#TBB10 With British Queen of Sci Fi & Fantasy, “Black Lightning” star, Christine Adams

Christine Adams should be familiar to fans of science fiction and fantasy (SFF), especially now in her latest ground-breaking role as the first black woman, superhero love interest, Lynn Pierce, in DC Comics’ Black Lightning, currently on Netflix UK.

With 52 acting credits to her name, we paid tribute to her in part three of our four-part series presenting the case for black women on-screen in science fiction and fantasy [1] back in 2015. We also crowned Adams Queen amongst the British SFF actresses, having notched up the most TV SFF roles.

Black Lightning’s ex-wife, Lynn Pierce is Adams’ seventh SFF TV role, and we are delighted to get the chance to interview the stunning actress. We started off by summarising her SFF portfolio to date…

1# That’s quite a legacy, were you aware of how monumental your SFF catalogue is?

Thanks so much for honoring me in this way. I’m delighted to be amongst such an incredible group of actresses. It’s always nice to see a body of work put together like that. I’ve always been aware of the significance of this because of the fans. All of these shows & movies are so beloved hardly a week goes by without someone asking me about Dr. Who or Pushing Daisies, or SHIELD or Terra Nova. These audiences are so emotionally invested it’s wonderful.

2# How do you prep for science fantasy characters in comparison to drama, thriller or comedy? 

I don’t do anything differently to prepare for roles. For me, roles are not genre dependent. Sometimes the sci-fi roles have demanded some physical or technical skill that I have had to practice, using a bow and arrow in Terra Nova for example. But I try to approach all roles in the same way. The most important thing for me is that the audience can connect to the character in some way.

3# The anticipation for a fully rounded black family in the sci-fi fantasy world has been great and with the excitement surrounding Black Panther seeing black people successful, in love and taking charge on a prime-time TV show is blowing people’s minds. How excited were you when you first saw the script and did you anticipate the mostly positive reaction from audiences and reviews?

It’s definitely a moment for Black people on TV & film right now which is awesome. I tried not to have any expectations of Black Lightning. I felt instinctively that if Mara and Salim Akil were involved they would have a particular vision for the show, one that was fresh and intelligent and totally relevant. As an actor, I’m actually one small piece of the story, it’s so much about scripts, the ensemble, the music, the vision. I got very lucky in this instance because all those elements were so beautifully executed it just worked.

Jefferson Pierce / Black Lightning (Cress Williams) & Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams)

4# Your character is a lawyer described as exuding confidence and intelligence, a little mischievous, but not to be trifled with when it comes to family, we can see why you were cast as Lynn. What do you most admire about her, and do you find any similarities to yourself?

Thank you! I’ve always played confident, strong, smart women and I consider myself very lucky to have done so. What resonates with me the most about Lynn is that she is a working mother who loves her family desperately, but has also chosen to pursue her dreams. She has made some tough choices and she’s not perfect. I love playing characters who are 3 dimensional and sometimes strong characters do not display vulnerability, or weakness or even sadness, Lynn has all of these and much more,

5# Was there any concern about the portrayal of Lynn and Jefferson’s relationship – the expectancy that their relationship isn’t perfect, and how much input into how Lynn is portrayed do you have and how will we see her journey evolve?

An often used parallel by Salim was to think of Jefferson Pierce as an addict who became addicted to the power he had like an adrenaline junkie. Lynn’s struggle as one of the only people who knew about his identity meant that even though she was terrified of him being killed every time he went out, she loved him and would always be there to pick up the pieces and hope that this would be his last time. It’s a constant push and pull which gets all the more difficult when her own daughters also [develop] powers. Lynn is the glue that holds him and the family together.

Salim and Mara [have] always written strong smart black women so I was never concerned. I didn’t need to have any input as everything was already on the page. One of the reasons people like the show is because the characters feel “real” and I think Mara and Salim are excellent about picking actors who embody the characters. As for her evolution? No one knows where these characters will go, except perhaps the writer’s room. This is a comic-book. It can go anywhere.

7# Is it correct that Quintessence Patterson (Hidden Figures, 2016) is also working on Black Lightning? We love Lynn’s look. Short natural hair stands out – and is a rarity for black women on screen – was Lynn’s hairstyle choice, makeup, wardrobe a collaborative effort and was there a particular muse?

Actually, our senior make-up artist is Yolanda Sheridan and she was the Senior make-up artist on HF. She and Quinn work side by side to create the look of the actors not to mention the incredible special FX make-up. Yolanda worked on The Walking Dead for 5 years from day one. These ladies can do it all and are so talented. Again, Salim and Mara wanted the makeup to be natural. Anissa and Jennifer barely wear any make-up, and Lynn wears what I would wear if I was going to work every day.

The short hair actually came from me. I decided to chop it all off two summers ago because I was fed up with the time and money I was spending on my hair. Of course, Salim loved it. It took a minute to convince everyone because as you say it’s highly unusual – traditionally we have seen beautiful black women wear straightened hair or extensions. I’m so happy that’s really changing. I think Lupita has been a big part of this. I’ve had a wonderful response to the short natural hair. We knew it would be an important statement and it has been.

Lynn Pierce (Christine Adams); Jefferson Pierce / Black Lightning (Cress Williams); Jennifer Pierce (China Anne McClain)

8# Lynn is protective of Jefferson. Initially, she and his friend/mentor Gambi don’t see eye to eye on Jefferson’s return as Black Lightning will they work out an agreement? 

Lynn and Gambi both love Jefferson. This is where they’re aligned. What you will see is the push and pull that underpins all of the characters and their stories. They all struggle with internal and external conflicts, so our show will always be the grey area and not just black and white.

9# Lynn is also the sister of John Stewart, the first DC black superhero Green Lantern, will we see Green Lantern in future episodes and does mean Lynn could have hidden powers?

I didn’t know any of that! So interesting. As of this point, we have no plans to crossover characters, or for Lynn to have powers as we’re already quite busy with having three superheroes in Black Lightning. Lynn’s superpower is love and as a mother. I totally understand that you will do anything to protect your family. That’s pretty fierce and not something to underestimate.

10# In our opinion, UK TV has still not managed to get it right with programming for British Black audiences. How does it feel to be working on Black Lightning

It’s very complex. The reason we don’t have enough shows featuring black actors with black stories is the same reason we didn’t have many here in the US. We need to have black people in the right positions – producers, commissioners, etc. We need to nurture young black directors and writers and creators of content. We need to tell black working-class kids in [the UK] that they can work in TV and films, and then we need to create the opportunities. It has to be from the ground up. I think American TV has always been way more ambitious and tends to have a bigger scope. But, I do believe that the best of [British] TV is just as good, if not better than anything you will see here in America. There are so many stories and narratives out there. It’s endless, and I think it’s changing, and that’s exciting.

Last, of all thank you for your time and for your important and inspiring body of work. So, now that we’re good friends, can you let us know if there’ll be a season two of Black Lightning?

I can’t confirm that yet. But, I can tell you that this show is very special, and the response has been amazing! Black Lightning is supposed to push buttons, it’s meant to feel real and challenging, and I think we have a lot of stories to tell. So, I really hope we get to continue that.

Catch Christine Adams as Lynn Stewart in Black Lightning on Netflix. New episodes of Black Lightning are released every Tuesday.

[1] –  http://www.thebritishblacklist.com/tbb-presents-case-black-women-science-fiction-fantasy-screen-part-3/




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