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Black Lightning Plans to Stand Out With a Hero Who Fights “Oppression That Happens Below the Poverty Line”

First look image of Cress Williams as Black Lightning Credit: The CW

The superhero genre is a crowded one on TV these days, with ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, Fox’s Legion and The Gifted, Hulu’s Runaways, Netflix and Marvel’s Defenders shows, and the CW’s four-series-wide Arrowverse. In such a wide and varied field, the upcoming Black Lightning will have to find a way to stand out. And while its majority-black cast makes it a definite rarity in today’s landscape (unfortunately), the show’s stars and writers also plan to stand out thematically—by focusing on real-life problems that affect people “below the poverty line.”

“The conflict here is not necessarily saving the world or battling aliens,” said star Cress Williams, who plays Black Lightning/Jefferson Pierce. “It really is looking at real-life problems in an actual city, in an actual neighborhood and trying to conquer those problems—i.e., drugs and corruption, gun violence, police violence, and just oppression that happens below the poverty line.”

The show’s other thematic focus will be on family. Jefferson Pierce, as we’ve seen in previous trailers, is the daddest of dad characters, a high school teacher who cares about his community and gave up the superhero life to protect his kids, only to find himself pulled back in when the One Hundred gang threatens his daughter. Akil previously said that the show was built around “that image of a father saving his daughters, protecting his family, protecting his school, protecting his community.” Presenting such an image of a black father is particularly important, he added, since “it’s not the narrative” we’re usually given about black men in the media.

While Black Lightning doesn’t have any planned crossovers with the Arrowverse shows and wants to differentiate itself, Akil said he has picked up some structural tips from those shows. “What [those shows] do really well is to lead you on a journey to a crescendo,” he told EW. “Often in my storytelling, we’ve been doing drama and comedy, and we didn’t necessarily lead to a crescendo. We led to a resolution. That’s what you do in dramas. But here, we’re leading to a crescendo.”

Black Lightning was co-created by Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil and premieres on Tuesday, January 16 at 9 P.M. on The CW.

(Via EW; image: The CW)

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