Black Lightning cast and creators talk authenticity and the connection to Justice League at TCAs

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Jan 7, 2018

The cast and creative team behind The CW's Black Lightning took to the TCA stage Sunday morning to talk about what audiences can expect when the show premieres later this month.

The CW's latest foray into superhero fare is Black Lightning, which follows the story of Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), a man who can control electricity. Being the first black-led superhero show on The CW means Black Lightning is treading a new path -- one executive producer Mara Brock Akil said from the beginning sought to authentically portray the community in which it takes place.

"One thing we set out early is do Black on purpose and paint our humanity into our picture. Use authentic language and voice, and humor to get through things. Even Henderson’s character is how tough it is to be head of the police force but then also the enemy to some."

Executive producer Salim Akil echoed the sentiment, noting how the writing staff plays an important role in this authenticity.

"We have a predominantly African-American writing team. We have people who have lived this life or know someone who has. Also, the cast knows the language in their own community."

Actress Christine Adams, who plays Lynn Pierce, credits the two EPs for keeping this authentic portrayal of the Black community at the forefront.

"[It's a] testament to Salim and Mara saying we want this to be a Black show, and that’s what you see on the screen. They have maintained that vision from the beginning, and the integrity has been there and will continue to get better and better."

With a depressing lack of representation in superhero media (and media in general), Black Lightning h,imself, Williams spoke about the importance of showing a community that often doesn't get to see itself on-screen.

"We have Luke Cage, us, and Black Panther, so we have every outlet covered. As the kid who basically had Superman, we have so many choices, and I hope that keeps growing for every ethnicity, race, and gender. I want them to look to the screens and see themselves."

This respect for the community within the show extended even into naming, according to EP Salim Akil.

"I called it Freeland, and it reminds me that it’s about me and I want to show the community respect. I didn’t want to make anyone a mustache-twirling villain. It’s very personal to me. I try to maintain the balance to entertain, and be fun and use his powers, but it’s also intensely personal."

If you're already trying to figure out how the world of Black Lightning ties in to the larger Arrowverse and even Justice League, at the moment EP Salim Akil says it doesn't.

"We are creating our own family before we branch out. What you see is a direct result of people really supporting us ... the other universe, Justice League, is not part of our world."

You can visit Freeland when Black Lightning premieres January 16 at 9 p.m. on The CW.