Black Lightning's Cress Williams hopes his show can ride the Black Panther wave

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Mar 6, 2018

We are now living in the post-Black Panther age. Marvel Studios' latest film is still climbing at the global box office, still earning praise from just about every corner of the internet, and still one of the main attractions in Hollywood even when it's not supposed to be (see Sunday's Oscars, when the film's stars shone brighter than a lot of the nominees).

Many of Black Panther's fans will tell that this all means that the film is not just a hit, but a movement, and that its success will inspire greater diversity and inclusion in future blockbusters. While time will tell just how long Hollywood will ride the wave of Black Panther, it does feel like it's not going away anytime soon.

One of the people who seems to believe that, and hopes to ride the wave himself, is Cress Williams, star of the DC Comics inspired CW drama Black Lightning. Like Black Panther at Marvel, Black Lightning is one of DC's earliest black superheroes, and Williams is at present the only black star leading a superhero show on network television. In a recent interview (via TV Guide), Williams — whose series is still in the middle of its 13-episode debut season — praised Black Panther, and publicly expressed the hope that its massive success would drive more people to check out black heroes on the small screen, including Black Lightning.

"We're now on the other side of the Olympics and awards season and all that, so I think we'll see this kind of latter half what effect [Black Panther] had," Williams said. "I hope it has a positive effect. A lot of people were like, 'Oh man, your numbers are going to totally go up!' It actually makes sense because Black Panther was such a great movie and hopefully it whets your appetite for more, so then you have the opportunity to watch a TV show like every single week. So I hope so. We haven't really seen it yet."

It's certainly not hard to imagine moviegoers who crave more from T'Challa going home, looking around the internet for a moment and then realizing there's a whole series about a black superhero just waiting for them. Right now Black Lightning's earning somewhere in the neighborhood of two million viewers per episode (which rises to more than three million with DVR viewing), which puts it in the same range as just about every other CW superhero show, though it did slip just a tiny bit in recent weeks. Counting this week's episode, the series still have seven left in its initial run, so we'll have to wait and see if there's any kind of surge, particular in viewers who begin streaming from the beginning. 

In the meantime, Williams is still happy to gush about Black Panther and what he most enjoyed while watching it. His verdict: Yes, he's just as in love with Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia as you are.

"I was amazed at the women of the movie. That was my take away, that the women were like phenomenal," he said. "To me, the characters were so well acted and well carved out, and they were such an important part... If you take the women away, the movie — I'm going to be honest - the movie is all right. You put the women and what they did, that takes it to great. So to be sitting there with my daughter, who's 12-years-old... for her to see these women, it was phenomenal."

New episode of Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST, right after The Flash, on The CW. What do you think? Will Black Panther's success help lead the show to better ratings?

(Via TV Guide)