As Anissa Pierce, she's the oldest of the titular heroes two children and is slowly discovering the abilities she inherited from her father. But Williams also understands the importance of playing a black woman as an out lesbian in a superhero series.
"I believe love is love. I’m just really grateful to tell the story for young lesbians — and black lesbians in particular — who don’t really see themselves on TV," Williams said while speaking with Entertainment Weekly. "My hope is that when you watch Anissa, a young lesbian is inspired to walk boldly as who she is and to love herself and to love herself exactly how she looks.
"Also my parents on this show, they’re very supportive of my sexual preference, and maybe this can serve as an inspiration to parents at home watching who are dealing with a child who is gay or lesbian and not knowing how to communicate or be as a open. I hope that our family on the show is an inspiration for some families just to be open and accept your children and love them. The Pierce family does a great job of doing that."
It's somewhat atypical of the common narratives featuring gay characters on TV and in film. In many different series, they are shown to be struggling to open up about who they are, while Williams' character has a different problem altogether.
In Black Lightning, the big secret Anissa is hiding is that she's developing super powers, and she's learning more about herself in the process.
"She’s in this [time of] discovery and she begins to struggle with it because she’s learning these things about herself and she’s finding out about how these powers work and where they came from," Williams said. "But it’s one of those things [where she wonders], 'Am I a freak? Do I share it? Is anyone going to believe me? My parents are over protective, how are they going to accept it?'
"It’s almost in the mental space you’re at if you’re coming out as a gay or a lesbian to your parents. It’s a parallel like that as well. It’s a secret that she holds onto for a while because she really doesn’t know who to talk to about it and how people are going to react to that."
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.