It’s official: the CW has picked up Black Lightning — from Greg Berlanti, king of the CW’s DC universe; The Game and Being Mary Jane creator Mara Brock Akil; and her husband Salim Akil — with a pilot order.
The high-profile drama based on the DC character, which had a big production commitment at Fox, was recently put in turnaround after Fox opted not to proceed with a pilot. Producing studio Warner Bros. TV shopped it to other networks, with the CW quickly emerging as the likely new home.
Black Lightning‘s trajectory mirrors that of Archie Comics drama Riverdale, which also was originally developed at Fox where it did not go to pilot, before migrating to the CW, where it was piloted. It eventually went to series and just premiered to strong reviews. And last May, DC superhero drama series Supergirl moved from CBS to the CW, where it already has been renewed for next season. Like Black Lightning, Riverdale and Supergirl are produced by Berlanti.
The CW is home of Berlanti Prods.’s four DC/WBTV superhero series — Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, which Berlanti also co-created. That made the network a suitable home for Black Lightning, which would give the CW’s DC universe its first major African-American superhero.
Additionally, while the focus of the series is on Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning, he has younger daughters who also are main characters, an area that would likely be explored further as the project is tweaked for the CW.’
Written by the husband-and-wife duo of Akil and Brock Akil based on the DC character created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden, 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 hellbent 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.
Akil and Brock Akil executive produce with Berlanti Prods.’ Berlanti and Sarah Schechter for Berlanti Productions and Akil Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television.
This marks the fourth pilot order so far this season for WBTV-based Berlanti Prods, along with drama Deception and comedy Raised By Wolves at ABC and drama Searchers at the CW.
Brock Akil created comedy series Girlfriends and its spinoff The Game as well as drama Being Mary Jane. Akil was the director on all three and executive produced The Game and Being Mary Jane.
This marks the Akils’ return to the CW where Girfriends ran for its final two seasons — migrating from the network’s predecessor UPN — and where The Game launched and aired for three season before getting canceled. The sitcom was later picked up by BET where it ran for six more seasons. This also is the duo’s first pilot order in the first season under their rich deal at WBTV.
The CW president Mark Pedowitz had said at TCA that the network had no ongoing plans for a new DC superhero series but had always left the door open for unforeseen opportunities, like Supergirl becoming available last May, which the network also swooped in to pick up.
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.