Netflix‘s new Black British series Supacell is noteworthy for many reasons. It is a series featuring Black people with superpowers, and that alone had people intrigued. But how do the superpowers work, and how did these Black South Londoners get their powers?

What is the cause behind the powers in ‘Supacell’?

In the show Supacell, the powers that the Black South Londoners receive is rooted in sickle cell disease. For those who may not know, sickle cell disease is a group of blood disorders that disproportiality impacts people of African descent as Black people are more likely to be genetically predisposed to it. Per the CDC, In the United States, “more more than 90% are non-Hispanic Black or African American” and “an estimated 3%–9% are Hispanic or Latino.”

So, in the series, they people who have powers have a mutated version of the sickle cell trait, which results in “supacell.”

As one of Supacell’s villains, Ray (Eddie Marsan), explains in one of the episodes when telling one of the characters about what they have powers:

“At least one of your parents had sickle cell…or they both had the trait. And supacell is a mutation of sickle cell. It’s very rare, and even if you have it, it can lay dormant in your body forever. But it can also awaken, given the right conditions. Close proximity with another activated supacell is most common.”

This means that in the series, each of their powers were awakened while in danger, like Sabrina, Andre or Tazer, or due to being in proximity to another person with supacell, like Michael and Rodney.

What are the powers in Netflix’s ‘Supacell’?

The super-powered abilities on Supacell vary from person to person, from things like time travel to super-strength.

Here are the powers of the main characters:

Michael Lasaki (Tosin Cole)The ability to manipulate time
Sabrina (Nadine Mills)Telekinesis
Andre (Eric Kofi-Abrefa) Super-strength
Rodney (Calvin Demba)Super-speed
Tazer (Josh Tedeku) Invisibility
Photo: Netflix

Why only Black people have powers in ‘Supacell’

There was importance behind giving only Black people powers and to have the powers tied to a genetic health issue that primarily impacts Black people.

“It basically was turning a weakness into a strength,” series creator, showrunner and lead director Rapman explained in a recent interview with Blavity’s Shadow and Act (which you can view in full above). “And that strength is raising their awareness with it. That strength is, anybody who’s suffering with something [or] with a similar condition, can watch that and [be like], ‘Finally, people are going to understand what I’m going through. And imagine [thinking], ‘Something that made me, puts me down may make my children extraordinary…imagine what that would be like.’ So it was to make them feel seen, something to make them feel strong and something to raise awareness, because so many people have never heard of it. I think it’s such a great thing that the power comes from something…like it is crazy having a superpower from it as it is crazy having something that only affects someone with dark skin.”

He continued, “I know people that suffered from it, and it just was just a no-brainer, honestly. I don’t like ever doing anything for nothing’s sake. Something’s got to mean something. It’s got to come from somewhere and it’s going to be a power that only affects people of a certain race. It has to be for a reason, and this was a no-brainer. This whole thing was like, ‘OK, well, if you’re going to give us that, to bring it down, I’m going to flip on its head and make it be something that’s a strength.’ And that’s what I wanted to show from it.”

Supacell is now streaming on Netflix.