When Black Lightning debuts next week, Marvin "Krondon" Jones III will make a splash as Tobias Whale. Jones' Whale will lead The 100, the most feared gang in all of Freeland, against Black Lightning as the hero struggles to free the city from his iron grasp. Despite being forced underground years ago by Jefferson Pierce's father, Whale won't stay in the shadows for long; Black Lightning's return will inspire him to rise again, and that spells trouble for Jefferson, his family and the rest of Freeland.
Speaking to CBR during a set visit, Jones offered some insight into his mysterious villain. He explained why there would be no Black Lightning without Tobias Whale, how Whale's history as a politician lends to his villainy and what his relationship with Lady Eve looks like. He also recalled how he landed the role and discovered a little bit of Tobias Whale within himself and more.
CBR: What is your favorite part of playing Tobias?
Jones: Just coming to work every day! Being him every day is a wonderful thing. My favorite part of playing him is I'm able to soul-search, you know, and figure out how much of Tobias Whale is in me and how much of me is in Tobias Whale. So that's a fun part of it.
You started out in music and this is your first major acting role. Can you talk about how you landed the role and how that transition has been for you?
Some friends of mine in music were hit on my behalf and they reached out to me to audition for the part, and then I did some homework on what it was I was auditioning for. Off-hand, it was like, "Okay, I can see why they want me to audition for this," but then I didn't know and did my due diligence, of course, and got the role. Again, it's been a revealing thing for me the entire time where I can say myself, who I am as Marvin Jones the musician or whatever, has been revealed through Tobias Whale in the getting of the job and vice versa. I was able to see how much of me is in that character and how much of that character was already in me.
You said you did your due diligence for the role. Does that mean you picked up a few comics along the way?
Oh, yeah! Of course! I had to do that. I did a bunch of reading. I still read all the comics and have them all now. I read some comics and I did some background on what was expected of me as far as the people that were looking at me -- my casting director, the EP of the show, the writers -- and stuff like that, so I did that as well. I already knew the EP and the writer, Salim [Akil] and Mara [Brock Akil]. I already knew their work. Yeah, I did some homework -- a lot of homework, a lot of reading comics. The whole story of Black Lightning -- read that before auditioning. It was good.
How would you describe Tobias' relationship with Black Lightning?
I don't want to give too much of the show away! If you've read the comics, then you know. Their relationship is one that is an ongoing rivalry that is deeply rooted in the makeup of both of them, who they are as men, especially Black Lightning. I think there would be no Black Lightning without Tobias Whale. I think the motivation and the key motivation for Black Lightning is not only the betterment of Freeland and to rid Freeland of any kind of chaos, but -- at the same time -- vengeance is an undertone motivation for him, for the things that he's experienced and witnessed as a child. I think that whether he lets onto that or not… I think that's even a subconscious thing for him. On the surface, Jefferson's whole thing is he just wants to do good and do right. I think under that is a big air of vengeance that's motivating Black Lightning.
How does Tobias' role as a politician influence his character?
I mean, that's everything. The fact that he's a politician kind of talks to how meticulous he is about his tricks, about his speech, about how he carries himself, the decisions that he makes, him being a manipulator and being willing to do anything to get his way. That's what politicians do. I think it all lends to the villain. If you think about it, our president now is the ultimate villain, and he's the world's villain right now. I don't lie. And we have to respect him as a human too, because we know his kids, we know his wife, we know him, and he's a villain.
Can you tease Tobias' relationship with Lady Eve?
Lady Eve is the only person of authority over him. It means something to him, I think ultimately because it's a woman. I think ultimately his affinity for Lady Eve has to do with the fact that she's kind of a mother figure to him -- but she's not his mother. That's all I'll say about that. [laughs]
Debuting Tuesday, January 16, 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.