How Cress Williams Became Black Lightning

Den of Geek talked to Cress Williams about landing the gig in the new CW superhero drama...

Odds are, you’ve probably seen Cress Williams before. Williams has been acting consistently since the 90s, in everything from recurring roles in Beverly Hills 90210 and Living Single to Prison Break and Friday Night Lights.

Williams starred as charismatic town mayor and former linebacker Lavon Hayes in Hart of Dixie. Black Lightning, however, in which he plays the title character, will be his first superhero gig.

Den of Geek was part of a group of reporters who spoke to Williams at last weekend’s DC in D.C. event. Here’s what he told us about landing the role of dad, principal, and superhero Jefferson Pierce…

“They didn’t sell me [on the role],” Williams told us with a laugh. “I just had to go and pursue them, really. I wasn’t that powerful at that point. I read that they were writing a script about Black Lightning, but I didn’t know the content. I’m a huge superhero fan, and I was just like, I want to do this someday. I want to play a superhero somewhere, someday.”

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Williams said, when he eventually read the script, it “a whole other level.” He was particularly drawn to Jefferson Pierce as a character who cares about his family.

“From the moment I read it, the hair on the back of my neck stood up,” said Williams, “and I went full bore after it. Honestly, every step of the way, I thought: OK, some big A-list actor is going to swoop in and take this, I bet. Fortunately, that never happened.”

Black Lightning premieres tonight, Tuesday, January 16th at 9 p.m. ET. Read our spoiler-free review of the first episode.