When Black Lightning arrives on The CW next year, the show's core aspect will set it apart from the network's other superhero dramas: its family dynamic. At Comic-Con International in San Diego, the cast offered their insight into the Pierce family's dynamic and revealed some new details about each individual character's relationships.
"I think it creates more drama," shared Black Lightning himself Cress Williams. "I'm really excited to see it ripple out, you know? He hung up his suit for his family. So then he puts it back on again, and that's going to create ripple effects throughout his whole family. What is the ex-wife going to think? She's not going to be happy about it, I can tell you that! And then once the daughters develop powers, how does that affect the family? Every single thing… It's not just me, or it's not this big world thing. It ripples through the family, and I'm really excited about that."
Christine Adams, who plays Jefferson Pierce's ex-wife Lynn, feels the same way. "I think what makes [the show] special is that you've got the fun superhero elements, but what makes it special is this family and this family dynamic that's really real and actually, you know, they're not perfect," she said. "They make mistakes. Their marriage is over. They're trying to figure it out. They've got teenage girls who want to do things they shouldn't be doing. So, in that way, it feels really real and sort of grounded in reality. I think that's quite unique, and I think that's something that the audience is going to be drawn into, hopefully."
"I think Lynn is kind of the glue of the family and I think she's the heartbeat of the family and I think she sort of grounds them and I think she's the nurturer and I think she's just got to be there for them as they navigate this crazy world of being young women, which is, you know, hard enough as it is, and then having superpowers. Really, her superpower is being the nurturer," she explained.
"I think, you know, it's all about balance," she continued. "I think when an audience watches something, they want to see all parts of that world, and also -- in real life -- that's the thing. You're going to watch three superheroes in one show! That's incredibly powerful, visually dynamic. You're going to need an emotional weight. You just need that. That's just balance. So I think, actually, that my character is a good counter. Obviously, I don't know for sure how Lynn's getting involved in the story, but I think that's a really important element in the family. Hopefully, it might not be as showy, but I think there'll hopefully be like an emotional depth that people can connect to, and I think that's important."
"I think just like any family, [the show will] just explore the problems that they go through and how they solve those problems and how they get through everything as a family," said Nafessa Williams, who plays the Pierces' oldest daughter Anissa. "I play the big sister. I'm actually a big sister in real life. I'm the oldest of four, so it was really easy to tap into that with China [Anne McClain] and just protecting her and trying to stop her from making some of the mistakes that I may have made as a teenager. She's definitely the more fiery, sassy daughter, without giving away too much. You guys have to tune in and see."
"[Anissa] is definitely my character's protector," agreed Jennifer Pierce actress China Anne McClain. "She wants to protect me and make sure I'm okay. At the same time, our family is a bit broken. Our parents are split up, she's off at college, so I'm kind of getting into trouble at home and I'm in my little world and I'm isolated, so -- even though she is off at college and there's an age difference -- she just wants me to be okay, period. She doesn't care where she is."
"I would go as far as to say family is probably the most important aspect of this show, because we're all dealing with our superpowers," McClain said. "Our dad is the OG. He's retired and he's used to using his powers for good, but we're just developing our powers. So, instead of just dealing with normal teenagers that are getting into trouble, you're dealing with teenagers that are getting into trouble with superpowers. So, you know, it looks great for Cress [Williams]. He gets to be very dynamic in the show and show both sides of him: the really awesome side, when he's fighting crime and everything, and then just being a father and helping us out with our struggles."
As to Anissa's relationship with her father Jefferson, Nafessa Williams added, "Black Lightning is like Jesus to me. I want to be just like him. He inspires me. I want to be everything that he is and, I'm sure you guys are definitely familiar with the comic book, it's not something he wants her to get into, but she just loves her dad and she really looks up to him. She admires what he does for the community. I'm even a school teacher at the school. I'm just really wanting to follow in his footsteps. He's my idol. He's my hero, in real life and in the comic world as well. She just really looks up to him. I like to think that she's the boy that he never had. She's got a little tomboy edge in her, so I like to think that Anissa is the boy that he never had."
Debuting on the CW in 2018, Black Lightning is a production of Akil Productions starring Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams and Christine Adams.