Why ‘Black Lightning’ is the New ‘Battlestar Galactica’

Kim Taylor-Foster

Black Lightning is the latest superhero series related to — but not connected to — the Arrowverse. Set apart from the Arrowverse franchise partly because of its gritty subject matter, on the surface, it also seems a fair distance from hit rebooted sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica.

The series follows a high school principal with special powers, set against the backdrop of family dramas and a troubled inner-city neighbourhood. Battlestar Galactica, meanwhile, is a space-set science fiction drama. But actor Cress Williams – who plays Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning, in the new show — sees clear parallels with the sci-fi series, which ended in 2009.

Williams tells FANDOM: “I’m a fantasy fan, I’m a sci-fi fan, I’m a fan of superhero stuff. I have been since I was a child and it’s something I always wanted to be a part of. But I also don’t like things to be stagnant. Once I’ve seen something done one way, I want it to evolve into something else. I’ve felt like we’ve evolved in this genre enough to now say: ‘Ok, now let’s tell this story from a much more human aspect. Let’s tell this story from a much more social aspect and let’s take this genre of superheroes and fantasy and do more with it’. I kind of liken it to when they did a reboot of Battlestar Galactica. That series I thought was absolutely amazing. Under that umbrella of sci-fi, they could touch on issues. And so I’m extremely excited that we’re doing that.”

Superheroes and Social Issues

Cress Williams in Principal Pierce guise.

There are two subjects in particular that Williams is pleased they’re broaching in Black Lightning.

“I love the fact that we address police brutality right away, I love the fact that we’re also addressing gun violence and drugs in the community,” he says.

It was during a conversation over dinner with showrunner Salim Akil that brought the issue of gun violence to the fore for him. “He was saying, statistically, black people commit more violence against other black people than the cops commit violence to black people, and so he was really interested in also telling that story. That story of black-on-black violence and how to a certain degree we were hurting our own community. That’s also very exciting to me because that’s a story that’s not told very often.”

It’s a story that Williams says will be told slowly. “You have to pace it out because we are a superhero show and there are all these other things being told. If you’re not careful, you cross over into being preachy. We’re playing the long game here in the sense that we think the show’s going to do really well, and we think that we’re going to be on for a long, long time.”

Battlestar Galactica ran for four seasons. We’ll have to wait and see if Black Lightning can beat that.

Black Lightning is now airing in the U.K. and U.S.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.