Kaci Walfall is ready to take flight.
While we certainly mean that in the figurative sense, she also quite “literally” takes flight in her new role as Naomi on the DC Comics CW series by the same name.
The 17-year-old landed her first series-leading role after a monumental series of meetings with Ava DuVernay, Naomi’s showrunner. Though she admits to harboring nerves, Walfall reveals that DuVernay, whom she affectionately calls “Miss Ava,” put her right at ease and reminded her that she was enough.
“When I got into the [audition] with Miss Ava and she said my name, ‘Hi Kaci, how are you?’ for some reason, her saying that – even just through Zoom Miss Ava has a very kind nurturing soul,” she said. “Just her knowing my name and knowing who I was and not just saying, ‘Okay, next,’ really made me feel welcomed.”
Having acted in commercials and television since the age of 10, Walfall’s big break comes into one of the biggest, most popular comic book properties that has dominated pop culture for decades: The DC Extended Universe. Though she feels some level of pressure hopping in to helm a DC show of her own, she’s ready to take on the challenge, and all that comes with it.
“I believe that everything that comes to you comes to you at a certain time and is only for you,” she said. “There’s so much beauty in that and so much beauty in you being the person chosen to tell the story.”
Naomi is a relatively new character. Created by Brian Michael Bendis and David Walker, the Justice League superhero born of an alternate universe has your typical superhuman strength and healing powers. But as Walfall points out, her origin story and use of her skill aren’t your typical superhero fare – something she sees as an extra level of strength.
“Naomi is a different story,” Walfall explains. “You don’t necessarily have to save bad guys and save people and wear a cape to be a superhero. There are so many different definitions of a superhero.”
Of course, Naomi’s additional draw is that of her other superpower that so many of us can relate to: Black Girl Magic.
As DuVernay expressed via Twitter, she chose to develop the story of Naomi specifically to give audiences a “brand new” Black girl superhero.
“I was asked why I’m doing a show on the CW about a Black girl learning that she’s actually a superhero,” she wrote. “Because I want there to be a show about a Black girl learning that she’s actually a superhero. And then being a great one.”
Though Naomi’s 2019 comic run was successful, Walfall is aware that many fans are getting familiar with her character for the first time. In a fandom as vast and powerful as DC’s, the significance isn’t lost on the teen star.
“I really hope that people are open to certain things,” Walfall says of her new character. “DC fans are very passionate in great ways, of course. So I’ve gotten some great messages and some great tweets and I really, really appreciate people taking the time out of their day to write something positive.”
But, as expected, not every comment is positive praise – especially for a young Black girl entering a primarily white-male dominated hero space.
“I’m a 17-year-old Black girl leading a show on the CW. And then that is so beautiful,” she says. “Those [negative] comments, I’ve seen them. But I think that sometimes I turn them into a joke. It’s just like someone took the time of their day to write that and I pray that they feel better that they wrote that because it isn’t necessary.”
“But it’s sadly part of the job and I hope that people just open their eyes and don’t judge it because of its cover.”
While the bright and bubbly teen hopes fans enjoy the fantasy and fun her superhero story brings to the screen and to the fandom, beyond that she hopes that girls her age and younger see the bigger picture portrayed. The lessons she’s learned through filming, she wants others to learn through watching what she helped create.
“I think that the show also teaches you and reminds you that you are enough,” she explains. As Naomi discovers her true power within, it’s Walfall’s hope that viewers do the same.
“Sometimes when people tell us that we are enough, sometimes we don’t believe it. When you find that within yourself, that’s gold.”