The CW has enlisted Ava DuVernay to bring its newest superhero Naomi to life. Unlike the network’s other heroes, Naomi is a comic book loving teenage Black girl who discovers a mysterious history to her hometown.
Naomi airs Tuesdays at 9 pm, where it shares the night with the Man of Steel’s Superman & Lois.
The titular hero is played by Kaci Walfall, who spoke with The Root about her character and what fans can expect from the series’ first season.
More than anything, it was the character’s confidence that drew Walfall to the role.
“Naomi has this confidence in her that I really love to dig deep within myself, and I loved how she was able to gel with all these different groups the first time you see her, and I resonated with that,” she said.
No fan group is ready to sweat the small stuff more than comic book fans, so whenever one of these shows comes along, it’s important for the actors to know their characters.
For her part, Walfall took a deep dive into the Naomi comics, getting to know her new counterpart.
“I read the comics when I was first auditioning for the role,” Walfall said. “When I was going to LA to audition with Ms. Ava, I read it on the plane on my computer, but I really wanted to go in person to read the comics, so I went to a comic book shop. I always think it’s respectful to stay [true] to the source material.”
Naomi is executive produced/co-written by DuVernay and Jill Blankenship (Arrow), and based on the DC Comics character created by Brian Michael Bendis, David F. Walker and Jamal Campbell.
Working with DuVernay was one of the highlights for the young actress.
“Everything she makes, she makes for a reason. Just being with her inspires me to be my best self, but when I’m working it inspires me to tell a truthful story, and under these circumstances tell the truth,” she said. “She is such a powerhouse, that of course you always want to do your best, but she inspires you to do that on her own without making you feel some pressure.”
In the comics, Naomi has a complicated multiverse origin story. However, The CW frequently adjusts its heroes’ backstories to make them work better for television, which has fans wondering how much of Naomi’s comics story will be shown in Season 1?
“This first season is really about Naomi finding out who she is. It’s set up as an origin story and origin stories are so special, because you can really connect with the character knowing them before they discover whatever powers they had,” Walfall said. “As we go through the season you see Naomi’s origin story, but you also see some of the other characters’ origin stories, so I’m really excited to be able to see that.”
As for those other characters, no superhero is complete without a team.
“She has her best friend Annabelle (Mary-Charles Jones), who she loves spending time with so much because Annabelle’s positivity really helps Naomi,” Walfall continued. “Then she’s also got Nathan (Daniel Puig), Anthony (Will Meyers), Lourdes (Camila Moreno) and Jacob (Aidan Gemme), and those are her core high school friends that we see in the show, and they’re all different, but they all inspire Naomi and she loves them so much.”
Heroic role model characters like this don’t come along often for young Black girls, so there’s definitely pressure for Walfall, but she’s finding the positivity in that.
“I feel a lot of pressure, I’m still a teenager, and this is my first bigger role,” she said. “The response I’ve got, especially from younger Black girls just excited to see the show, has been heartwarming.
“I also think pressure is a thing that has weight to it, so it’s a positive thing too,” Walfall continued. “To have weight for a project, and to have it really mean something is a positive thing that I’m really excited for people to see.”
Naomi premieres Tuesday, Jan. 11 at 9 pm on The CW.