Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain have joined the previously cast Cress Williams in The CW’s upcoming DC Comics pilot “Black Lightning.”
Cress Williams plays the title role (real name Jefferson Pierce), while Williams and McClain have signed up to play his daughters, Anissa and Jennifer Pierce – one a 20-something, passionate and quick-witted, who balances the demands of medical school with her job teaching part-time at her father’s school; and the other is an independent, outspoken scholar-athlete with a wild streak of her own.
In the DC comics, both daughters follow in their father’s footsteps and become superheroes themselves, known as Thunder and Lightning.
Initially set up at Fox TV, the Warner Bros/DC Comics project “Black Lightning” was moved to The CW, where it received an official pilot order. Fox put the project in turnaround after deciding not to proceed with a pilot. The move to The CW actually makes sense, as other Greg Berlanti superhero series (“The Flash” and “Supergirl”) are all currently at The CW. Recall “Supergirl” spent its first season on CBS, but it never really quite caught on with that network’s viewers, and so was shipped off to The CW.
Berlanti is collaborating with Mara Brock and Salim Akil on the live-action series based on the Black Lightning superhero – one of the first major African American superheroes to appear in DC Comics.
According to DC Comics Universe lore, Black Lightning – created by Tony Isabella and Trevor von Eeden, first appearing in “Black Lightning #1” (1977) – is a superhero with the ability to generate and control lightning. Originally he was a high school principal and Olympic-level athlete who became a vigilante to take down organized crime in Metropolis’ Suicide Slum. Eventually he would become a member of Batman’s team of Outsiders for many years, although he retired briefly to become secretary of education underneath president Lex Luthor. Returning to crime-fighting, he has also been a member of the Justice League. His two daughters operate as the super-heroes Thunder and Lightning.
Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil will write and executive produce the series with Berlanti Prods.’ Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter, for Warner Bros. TV (recall the Akils inked a 3-year deal with Warner Bros. TV after exiting BET in 2015. “Black Lightning” will be their second project under the new deal; the other is a comedy series titled “Documenting Love” which will center on a modern-day power couple navigating life, love and family.
The Black Lightning series has been in the works at Warner Bros. for over a year, going through different variations, because the TV studio wanted to make sure it got the character, his world, and the overall series right.
Deadline was first to report the news of Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain’s casting.