One Way The CW's Black Lightning Is More Rewarding Than Cress Williams Expected

black lightning

Black Lightning's arrival on The CW is one of the most self-assured superhero debuts to ever hit the small screen, with star Cress Williams shining bright (literally and metaphorically) as the titular hero. As part of the diversity-driven comic event DC in D.C. 2018, which saw the world premiere of Black Lightning itself, the cast and creators gave fans a lot to be pumped about. Speaking with CinemaBlend and other outlets, William shared that while playing a superhero was what initially excited him the most about the project, he discovered he enjoyed the non-Black Lightning material even more. Here's what he told us:

The interesting thing was like, obviously the first thing before I'd even really read the script, was the superhero aspect. I mean, that was the thing: I'd always wanted to play a superhero, and everything that that is. But then once I read the script and started getting into the role, the most appealing aspect is all the Jefferson stuff. I love the scenes with the daughters, and I get to just be Dad. And even though Lynn and I are divorced, we still operate very much like mother and father, husband and wife, and so I love those scenes as well. Just all the Jefferson things. I mean, Gambi -- James [Remar] -- is amazing, and I loved doing scenes with him. So it was interesting that those became my favorites.

What an awesome realization to be faced with upon entering a new job, and even better when the job is this important and potentially long-term. With so few black superheroes out there, especially ones that could warrant their own live-action projects, Cress Williams was all too aware for many years that the odds weren't stacked in his favor in that department. In his mid-40s, the actor was already beyond the prime age for new leading roles in comic adaptations. (At least in parts that aren't just someone's doting butler.) So when Black Lightning came around, it was truly a dream project realized, and it must have been quite a "Eureka" moment when he discerned that doing all the fun heroic stuff wasn't even the best part of the work.

When Black Lightning kicks off, Jefferson Pierce has long abandoned his role as the electricity-infused vigilante offering his own brand of justice in the Freeland community. Outside of his home, Jefferson is keeping the peace as a high school principal, while his domestic duties are focused on the safety and well-being of his daughters Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain), as well as his ex-wife Lynn (Christine Adams). But the ass-kicking alter ego is always within Jefferson, who has to toe ethical lines when determining how to handle his daughters getting caught up in a dangerous plot involving the street gang calling themselves The One Hundred. So one could easily assume that Cress Williams' enjoyment in playing a devoted family man is heightened by Jefferson's Black Lightning persona always hovering just beneath the surface.

One thing is for sure: if potential viewers have one particular reason why they think they're going to love Black Lightning, they'll almost definitely come away from the pilot episode loving so much more than they expected. It's a show that deftly balances the family drama and the crimefighter drama in ways that feel completely different from everything in The CW's Arrow-verse, as well as other superhero TV shows. And you can tell that Cress Williams is having fun with every minute he's on the screen.

Black Lightning makes its highly anticipated debut on The CW on Tuesday, January 16, at 9:00 p.m. ET, following The Flash's midseason premiere. Check out the rest of the 2018 Superhero TV schedule and then be sure to bookmark our 2018 midseason premiere schedule for all the latest and greatest dates.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.