In midseason starter Black Lightning, CW will debut a super hero who is an adult, and the father of two nearly grown young women. At TCA on Sunday, TV asked showrunner Salim Akil how producers pulled off that super feat.
Noting TV critics like to hear about the “tug and pull” between creators and the execs at studios and network, Akil said “it was no drama” dealing with either, and besides, it’s the way the DC comic was written.
“If I’m in a show that my kids want to watch, then I’m in a successful show,” joked cast member James Remar. “They don’t pull any punches with Dad’s work.”
Another critic noted, “this does not feel like a show written by a bunch of white people trying to sound like black characters.” The critic wondered was “someone in the room” serving as “BS meter” on that?
“The BS meter is we have a predominantly African American writing staff,” Akil responded. “That’s a good thing…They’re not all African American but…we have people who have either lived this life or know someone who has. And the BS meter also is our cast. They know what the language feels like in their own community.”
It’s CW’s first African American superhero, but another TV critic wondered why the character turns down membership in the Justice League.
“I say this with all due respect, that is not relevant to the show we’re doing, Akil responded to the in-the-weeds question.
Akil got asked by a critic if they “don’t have to ask any more” about why there aren’t more black voices on television, because the industry finally has “turned the corner,” given the recent number of projects on the air and in development.
‘It’s that 10-year cycle now,” Akil said, maybe less optimistically/more realistically than the critic. “We’re hot.”
“I don’t know if we’ve turned that corner but I damned well know we’ve straightened the curve,” he added, more encouragingly.
“People are taking responsibility and not asking any more” to have a face on TV. “It’s time for black people to not ask any more, and do. If you do that at a level you’re pleased with, and its authentic, people will pay attention to it.”
The CW has slotted Tuesday, January 16 for the premiere of its new superhero series Black Lightning. It will air at 9 PM ET/PT following its top-rated series The Flash, both DC shows.
Based on the characters from DC created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden, it focused on Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), a father of two daughters and principal of a charter high school that serves as a safe haven for kids in a neighborhood plagued with violence. Nine years earlier, he made his choice, hanging up the suit and his secret identity years ago.
But with a daughter, Jennifer, 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. In addition to Williams, Nafessa Williams, China Anne McClain, Christine Adams, Remar and Damon Gupton are among those starring.
Black Lightning hails from Berlanti Productions and Akil Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television, with executive producers Greg Berlanti, Akil, Mara Brock Akil and Sarah Schechter.