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Nafessa Williams: ‘As a young black girl I didn’t have a superhero like me to look up to’

Black Women in Entertainment

Nafessa Williams: ‘As a young black girl I didn’t have a superhero like me to look up to’

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Nafessa Williams, who plays Thunder in Black Lightning, hopes her character will be an inspiration

It’s a genre dominated by white, straight males, so American actress Nafessa Williams admits she was moved to tears when she pulled on her costume for the first time to play a black, lesbian superhero. “It was a moment,” she says. “I mean, I’m representing a whole group of people who need to see themselves on TV.”

Williams plays Thunder in the hit television series Black Lightning – and is in London this week to promote its second series and hopefully convert more Britons to what she admits is “not your typical superhero show”.

“Yes, we’re wearing costumes but we’re not fighting aliens or creatures in an alternative universe,” she says. “We’re fighting real-life issues that are happening within our country, in our inner cities. Police brutality, gang crime, drug crime, social injustice – and we’re shedding light on it.”

Set in the fictional city of Freeland, the show, says Williams, is first and foremost about a family trying to save its community. A community overrun by the “100 Gang” – notorious for drug and sex trafficking. “It’s not until you …


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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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