When it comes to Jefferson Pierce's daughters on Black Lightning, the apples don't fall far from the tree. Both Anissa and Jennifer have metahuman powers just like their father. But for Jennifer, coming to terms with her abilities is an ongoing process one that leads the young woman to therapy.
Spoilers for tonight's episode of Black Lightning, "Master Lowry", below.
In tonight's episode, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) ends up starting therapy with Perenna (Erika Alexander), a therapist suggested to the Pierces by Peter Gambi (James Remar) due to her telepathic abilities and while Jennifer is reluctant at first, she soon gives Perenna a chance. The two begin to work on addressing Jennifer's inability to control her powers not just from a power standpoint, but from an emotional one. It's an approach that McClain said during a recent set visit is one that really appealed to her.
"I really liked the storyline, and the fact that they were handling Jennifer's powers from the inside instead of just saying, 'Oh, just control 'em. You know what I'm saying? You can do it.'" McClain said. "They really dove in and worked on parts of her mind, I hope I'm not saying too much ... worked on parts of her mind to make sure that she was level on the inside so that she would be able to control them because she has some pretty powerful abilities."
Part of helping Jennifer get "level" on the inside went beyond simply helping Jennifer identify her emotions. It extended to the idea of empowerment something reflected in the setting Perenna used for Jennifer's first session. In the episode, Perenna telepathically takes Jennifer to a beauty salon but it's not for the calming spa-like environment. As Perenna explains in the episode, beauty shops have long been a community space for black women, a place where they are able to find sisterhood, support, and empowerment even in a world that might not want to give them voice. For Jennifer, this is significant as she to an extent doesn't feel like she has a voice with her powers being beyond her control -- both literally and in terms of how she developed them.
Jennifer's experience is significant, not only to the story Black Lightning is telling, but for McClain it allows her to have a better understanding of the powerlessness people feel in complicated situations especially as Jennifer's plight and life is very different from her own.
"There are a lot of kids out there who have raw deals, whose lives are worse," McClain said. "You know what I'm sayin'? That's how I see it. Like if I went home today and my dad was black like me, you know what I'm sayin' and my sister Thunder and I found out, 'Oh my God, this is in my DNA. I have superpowers.' I wouldn't feel like, 'Oh boo hoo me.' You know what I'm sayin'? I love that Jennifer feels that way because Jennifer's a different type of girl than what I am. Things like, am I gonna ... you know, relationships and school and I just wanna do this and do that with my life, getting married and stuff. I've been doing this since I was five. I've been acting, I've been in this industry since I was five so those are things that I don't really worry about.
"I have to worry about day after day, I have to learn my lines, day after day and focus just on that. 'Cause if I try to focus on everything at once and the future, then things just become too much. But Jennifer is not like that. So, I really like the fact that she feels a different way than what I would normally feel. And I hope that I've done an okay job portraying that she just wants to be normal. And she feels like this is the curse from the devil, you know what I'm sayin'? It's not a gift. She didn't ask for it and she doesn't want it."
Even though Jennifer didn't ask for her gift and doesn't want it doesn't mean that she won't eventually find a way to make peace with things and step up, though.
"Part of her feels like she should step up, but that's also why she's so mad that she has powers," McClain said. "She's like, 'I shouldn't feel like this. I shouldn't feel forced to step up because my sister has fully accepted it and you know, my dad's been demoted so to try and help those he can't given his situation and stuff. I shouldn't feel like this. I'm sixteen.' You know what I'm saying? 'Everybody leave me alone.' But I definitely think that part of her feels that way. She feels the responsibility to step up, put her suit on, and get her butt out there and help. And she will, eventually."
Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.