EXCLUSIVE: In a pairing that resembles a superhero team-up, I have learned that Greg Berlanti, king of the CW’s DC universe, has partnered with The Game and Being Mary Jane creator Mara Brock Akil and her husband Salim Akil for Black Lightning, a drama series based on the DC character created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden. I hear the project, from Warner Bros TV and studio-based Berlanti Productions and Akil Productions, is currently being pitched to networks.
Written by the Akils, Black Lightning centers on Jefferson Pierce. He made his choice: he hung up the suit and his secret identity years ago, but with a daughter hell-bent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend Black Lightning.
Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil executive produce with Berlanti Prods.’ Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter.
Pierce aka Black Lightning was one of DC Comics’ first major African American superheroes, making his debut in 1977. In the books, Jefferson has two daughters, both of whom have followed in his superhero footsteps — Anissa Pierce aka Thunder, who is a member of the Outsiders, and Jennifer Pierce, aka Lightning, recruited by the Justice Society of America.
On TV, Black Lightning is looking to join another black superhero who toplines his own series, Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix.
While it’s being taken out now, a Black Lightning series had been in the works at WBTV for well over a year, going through different incarnations as the studio has taken its time to get the take right.
Greg Berlanti and his Berlanti Prods. are behind all WBTV superhero series on the CW, DC’s Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow, which Berlanti also co-created, as well as the upcoming Archie Comics adaptation Riverdale.
Both Berlanti and the Akils already have high-profile sales this season.
Berlanti Prods. has drama Criminal, co-written by Blindspot creator Martin Gero, which has a put pilot commitment at ABC, and comedy Raised By Wolves, an adaptation of the 2015 UK series, written by Diablo Cody, which also is at ABC with a script commitment plus penalty. The company is repped by WME.
Mara Brock and Salim Akil have Documenting Love, a multi-camera comedy at ABC, which has a pilot production commitment.
In addition to drama Being Mary Jane and comedy The Game, Mara also created/executive produced The Game’s predecessor Girlfriends. Salim was director on all and executive produced The Game and Being Mary Jane. The Akils are repped by ICM Partners and Stephen Barnes at Morris Yorn.
Warner Bros’ DC Entertainment has seven broadcast series, with new NBC comedy Powerless joining returning dramas Supergirl, Arrow, Flash, DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow and iZombie on the CW, and Gotham and Lucifer at Fox.