A new queer crusader comes to the small screen Tuesday night, when Black Lightning premieres on the CW.
Based on the DC Comics character of the same name, the show co-stars Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce, a lesbian medical student and the bulletproof crusader known as Thunder. Anissa is also Black Lightning’s daughter—though she does’t realize her dad is Freeland’s premier masked avenger.
“Anissa’s character… is pretty unique,” Williams tells Comic Book Resources. “She’s a lesbian, so little girls are going to be able to look up and be like, ‘Okay, I’m like her and hopefully my parents will accept me the way her parents accepted her.”
In the DC Comics universe, Anissa develops a volatile romance with Amazon brawler Grace Choi, played by Chantal Thuy on the show.
Though Williams won’t give away too much about their relationship, she confides “Grace and Anissa have a connection that she’s never had with anyone else before… They understand each other.”
She also parallels Anissa’s discovery of her powers (she can alter her body density) to the awakening to her sexuality.
“She’s becoming a young woman, and she’s reaching her independence and discovering these things and it’s exciting,” she explains. “But sometimes we have growing pains, where we’re excited about what’s new… but you’re also intimidated and a little afraid because you’ve never been here before. So she’s learning some lessons and she’s figuring some things out, for sure.”
There’s even a “coming out” moment of sorts, when Anissa’s parents learn about her powers: “It’s a beautiful moment, for sure,” Williams told CBR. “She’s not sure who to tell, not even really sure of what’s happen, or how to explain it without sounding crazy. There is a moment where you will see her have that intimate talk with her parents. The ‘reveal,’ if you will.”
Black Lightning is produced by Salim and Mara Brock Akil, Sarah Schechter, and out Arrowverse mastermind Greg Berlanti. The show premieres Tuesday, January 16, at 9/8c on the CW.