The title character on The CW’s new superhero offering Naomi has out-of-this-world abilities, but her hair is very Black and very braided.
This isn’t a coincidence, says actress Kaci Walfall, the Equalizer, Power and Army Wives alum who will deftly charm audiences as Naomi in no time flat when the comic-book drama premieres this Tuesday at 9/8c.
Written and executive-produced by Ava DuVernay (When They See Us) and showrunner Jill Blankenship (Arrow), the DC comic adaptation also stars Barry Watson (7th Heaven), Mouzam Makkar (The Vampire Diaries), Mary-Charles Jones (Kevin Can Wait), Alexander Wraith (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) and Cranston Johnson (Hap and Leonard).
“We did a hair trial when we first started,” Walfall divulges to TVLine. “My mom may have some of the pictures. There were faux locs and different kinds of braids. Ms. Ava settled on box braids for the pilot, and I loved that style so much. The parts are really cool. There’s so much you can do with your hair in braids, and I really love the styles we do on the show.”
Naomi, a cool, bright, bespectacled and confident teenager, comes to realize her hidden destiny in the pilot as well as more than a few commonalities she has with her idol Superman after a local “stunt” gives her fodder for her blog and so much more about the possibly not-so-mythical Man of Steel.
For instance, Naomi was adopted, just like Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent. But having that narrative come from someone who looks like Naomi goes even further in the modern zeitgeist, Walfall shares.
“The first time I read the lines, ‘I was adopted, so I was chosen,’ was for my audition scene,” Walfall reveals. “Jill and Ms. Ava wrote that so beautifully, I got goosebumps. The McDuffies are all about love, respect and inclusion. What other show has a white dad [Watson], a South Asian mom [Makkar] and a Black daughter?”
Naomi’s sexuality is equally fluid, and in the first two episodes, a love square starts to form because the heroine appears to be equally interested in Nathan (Daniel Puig), Anthony (Will Meyers) and Lourdes (Camila Moreno).
“Naomi is authentically herself, so of course, people are going to be attracted to that,” Walfall observes. “She’s also a teenager, so expect the unexpected when it comes to her love life.”
As for Naomi’s powers, Dee (Wraith), a tattoo parlor owner with secret skills and abilities of his own has Naomi’s best interests at heart and becomes her reluctant mentor. Zumbado’s (Johnson) intentions, on the other hand, are less transparent, but he’s definitely aware of her abilities. This may or may not include flight and supercharged hearing, so expect some future fight scenes.
Until then, Naomi has the trusty skateboard she rides fast all over town — a feat Walfall accomplished with the help of stunt double Nadia Lorencz.
“I wasn’t able to get on a skateboard because I’m 17 and didn’t have prior experience,” Walfall says. “But Nadia was great, and she really matched me physically. I’m really grateful for the stunt coordinators. I have a background in dance, and when it came to fight choreography, I found my strength in that. It was like dancing with a partner.”
Are you excited about the premiere of Naomi and Kaci Walfall’s performance? Drop your thoughts in the comments.
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