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Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched The CW's Black Lightning season premiere.
The action-packed Black Lightning has finally arrived as the latest superhero to bring a branded sense of vigilantism to The CW, home of the currently unconnected Arrow-verse. Set in the gang-threatened communiity of Freeland, Black Lightning is sewing the seeds for its central conflict between Cress Williams' electricity-filled Jefferson Pierce and Marvin "Krondon" Jones III's crime boss Tobias Whale. Speaking with Jones during the Black Lightning red carpet ahead of its world premiere at the recent DC in D.C. 2018 event, I asked if the two men's battle would be more physical or mental, and here's what he told me.
Well, you'll have to keep watching to figure that out. But I think it's both. I'll answer that question [by saying] both. It's both physical and mental. And, honestly, it's spiritual, too. If you think about the opening scene in Episode 1, it's spiritual, too. There's a spiritual connotation there that's heavy. Tobias has issues.
Sounds like we're going to be getting a fully rounded villain in Tobias Whale, and his relatively brief appearance in the series premiere actually does manage to deliver all three of the gang boss' adversarial tactics. He seems to have a tic where he tugs on his ear, and Tobias made sure his enforcers made William Catlett's LaLa put a mask on when being delivered to his lair. All that is probably made necessary by Tobias being wanted for murder, which means he's probably constantly on edge. All of those elements hint at the chaos rumbling around in Tobias' head, making him presumably unpredictable.
Those presumptions were proven correct when he shot LaLa right in the chest with an arrow, extending the physical pain by pulling the criminal underling to the desk by the still-impaled arrow. So he clearly doesn't put too much hesitation behind bringing all manner of harm to whoever stands in his way or disrupts the underworld's status quo. (Plus, shooting someone like that is a mind game in and of itself.) Such a disruption would come with the return of Black Lightning, whom Tobias claims to have killed in the past. He brings up resurrection during his clinic in intimidation, adding some spiritual mojo to the scene. Also, Tobias Whale is clearly a dude who subscribes to an Old Testament mentality.
Marvin "Krondon" Jones III also spoke about the research he did for the role, making sure to mention that he was inspired not only by comic books, but by real-world baddies.
I took a full dive into the comic books, among other things. I did a full dive, honestly, into the whole world of comics. I was always a fan, coming up, but playing this role, I took it really serious to want to be ranked up there with some of the greats, with some of the people that I admired coming up as a kid. I did do a lot of research. And not just in comic-villain world. I went just in the villain world. And went all over, you know, from dictators to mean military people, just all kinda stuff. I won't give you too many secrets.
In the early episodes screened for critics, Tobias Whale comes across as a balanced mixture of two other fantastic Marvel TV villains, meshing the calm sadism of Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk to the power-hungry motivations of Mahershala Ali's Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes. Both of those villains couple be considered small-time dictators for the way they ran their criminal empires, and we're hoping Tobias gets more and more screentime as the season progresses.
I also asked Marvin "Krondon" Jones III what it was like for him to bring the evil to Black Lightning with an updated take on the comic book villain, created back in 1977. Here's what he said:
I like to think, as an actor, that all of us have a bit of villain in us. We have all elements and aspects of emotions within us. On the villain side, all of us have that in us. As an actor, I just pulled that part of me to the forefront.
With a lot more destructive antagonism coming from Tobias Whale in the future, not to mention another new superhero or two, Black Lightning airs on The CW every Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET. For similar TV programming coming soon, head to our 2018 Superhero TV schedule, and for a wider swath of shows, zip over to our midseason premiere schedule.