“Black Lightning” Showrunner on Why He Didn’t Want to Tell an Origin Story


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“How many origin stories have you seen? A lot, right?” Salim Akil asked while discussing his new show , based on the DC comic book superhero.

The CW’s newest superhero is decidedly not finding himself, learning to control his powers and deciding whether he could shed his civilian life for the greater good.

This Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is middle-aged, divorced with two daughters, and a high school principal — and he hasn’t been Black Lightning for almost ten years.

“I didn’t want to do [an origin story], because you’ve seen it,” Akil told Tracking Board ahead of the show’s premiere. “I wanted to take it from a different perspective. Because he’s older, I thought that was the appropriate way to bring him in.”

However, the show will get into how exactly Jefferson became Black Lightning the first time around.

“It develops,” Akil promised. “It develops, but I wanted to do it in a different way, in an unexpected way. I’m sure if I had done it in an origin story, you know what people would say? ‘Eh, it’s another fucking origin story.'”

Perhaps because of this new angle, of an aging, coming-out-of-retirement superhero, Akil and his wife, producing partner and fellow showrunner Mara Brock Akil knew right away they wanted to do Black Lightning, when they were approached by Warner Bros to bring the character to life.

“It was immediately a character I knew I could do something with,” Akil said. “It was a character you could tell stories for from a lot of different angles. He was a superhero, of course, he’s a father, ex-husband, principal, a friend. So right off the bat, that’s a very rich character, so many stories just inherent in that description. So that’s what was exciting about it.”

Because Black Lightning sees a former superhero deciding to put the suit on again, it also inevitably must deal with why he hung it up in the first place, and the show will delve into the ethics of whether people with superpowers have a responsibility to use them to help others.

“We talk about it, throughout the series,” Akil said. “In episode three, he faces that question, head on. So I can’t wait for you to see Episode 3!”

Black Lightning premieres Tuesday, January 16 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW, following The Flash.

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