Exclusive: Story Details On DC’s BLACK LIGHTNING
BLACK SUPERHEROES MATTER
Producer Greg Berlanti might be the most powerful man in Television. He’s currently behind 5 shows on two different networks. He basically owns the CW with the combined power of ARROW, THE FLASH, SUPERGIRL, RIVERDALE and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW. He’s bringing one more project to the network: BLACK LIGHTNING. Originally developed at FOX, this adaptation of the DC comics property is the HOT project of this pilot season. With Berlanti’s track record, it’s hard to believe CW will pass on this package.
In present day Watts, the One Hundred street gang is winning the war against the LAPD and the local citizens. Jefferson Pierce, 40, is the principal of the local high school. He’s been separated from his wife Lynn for over a decade ever since he stopped being the superhero Black Lightning. The violent street gang killed an innocent high school student that Black Lightning was desperately trying to protect. His younger daughter Jennifer is a student athlete while his older daughter Anissa teaches at the high school.
Jefferson has been trying to make the high school an oasis of hope for the violent neighborhood. After a gangbanger gets Jennifer in trouble, Jefferson is forced to use his powers for the first time in a decade. After rescuing her and beating up two racist LAPD cops, he’s saved by Gambi his former mentor. He pleads to Jefferson to bring back Black Lightning because the neighborhood needs to be saved from the One Hundred. He refuses but finally needs to bring back his heroic persona when his two daughters are kidnapped by gang members…
This is solid network television screenwriting. Salim Akil (The Game, Being Mary Jane) who penned the pilot is a fantastic writer. There’s a high level of grittiness in the story that is a million miles away from the rest of the CW superhero line-up. I think FOX missed the boat on passing on this project. With the success of Empire on FOX and Luke Cage on Netflix, a show like Black Lightning could have brought them great ratings.
The story doesn’t sugarcoat the current uneasiness surrounding the police and the African-American communities. Even a high school principal/superhero can be the victim of racial discrimination and profiling. We haven’t seen those stories being told on television.
I’m curious to see who will play Black Lightning. This could be a very strong role for the actor they select. His powers are also very visually attracting. He uses electricity and raw fighting skills to beat up the villains. It sounds closer to the action sequences showcased in the Netflix Marvel universe than in the DC/CW one.
I cannot imagine how this project fits in properly with The Flash, Supergirl, Arrow and Company. They could play the card that Black Lightning resides in one of the millions of DC multiverse.
I hope the network doesn’t dilute the darker tone of the show. If done properly, Black Lightning could become CW’s biggest hit.