“Black Lightning” has been letting Anissa slowly figure out her identity as Thunder, and she finally got her official superhero suit in episode 9. It was a fun moment for the CW show, but Nafessa Williams revealed to International Business Times that it was much more intense off screen.
“I cried. It was such an emotional moment for me,” she told IBT. “It was huge.”
It wasn’t a particularly emotional scene for Thunder. The hero seemed excited to be in the new costume and believes the suit proves Gambi (James Remar) just wants to protect the Pierce family.
Williams’ reaction was personal. After all, she hadn’t grown up watching anyone who looked like Thunder on screen.
“I didn’t have a black female superhero to look up to as a kid,” Williams explained. “So to be able to now play that role for young women and young little girls that are coming up behind me, for them to have that visual, I’m just really, really honored, and I’m proud to put on that suit every time that I do. But I gotta say it was definitely emotional.”
When she went to do research before playing Thunder, Williams didn’t just look at the comics. She tried to find other women superheroes onscreen. The list of traditional female superheroes on screen is pretty short, and the list of black female superheroes is even smaller. She ended up looking at a lot of Pam Grier movies.
“I learned as much as I could about Black Lightning, everything that was attached too him, whether it was online, whether it was the comics. And then I also just studied other female superheroes. I actually went back to — I did a lot of research on Pam Grier, and I watched ‘Coffy’ and ‘Jackie Brown’ and just got some inspiration.”
Williams is excited to finally give underrepresented communities a chance to see themselves as superheroes. Being part of the first black superhero family on broadcast television was one of three big reasons the 28-year-old wanted to join “Black Lightning.”
“Well first, I’ll start out by saying you can’t turn down a project that involves Mara and Salim Akil. That’s first. Always wanted to work with them. Huge fan, so I knew with them being at the helm that we would be safe that it’d be an awesome project authentic to what the fans want to see,” she revealed.
“Second is first black superhero family on network TV! I’m just thrilled and honored to be a part of history,” she continued. “And third, my character, she’s strong and she’s bold and I believe that people will be empowered and inspired by how she lives her life unapologetically.”
Watch Williams rock her new costume on “Black Lightning,” which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on The CW.