When Black Lightning debuts on The CW later this month, it will be like nothing else on television within when it comes to comic book adaptations on television. Separate from the network's Arrowverse, Black Lightning is set to be more grounded, more diverse, and more real for a superhero show.
"I just drew from my life," Salim Akil said. "Jefferson is already a community -based superhero, he's already a principal, he's already a father. It gave me an opportunity to talk about things that were personal to me. I grew up in a community like Freeland. I was surrounded by those things that you see in Freeland and in Chicago and Oakland. It came naturally. It wasn't a choice made out of, 'Hey this is what we want to say.' It came out of a choice of, 'This is what I know, and this is what we know so let's do what's real. Let's do what's authentic and real to me,' which I think everybody embraces. I'm appreciative of that. It's very personal to me."
Black Lightning will follow Jefferson Piece, a retired superhero who finds himself coming out of retirement when dangerous local gang, The One Hundred, threaten his family and his community. In comics, the character was the first African-American to DC Comics hero to have a stand-alone title and for the show's star, Cress Williams, bringing that character to television is also personal. Having only white superheroes in movies and television as a kid, Williams understands the significance of Black Lightning and other characters like him.
"I think it's beautiful that we have Luke Cage, that we have us, that we have Black Panther," Williams said. "We're kind of conquering every possible outlet. I think there's an animated black Spider-Man coming. I'm stoked. Now we have so many things to choose from, so I hope that keeps growing, not only for African-Americans but for every ethnicity, gender, religion. I think it's important. Ideally I want everyone to be able to look and go, 'That's me.' I want to find them socially represented, they grow up and look to the screens and say, 'I see me.'"
Black Lightning premieres on Tuesday, January 16 after The Flash at 9/8c on The CW.