Black Lightning is a unique offering of superhero television with The CW series centered on a black superhero on a show that features predominantly black writers and talent. It's also unique in its portrayal of its villain, Tobias Whale.
One of the most formidable villains on The CW, Tobias hasn't even directly appeared in each episode this season yet revealed himself to be fully in control at the end of last week's episode, but according to Marvin "Krondon" Jones III, what makes the villain so powerful and important is just how human he is. Jones explained to The Hollywood Reporter that Tobias is a relatable bad guy.
"He's relatable to all kinds of people, whether you have albinism or not, whether you're black or not, whether you're the villain or not, he's got some parts to him that everyone relates to in the way he feels or carries himself with his insecurities," Jones said. "You don't see that very often in the comic book genre. There's an honest there and I'm just trying to make it as authentic as I can."
That authenticity extends to choice of actor for the role. On Black Lightning as in the DC Comics source material Tobias is an African American with albinism. Albinism isn't particularly common and, as a result, has some stigma surrounding it. It's something the show has touched on -- specifically with Lady Eve making some lightly veiled commentary about it earlier in the season. For Jones who is himself a black man with albinism, being able to play Tobias and counteract some of that stigma was hugely important for anyone who is different.
"I knew it was a great opportunity to break a stigma, an undeserving stigma about people with visual uniqueness," Jones said. "The cliché of diversity is that it's pigeon holed with an unnecessary parameter and limitation when it comes to what is diversity and makes someone diverse. Diversity has no limitation or ceiling -- men, women, black, Asian, Latino, white, gay, whatever have you, we have to be all-inclusive. You can't exclude anyone when you talk about diversity and that's the beautiful thing about our show - I get to play an African American man with albinism in a pivotal role on a network television show."
Jones also hopes that his portrayal of Tobias will help Hollywood understand that it is important to cast the right person for the role, no matter their outward appearance.
"Can they do the work?" Jones says. "To an extent of course; I can't play an Italian mobster, don't cast me in that movie. But if you take a role and the breakdown says black man, African Americans come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, mixes, a beautiful spectrum just like Caucasian and Latino people do. I am proof of that. I'm just going to keep doing good work and use my platform to show what the world looks like. The more we change our worldview, the more roles open up and we get wonderful people of color like Salim Akil, Mara Brock Akil, Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay who create beautiful stories full of diversity because they see a different worldview."
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.