Nafessa Williams, who plays Anissa Piece, aka Thunder on Black Lightning, made her first appearance at ClexaCon this year. Her panel, moderated by Kia Barnes, was a great discussion about representation. Unfortunately, due to a very packed Saturday schedule, the Black Lightning panel was not well attended, but thankfully the entire panel was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube (see video below).
When Williams first found out about Thunder being a lesbian superhero, it was a no brainer for her to take the role. She loved how strong Anissa is and how unapologetically she lives her life and she’s always wanted to play a superhero. Williams talked about not seeing herself on screen growing up and how important that is for young kids, especially in places like Philly, where she grew up. Williams said she’s honored to be able to give the much needed representation to the fans. She also felt comfortable signing on for the role because she knew that the creators would be able to tell the story in a respectful manner.
To prepare for the role, Williams spoke to her LGBTQ family and friends to find out what coming out is like, so she could work out Anissa’s backstory. She discussed how important it is to learn as much as you can because everyone’s situation is different. She also talked about not thinking of gender as much as the root of the story and the relationship, which is love.
Williams mentioned multiple times during the panel how honored she is to take on such an inspiring role and it’s heartwarming hearing from fans that they see themselves in Anissa. She also commented on how Anissa’s boldness has inspired her to be more bold and be more unapologetic about who she is.
Black Lightning doesn’t shy away from tackling social issues in a really real way and Williams thinks the show does a really great job of keeping it real and authentic. The goal is to spark change and you can’t sugarcoat things in order to do that. She believes the creators and those who greenlit the show know that it’s time for these stories to be told and hopes it’s the spark of change that will lead to more positive representation on screen. Williams mentioned how proud she was to be part of the shift and the change.
Williams wasn’t able to give us any spoilers for the rest of the season or season two, but she did say she hopes we’ll see more of Anissa’s love life with Grace in season two. She’d also be interested in a crossover with Supergirl or any of the other Arrowverse shows, if it makes sense but not until season three or four.
If you’re a fan of the show, you should definitely take the time to watch Williams’ panel. If you haven’t seen the show, you should catch up, then watch the panel, you won’t be sorry.