When Black Lightning arrives on The CW this week, he won’t be the only superhero in Freeland. Over the course of the show, his two daughters Anissa and Jennifer will begin to manifest powers of their very own. This transition will be a little easier on Anissa than Jennifer, the younger — and more rebellious — of the Pierce children. For Jennifer, who strives be as normal as possible, the powers she inherits from her father will pose a new challenge as she struggles to form her own identity and relate to her family.
During a set visit, Jennifer Pierce actor China Anne McClain explained why superpowers are the worst thing possible to happen for this all-American teenager. She teased how her character will respond to learning about her father’s secret life as Black Lightning and who she might turn to first when she discovers her powers. She also shared her dream arc for Jennifer, what theme song she’d pick for her and more.
Asked what it will be like for Jennifer to manifest her powers, McClain said, “Well, Jennifer is young. She’s a teenager. For her, getting her powers is very different than Anissa getting her powers for the first time, because I’ve said that she’s older, she’s confident. She knows who she is at this point at this point in her life and she’s comfortable with that, but Jennifer is still trying to figure that out, so to have this happen to her is a huge deal and she feels kind of an alien on Earth. It’s difficult for her to deal with.”
“She already dislikes the fact that everybody calls her the Queen of Garfield High. She’s like, ‘I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to be a track star. I just want to be normal,’ you know?” ‘I just want to go to school and have friends and go to parties and whatever teenagers normally do.’ This kind of just adds onto this feeling for her, because she never wanted that attention,” she added. “So for this to be happening, she just feels even more like, ‘Oh gosh, I’m different and I don’t want to be in that category.'”
As to what Jennifer does with those powers when she first gets them, McClain wasn’t so sure. “I’m not quite sure about where that goes yet, but it might be interesting for her to be a little bit more responsible now, you know? Because she’s been rebellious, she has a bit of a wild streak, so it might be cool to see her grow up a little bit with this responsibility,” she shared.
The fact that her father is Black Lightning will come as something of a shock. “Parents aren’t exactly supposed to keep secrets from their children, especially when you feel like this should be an open environment where we can talk and you guys always tell me to talk to you about this and stuff, but this is something you kept from me? Because the girls don’t know that their father is Black Lightning. So she’s just like, ‘What?’ She feels like her world has been turned upside down. There’s some anger and some resentment there for sure,” McClain explained.
“I definitely think that she thinks her dad is way cooler now that she finds out, like, ‘Oh my God, my dad is Black Lightning! This is incredible!’ But at the same time, she still sees him as just her father. That’s her dad,” she continued. “So, before any of that really kicks in, it’s just anger. ‘Dad, how could you not tell me this?!’ I know that we’re dealing with superheroes, so it’s very heightened and it’s very fantastical, but — at the end of the day — it’s a very real family. So she’s just dealing with her and with him as her father, not as Black Lightning.”
“It definitely affects her relationship with her mother as well, because the relationship you have with your dad is totally different than the relationship you have with your mom. Your mom is always like, ‘Come to me about anything.’ So, for her mother not to come to her with this secret about her father, she’s kind of like, ‘Was I in the Twilight Zone this whole time? Are your names even your names? Is everything I know a lie?’ So it’s an interesting situation for Jennifer to deal with, but it’s difficult. It’s very hard,” she added.
If Jennifer goes to anyone about her powers, it will be her sister Anissa. “Well, her and her sister are very close. They’re very close, so — if she were to go to anyone — it would probably be her first,” McClain said. “Of course, Anissa already knows what she’s dealing with, because she’s been through it herself.”
McClain believes Jennifer’s relationships with her family and friends make the show feel more realistic. “I was actually thinking that the other day when I was shooting a scene with the girl who plays my friend — her name is Kiki in real life — and it just felt so real! Just us going back and forth and playing around and we were like, ‘Are we actually in high school right now?’ This is so strange! We’re like taking selfies of each other and it feels so real,” she recalled. “That’s one thing I love about the show. It tackles the family life first and the realness, and then the superhero stuff. It’s very realistic, and there’s a character for everyone to latch onto and be able to relate to.”
As for her dream arc for Jennifer, McClain said, “Going back to what I said earlier, I would like to see her grow up a little. She’s a teenager, so she’s immature and she’s very impressionable, but to see her grow up and have this responsibility and really accept it and accept this part of herself and not look at herself like she’s a freak or she’s abnormal. I want her to accept herself as unique, as Anissa has. That would be really interesting… Love and accept this new part of her and see it as beautiful, as a gift and not a curse.”
Her dream for Jennifer ties into the theme song she would pick for her. Asked what song she would pick, she chose “probably ‘We Gon Be Alright’ by Kendrick Lamar, because there’s so much stuff going on and her family is having such a hard time, not just in the superhero world, but before that! Just dealing with her parents not being together. Just normal things a teenager might go through in life. It’s just hard, but she’s getting through it with her family. They’re very close knit. She still has her sister around all the time. She’s just getting through it, slowly but surely, day by day.”
Debuting Tuesday, January 16 on The CW, Black Lightning stars Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning, China Anne McClain as his younger daughter Jennifer Pierce, Nafessa Williams as his older daughter Anissa Pierce, Christine Adams as Lynn Pierce, James Remar as Peter Gambi, Damon Gupton as Henderson, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III as Tobias Whale and Chantal Thuy as Grace Choi.
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