Home · Entertainment

Meet The Cast Of The CW's 'Black Lightning'

The Cast of Black Lightning Maarten de Boer/Getty Images
By Sydney Scott · January 12, 2018

Superhero fans should prepare themselves for the CW’s Black Lightning

The series, which debuts on Jan. 16, stars Cress Williams as the show’s titular superhero alongside stars like Christine Adams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams and more. 

Created, written and produced by wife-husband team Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, the series has the foundation of the DC Comics hero but offers a storyline more rooted in Black culture. 

ESSENCE was lucky enough to visit the set of the new show and speak with the cast, who dished on their characters and what it was like joining the CW series. So, before it premieres, get to know the cast of Black Lightning

Williams plays the show's titular superhero, who also moonlights during the day as a high school principal. The actor has a lengthy resume with notable roles in Friday Night Lights, Hart of Dixie, and as fan favorite Scooter on sitcom Living Single. But, in his turn as Black Lightning, Williams finds a lead role that fits him perfectly.

On reading the script for Black Lightning: "I sat and read the script, and it was like, whoa. This is, I mean, I was getting chills. My wife was getting chills...I was just so pumped. I was so excited."

Maarten de Boer/Getty Images

The British actress plays Lynn Pierce, the ex-wife of Jefferson. Lynn is well-aware of Jefferson's powers and his superhero past. And, as the former couple tries to navigate their feelings for each other, things get complicated as Jefferson considers bringing Black Lightning out of retirement. 

On Lynn's complicated feelings for Jefferson and his role as Black Lightning: "I think even sort of previous to the kids, he was going out every night and coming back, usually, in a bad state. I think at a certain point his reasons for going out and doing it started off as using his powers for good and maybe became something a little darker. Then, of course, once the kids came along, then it became about, 'Are my kids gonna have a dad? I don't think they are. I don't know if he's gonna come home.'"

Robby Klein/Getty Images

One Life to Live fans may recognize Williams as Deanna Forbes, but it's a far cry from her role as Anissa Pierce. The 28-year-old actress plays the eldest daughter of Jefferson Pierce, who has powers of her own and eventually joins her father in fighting crime as Thunder. Williams' character is television's first Black lesbian superhero. 

On discovering her powers and becoming Thunder: "Anissa is in a stage of discovery, she's becoming aware of her powers, but also being aware of what's going in the world. She's experiencing all of this and she's coming into her purpose."

Robby Klein/Getty Images

Jennifer Pierce is one wild little sister who stirs up a little trouble for her dad and McClain, who's appeared in Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Grown Ups, plays her perfectly. It will be exciting to see her character balance life as a teen and, as the series continues, her own powers. 

On Black Lightning humanizing superheroes: "Having powers and trying to be a superhero, it's not just like Superman...You see Superman, but you don't see all the issues that go on with him and how many times he gets hurt and all that stuff."

Robby Klein/Getty Images

Remar, who has had notable roles in Dexter, Gotham, and The Path, plays Jefferson's longtime friend and tailor, Peter Gambi. But, Gambi is no ordinary tailor and his friendship with Jefferson is more of a father-like mentorship. Gambi often butts heads with Lynn, Jefferson's ex-wife, but in the end, they both want what's best for the superhero.

On the inevitable comparisons to Batman's Alfred: "Every character can be likened to other characters. If you're playing a cop on TV, what cop is he like? If you're playing a chef, what chef is that person like? I'm playing someone that is a confidant, friend and mentor to a superhero...Alfred is a very proper English gentleman. Gambi is a guy that is a little more shrouded in mystery. He appears to be a tailor, but a tailor can be almost nondescript because the guy that's wearing the suit is the guy that's got to look good."

Maarten de Boer/Getty Images

The Juilliard-trained actor plays Jefferson's unlikely ally Inspector Henderson. The veteran detective has somewhat of a strained relationship with the community as crime continues to rise thanks to "the 100," a local gang,  

On Inspector Henderson's complicated relationship with Black Lightning: "I have to clean up the man's mess. I think it's more [difficult] because he is a vigilante. I'm the letter of the law. You do not take the law into your own hands, but I do like that he instills the community with a certain sense of pride."

Maarten de Boer/Getty Images

Jones plays the formidable former politician and leader of the 100 gang, Tobias Whale, whose history with Black Lightning means the two have unfinished business. Played by Jones with tons of swag, Whale just might become one of your favorite villains. 

On becoming Tobias and making the character his own: "I definitely was aware of how he was perceived by the comic book world already. I think I made him my own. I tried to bring as much true to life emotions from me — things that I could actually relate to and that I thought he might have gone through. [For example,] me being an African-American with albinism, and I thought we may have endured and overcome some of those same hardships. This role allowed me to indulge in them and deal with them in a different way."

Maarten de Boer/Getty Images