The CW is set to premiere the new comic book-inspired series Black Lightning on January 16, 2018. The superhero series stars Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning, with China Anne McClain playing his youngest daughter, Jennifer, and Nafessa Williams starring as his oldest daughter, Anissa.
At the 2017 San Diego Comic Con, Nafessa Williams participated in a roundtable interview to discuss her character and what sets Black Lightning apart from other superhero shows. Williams also talked about her knowledge of the comics and how she’d describe Anissa’s alter-ego, Thunder.
How would you describe the female characters in Black Lightning? What makes them special?
Nafessa Williams: “We have a mind of our own. We’re very, very powerful and we fight for what we believe in. [Laughing] We’re superheroes.”
Does everyone know that Jefferson is a superhero?
Nafessa Williams: “We’re still discovering that. My character, as of this moment, is not so sure. But, we’re still discovering things. Things are very new and things are still developing, so you guys have got to stay tuned.”
How aware were you of Black Lightning before this project?
Nafessa Williams: “I had heard of Black Lightning. I read comic books when I was a kid, but it wasn’t until obviously I booked the show that I engulfed myself into the comic book world and got to really learn about Black Lightning and learn about who Thunder is, obviously, and what she’s about. I’ve just been reading all the comic books since I found out that I booked it.”
How would you describe Thunder?
Nafessa Williams: “Thunder is the oldest daughter. I play Anissa Pierce, the oldest daughter of Jefferson Pierce, and she just wants to follow in her father’s footsteps. She has a power…she’s a force on her own. She fights for what she believes in. She’s very, very powerful within her body and even the strength of her mindset and her goals.
I’m learning from Thunder. She’s so tough. I’m just really, really excited for the little girls who are going to be able to watch this show and be empowered, especially the little black girls. We didn’t have superheroes to be able to look up to when we were younger. I’m just really, really grateful and really honored to bring a voice to who she is. I’m really excited for the fans of Black Lightning and the fans of the comic book world to be able to see this come to life.”
Was there a comic book character you did admire growing up?
Nafessa Williams: “I would have to say Supergirl. Everybody wanted to be Supergirl. And then Wonder Woman and how dope she is…her charisma alone is just so powerful within itself. So, I definitely admire Wonder Woman. And Catwoman, too. The list can keep going on and on if I start.”
How important is family on Black Lightning?
Nafessa Williams: “Family is the basis of our show. I believe what makes Black Lightning different from other superhero shows and other superheroes is that he’s really, really family-oriented. You get to see his entire family as well as his daughters being superheroes and diving into that universe. He’s definitely a family man and wants to protect his daughters. That’s what brings him out of retirement is the love of his daughters. What’s ironic is it’s the same thing that led him into retirement is the same thing that brought him out. So, he’s definitely a family man.
And I think, again, the first black superhero family on network TV is very important right now. It’s very necessary, showing the positive aspect of a black father. We see a lot of black women being the head of the household and holding the house down, but I think we need to have those images because there are black fathers out there who are doing the same thing and who are the glue to the family. That’s who Black Lightning is.”
More on Black Lightning: