The CW's Arrowverse has an electrifying new hero.
The Hollywood Reporter has word that the Black Lightning pilot for The CW has cast Cress Williams as lead character Jefferson Pierce, better known to DC Comics fans as the superhero Black Lightning.
Williams, 46, is probably best known as the hitman Wyatt on Prison Break and as Mayor Lavon Hayes on Hart of Dixie. In addition, he's appeared as Baron Sunday on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and on episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Friday Night Lights, Grey's Anatomy, Close to Home, The West Wing, Veronica Mars, House, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Providence, Nash Bridges, Sports Night, JAG, NYPD Blue, Living Single, and Beverly Hills, 90210.
Black Lightning is being developed by Greg Berlanti (famous for the four DC Comics series currently on The CW), Mara Brock Akil and her husband Salim Akil (The Game, Being Mary Jane). The project is from Warner Bros. Television, Berlanti Productions and Akil Productions. Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil will serve as executive producers with Berlanti Productions' Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter.
According to the article, Black Lightning "centers on Jefferson Pierce. He made his choice: he hung up the suit and his secret identity years ago, but with a daughter hell-bent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend Black Lightning."
Created in 1977 by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden, Black Lightning first appeared in Black Lightning #1 as Jefferson Pierce, a gold medal-winning Olympic decathlete who returned to his old neighborhood in the Southside (Suicide Slum) section of the city of Metropolis, with his wife Lynn Stewart and his daughter Anissa to become the principal of Garfield High School. Southside was where his father, renowned journalist Alvin Pierce, had been murdered. Guilt over this event was a factor in Jefferson's decision to leave the city of Metropolis. Suicide Slum was being torn apart by a local organized criminal gang called the 100, shady corporations, and crooked local politicians like Tobias Whale.
Peter Gambi, a family friend and tailor, had taught a much younger Jefferson how to suppress his inborn metahuman ability to generate and magnify externally-localized electro-magnetic phenomena, by manipulating intense bio-electric fields generated from his body, so that he would not accidentally hurt any of the people he cared about. Upon his return, Gambi suggested to Jefferson that he should use his powers to help the neighborhood. Appalled by the public murder of Earl Clifford, one of his more promising students, Pierce tried to intervene on behalf of the schoolchildren, but quickly learned that the 100 objected violently to any interference. He soon adopted the identity of Black Lightning.
As Black Lightning, Pierce developed a strong reputation as a crimefighter and was invited to join the Justice League of America, but turned them down. He did, however, end up joining the Outsiders and remained with them until their eventual breakup. After moving to Brick City, Black Lightning continued fighting crime, while his daughter Anissa joined a new incarnation of the Outsiders as the superhero Thunder, and his sixteen-year-old, younger daughter, Jennifer Pierce, was recruited by the Justice Society of America under the code name Lightning. Black Lightning eventually joined another incarnation of the Justice League of America, who needed help fighting the android Amazo.
The character has appeared in a number of animated projects, including Batman: Brave and the Bold (voiced by Bumper Robinson), a "Thunder and Lightning" DC Nation Short (voiced by Blair Underwood), Young Justice: Invasion (voiced by Khary Payton), and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (voiced by LeVar Burton). His only live-action appearance was in a 1992 Saturday Night Live sketch that parodied "The Death of Superman" storyline in DC Comics (played by Sinbad).