'Black Lightning' Showrunner Wants to Build Bridges and Foster Understanding

While Black Lightning made a name for itself in its first season for being a thoughtful look at elements of the black experience that are not often seen in mainstream TV, producers told reporters at Comic Con that they hope to expand the palette and bring in all sorts of characters and people in the show's first season.

The series just cast Sophia Vassilieva as Looker, a superhero who was name-dropped alongside Supergirl in the first season and the first white superhero on the show. Given that she is likely to be a "Green Light baby," that suggests she might be a white character who lived in the same poverty as many young black characters in Freeland. And that is something that the producers had interest in showing.

"The first four episodes are called 'The Book of Consequences, the rise of the Greenlight Babies,'" Akil said. "What that means to me is that we introduced the drug Greenlight, sort of paralleling the introduction of crack into the African-American community, opioids into the white community. So I think people can identify with that. One of the biggest stereotypes that is out there, is that all white people are rich and doing great. This season, what we want to show, and what we're going to try and show is that, that is one of the biggest hurtful stereotypes, aside from the stereotypes of African-Americans and Latinos. That is one of the worst stereotypes, because what it tends to do is divide us. If we could find those common grounds and see that we are all sort of suffering and dealing with the same shit -- Crack, opioids, "I need a better job. I need a better school, a better education." -- So going into this new season, we're gonna debunk that stereotype. So that we can see each other. So, someone was asking me, what genre would I want to do if I wasn't doing this genre. I want to do the genre of building, of bridge-building, you know? The fact that that bridge hasn't been built, has been f---ing us up for a while now."

"When we can see each other, then we can see, oh, how much we are the same, and there is that bridge that we can walk over," added Akil's wife Mara Brock Akil, who is also a producer on the show. "TV chiefs are selecting only one type of person, or two or three types of people. All representation matters in the spirit of, we need to see everybody. We need to also see the groups of people, or the types of people, who are often left out of the narrative. I think that's why we say, Black representation matters, or LGBTQ, because these groups have been left out. Or characters who are paralyzed. It starts to grow in the fiction. They constantly get left out of the narrative, and we need to bring everybody in the narrative."

"But also doing it honestly," Salim Akil stressed. "I'm not trying to be Kumbaya. The shit that I want to say, I want it to be real. I want people to have real representation. It's like me having a conversation with a Native American about slavery, that Native American is gonna look at me like, 'What the f--- are you talkin' about?' Yes, no, that was horrible! But, my people don't even exist hardly anymore. So, it's all in degrees, and I think it's time that we start talking about this."


A new teaser trailer for the second season hit today, using more new footage from upcoming episodes than the Comic Con trailer did, since Black Lightning had just gone back into production shortly before the event.

Black Lightning returns to The CW in October. The series airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT following episodes of The Flash.