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Black Lightning's China Anne McClain was planning exit before cancellation, will have reduced role in S4

By Matthew Jackson
Black Lightning China Anne McClain

When Black Lightning returns for its fourth and final season on The CW early next year, it'll be with a little less of one of its biggest stars. China Anne McClain, who plays Jefferson Piercer's daughter Jennifer (aka Lightning) on the hit DC Comics series, announced in a video to fans over the weekend that we'll be seeing less of her character as the show heads toward its curtain call. 

In an emotional, 12-minute video message posted to her Instagram page, McClain -- also known for her roles in Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Disney's Descendants films -- revealed that she was planning to leave Black Lightning after the fourth season even before the cast knew that Season 4 before would be the final one. Because of that, she noted that she'll have a reduced role in the final season. 

“What I did know and have known along with the rest of the cast since before we even started shooting this season is that I am leaving the show and was leaving the show," McClain added. "This was going to be my last season, regardless of if it went on or not. For different reasons, that, to be honest, I don't want to go into. I just want y'all to trust me on it."

McClain noted that she heard the news of the show's cancellation at the same time Black Lightning's fans did, and in light of that news she decided it was time to let viewers know to expect less of Lightning because she "only agreed to do a certain number of episodes" for her final year on the series. She also explained that, while she has her own reasons for the departure, it was not due to any mistreatment on the part of The CW or the makers of Black Lightning

“I’m not leaving because I had a terrible time working at The CW,” she said. “I like The CW. I like [CW network president] Mark Pedowitz, I like [Warner Bros. president] Peter Roth, [EP] Greg Berlanti, I love [showrunner] Salim [Akil], I always will. He gets it. And people that actually know me… they know why I make the decisions that I make.”

In the full video, which you can watch above, McClain makes reference to various events that have happened "over this quarantine" that helped motivate her decision-making and future plans, though she doesn't get into specifics. She also thanked Black Lightning fans, and encouraged them to continue to support the show as it moves into spinoff territory with a backdoor pilot focused on Jordan Calloway's character, Painkiller.

"Thank y'all for supporting the show. I hope you took some genuinely good things from it, some good moments. I hope that you did. And congratulations to Salim and Jordan. Jordan, who plays Painkiller on the show, just got a spinoff. Please support him in that. God did that for him, and he's gonna do great. I know it. Please embrace him with open arms and support him. Show's gonna be great. This chapter in my life is closing. I'm so excited for what's next."

Black Lightning returns Feb. 8 on The CW.

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