Nafessa Williams brings the Thunder to The CW series Black Lightning as the confident and very powerful Anissa Pierce, metahuman daughter of the character that gives the show its title.
The second season of Black Lightning premieres tonight (October 9) on The CW and there’s no shortage of action for Anissa in the opening episodes of Season 2 — either in the field of super powers or in her personal life. Season 1 saw her heroic alter ego Thunder coming into her own; this year, attention will be given to Anissa’s sister Jennifer, who is having a comic book style origin of her own.
“It’s also time for Jennifer, for us to see her going through the struggles of, again, still not embracing and not wanting to be a superhero. I think it’s more about Jennifer, for sure, and us just trying to care for her,” Nafessa Williams told us last week on a visit to the Georgia sets of Black Lightning. “She’s going through so much. First season I was like ‘you’ve gotta come on! You’ve gotta understand that this is who we are, and you’ve gotta embrace it,’ but now I’m just like, ‘let me protect her and let her get there when she gets there,’ still always inspiring her and trying to convince her that this is who we are, and that this is a gift that God has given us and we’ve got to us it, but I think the focus is definitely Jennifer, especially after the first few episodes, and the journey of her,” she said.
“The thing about Thunder is that I could control my powers,” Nafessa continued. “This little baby, she is like, her whole world is turned upside down. She’s not in school, and she’s just trying to figure it all out. She’s an emotional teenager, and she’s going through things with boys and with friends and her parents are driving her crazy… I’m being all overprotective… and any little thing is sparking it, and it’s scary. It’s sad for her. It’s emotional for us as a family.”
As for Thunder’s own journey, Anissa is more confident in being a superhero, but she sees her father as more of a partner now, which will cause conflict between them early on. “It’s like ‘okay, Dad. You taught me what you need to teach me.’ And they disagree. But she’s definitely coming from a partner standpoint. They don’t always agree on Thunder’s way of doing things,” Nafessa teased.
Nafessa’s character is also notable as being an out lesbian superhero, though it is unsure if we will see flashbacks to Anissa’s coming out journey. “We kind of touched on it a bit in the first season, but it’s one of those things that happened when she was a teenager, and unless we do a flashback, which is possible, I think it’s definitely already been done. She’s definitely already come out as a teenager. Anissa knew very young and was very sure and very confident, as you can imagine from the person that you see her to be now. At 16… I’m not saying that it was easy, but she was confident and comfortable with going to her parents and them accepting it. I always say what I love about normalizing it is that hopefully parents that are watching are as supportive as my family is on the show, when it comes to their child coming out as a teenager or a young adult,” Williams said.
And what of Grace, Anissa’s love interest from Season 1?
“Grace is still on the show, but what happens, we don’t know. [Anissa’s] dating,” Nafessa teased. “She’s having fun, and just trying to find that balance. First season, it was like she’s developing her powers and she’s trying to understand them and figuring out how to control them and she gets it, but now it’s like her family and her sister’s like ‘you’ve gotta get back out there. You have to live.’ So we’ll see with who I’m living with. But yeah. She’s having fun, I think, trying to find out who is the best fit for her. But who knows!”
Black Lightning Season 2 premieres tonight (October 9) on The CW. Take a look at photos from the season premiere here and be sure to come by our discussion forum for the show! More interviews from our set visit will be posted shortly; you can see video from our interview with Nafessa Williams below.