilot in mind. The show was officially ordered to series this May and is expected to have a mid-season premiere in 2018 on the network with the pilot directed by Salim Akil and written by Salim and Mara Brock Akil.

The superhero drama is based on the DC comic book character created by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden who first appeared in 1977. Black Lightning was the first African-American DC Comics hero to have a standalone comic title. The character and the upcoming show is important to executive producer, writer, and director Salim Akil due to the representation associated with him. He said, “I knew way too much about the world as a young boy growing up in Richmond, CA. I was no stranger to violence, death, hopelessness, or the feeling that no one cared about what was happening in my life.” He continued, “Comics were a great way for me to escape. I was about 13 when ‘Black Lightning’ was created and finally there was a black superhero that gave a damn about our neighborhood and lives.”

Salim Akil (executive producer for Black Lightning, alongside Mara Brock Akil, Greg Berlanti, and Sarah Schechter) felt that it was time for character he loved to make his way to the screen. He explained, “Resurrecting him at a time in our society when a sense of hope is lacking…Black Lightning will be that hope. And in updating the suit (designed by Iron Man’s Laure Jean Shannon), it will signal to a new generation that it’s time to harness and release our power, and become our own superheroes.”

Filmed in Atlanta, the new superhero series will actually be set in New Orleans and won’t be another DC origin story on The CW. Instead, the show kicks off with a retired superhero, years after his crime-fighting days have passed. Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams) has the ability to harness and control electricity, but he left the vigilante life nine years ago for his family’s sake, taking on the mantle of high school principal instead. Despite his life changes, his wife Lynn (Christine Adams) went her own way and the two divorced, but before they did, they had two beautiful daughters. The older daughter, Anissa (Nafessa Williams), teaches part time at the high school her father heads while she attends medical school, while her younger sister, Jennifer (China Anne McClain), is a fiery scholar/athlete. All seems well, but when a local gang, called The One Hundred, gains power and influence while trying to recruit a star student, Jefferson Pierce will have to fight once again as Black Lightning.

You can check out a trailer for a look at the upcoming show right here:

While set to air on The CW and coming from producer Greg Berlanti, Black Lightning won’t actually be part of the Arrowverse. Mark Pedowitz, president of The CW, has said, “At this time, it is not a part of the Arrowverse. It is a separate situation.” Supergirl’s first season was on a different network (CBS) before its move to CW and was therefore established to be in a different universe (working in line with the multiverse mythos set up by The Flash). Therefore, it’s probably a fair guess to imagine Black Lightning will also take place in another universe to maintain the separation. (But we can still hope for a taste of a crossover at some point!)

Black Lightning is coming. Is it a welcome addition to the network or is superhero fatigue starting to set in?

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