The CW has released a new clip from Black Lightning, which premieres Tuesday night on the network.
The intense scene, in which Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is stopped by the police, apparently for "driving while black," is loosely based on experiences that showrunner Salim Akil has had in his real life -- one where being a man of color in an expensive car got him pulled over so often that the officer began to remember his name once the window came down.
“The first scene in my head was him being pulled over by the police,” Akil told reporters during a recent visit to the show's set in Atlanta. “I was telling someone earlier that the reason it’s called Freeland is that I didn’t want to out my own neighborhood and call it Richmond. People still live there and they like their neighborhood,and I didn’t want people to feel like they were being put upon. But a lot of what we are talking about in the show is stuff that I have experienced so one of the first things that popped into my head was this guy who had powers being pulled over by the police.”
Similarly, Akil made a decision that while there are characters with powers on Black Lightning, most of the violence is not the kind of over-the-top wirework that defines the action set pieces on shows like The Flash and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, but gunplay -- and those shots will result in some shocking and sad consequences, and some onscreen blood so that it doesn't look "pretty."
“I know and understand the result of extreme violence in my own life, in my friends’ lives, and so I know what violence really is,” said Akil. “I’ve held people who have been shot. I know what a gunshot looks like; I know what violence looks like. So if you ask me what violence is, I’d say it never leads anywhere. But at the same time, violence leads to freedom. Nobody ever fought for freedom without some degree of violence.”
Guns will be a major theme in the series, by the sound of it: Akil said he wanted to explore the consequences of gun violence in urban areas, not just in some Very Special Episode about police-involved violence but more generally how violence impacts the community. As a school principal, such an exploration almost by necessity puts Black Lightning's civilian identity, Jefferson Pierce, front and center.
Black Lightning premieres on January 16 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, following the midseason premiere of The Flash. The pilot will also have a special screening during this weekend's "DC in D.C." event in Washington, D.C.