The CW is growing its superhero line-up once again on January 11, this time with a newer hero: Naomi! Created by Brian Michael Bendis, David F. Walker, and Jamal Campbell, Naomi McDuffie has quickly become a prime heroine in the DC Universe and now it is her time to join the DC TV world. Played by Kaci Walfall, the show tells the story of our heroine discovering her hidden destiny as it takes Naomi on a powerful journey with twists and turns.
Recently, DC TV Podcasts participated in a press event where we spoke with Walfall as she previewed Naomi season 1, what fans can expect to see in the new DC drama, and much more. While Naomi is a recent addition to DC Comics, Walfall was open about there still being pressure in bringing this hero to life for the first time in live-action and in media in general. “There’s always pressure. I think that I myself often put pressure on myself for a lot of things. I always carry her main six issues in my bag whenever I’m at work because it’s always so good to look at the source material and go back. I think that her not having a super big, long, extensive years of comics allows for some creative freedom and then also while still respecting the material “
For Walfall, Naomi marks as the actress’ first titular role, and when she booked the gig, Walfall had a great process of getting into the character and learning as much about Naomi. During the interview, Walfall spoke about that experience as well as what similarities and differences there are between her and Naomi. “One of the first things I did when I got the role was I made a Venn diagram of me versus my character and the character in the pilot versus character in the comics. Similarly, we’re both intelligent, we’re both smart. We both have a pretty good sense of style. But I think going even deeper than that, I think that what’s different is that Naomi is an extrovert and I Kaci am an introvert, depending on the situation. But I also think that Naomi’s in all these clubs, she has all these great people skills. I am in high school and I was afraid to join all these clubs, because I was afraid to meet all these new people. So it’s been really fun to explore that and explore that authenticity within her. I also think that what’s similar about us is that we both have a good sense of drive and passion. And that’s what keeps us going when people tell us no, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop.
One of the aspects of Naomi’s character is that she is a skater, which is something that is not seen a lot for black women on TV. When asked about getting to portray that side of Naomi, Walfall stressed how amazing it is to get to portray that, especially knowing that it’s a side of black girls that we don’t see often in media. That is super cool. I know a lot of black girls that skateboard, but they’re not always on TV. “It’s really cool. And I think that a lot of people will and can relate to that. But I also think that it’ll inspire a lot of people, especially younger black girls to try something that maybe they haven’t seen on TV or necessarily been exposed to, and to play on the quirky side of it. the sort of comic book nerd side of it, I think that’s a super cool aspect to see someone that’s sort of in the world. But it is also a fan of someone in the world. I think that is a super cool take. I love that that aspect is in the comics.” She also followed up on that by talking about how she has skate-doubles, as there are some things she can and can’t do, due to her being still 17 years olds. “I’m 17. So there are things that I can do and things that I can’t do legally. I’m prior to the show. I had never skateboarded, and I have skate-doubles so I had like one foot on the skateboard and I know how to pop it up. That’s what I know how to do. I can pop up the skateboard and I’ve been training with our stunt coordinator Elizabeth [Davidovich] to get on it. But mostly it’s my skate-doubles because if I get hurt, that can be a huge problem. Although I’m a dancer, so I can pick up choreography really fast. So if I’m learning stunt choreography, learning fight choreography, it’s very easy for me to pick it up. In preparation, in the comics, and in the circumstances, the character does not get super buffed, but I do go to the gym so I can maintain a believable look, while I’m doing the show.”
While we can’t reveal too much about the pilot, there is definitely a lot of things to look forward to, and one of them was one of Walfall’s favorite scenes from the series premiere. At one point during the pilot, Naomi comes in contact with is Cranston Johnson’s Zumbado, who is a big player in the Naomi comics. For Walfall, it was a huge moment as she described that “I think favorite for different reasons. I love things that challenged me. So the scene with Cranston in the woods, challenged me because I really went there. And then after I was crazy, exhausted, I went home and took a nap. [laughs] But it was also super rewarding. I think that another fun scene from the pilot was the party scene! We were having so much fun. Because it wasn’t that way of Naomi finding out things, it was effortless, and it was fun. And then that was in an audition scene too. So I knew it super well, that scene was super fun to film!”
When asked what it was that drew her to the Naomi character, Walfall spoke heavily about the many great layers that exist with her. “From the audition, I loved her and her confidence, and then from reading the comic, I loved her determination. So I kind of in my portrayal, mix those together. I did a lot of work with just digesting the pilot and seeing from other people’s perspectives and a lot of work comparing myself to her and things that were similar and different. I love her drive, I also love how fly and cool she is. There’s a lot of aspects that I just love about playing Naomi”
Prior to landing the Naomi role, Walfall was no stranger to superheroes as she was a follower of that in media. When asked about joining the great line of black female superheroes, Walfall had a lot of role models she look up to. “I watched Black Lightning and I loved Black Lightning. When I was watching it, I loved specifically China Ann McClain’s character because I gravitated towards her and I felt I was sort of Jennifer. Javicia Leslie (Batwoman,) Candice Patton (Iris West-Allen,) Ciara Renee (Hawkgirl,) who’s one of my mentors, they paved the way and their portrayals are truly important. So to play a character and play a lead character is a dream come true.”
With Naomi being a newer character in the DC world, it is very easy to get into her mythology, with the Naomi: Season 1 comic, by Bendis, Walker, and Campbell. For Walfall, she had never read a comic book until she booked the role which she spoke about while also sharing what superheroes she has followed in media. “I had never read a comic before. I’m an avid reader, but I had never read a comic before, which I find is quite surprising, because I’m also a visual learner. So seeing something visually is very pleasing to my mind. I watched a little bit of The Flash, I watched Supergirl a lot. It was like my favorite show when I was in middle school. And of course, as I said, before, Black Lightning and I loved Wonder Woman with Gal Gadot. My relationship with superheroes was really cool. I did have a Batwoman costume when I was younger. It was always a dream of mine. But I didn’t know if there was a character that I could play until Naomi.”
For those who have read the Naomi comics know that one of the dynamics that become essential to the story is the one between Naomi and the character Dee, who is played by Alexander Wrath in the show. While the series premiere sets the foundation for them, what can viewers expect as they go through Naomi season 1? For Walfall, it’s one of her favorite dynamics in the show as she sees Dee as Naomi’s Mr. Myagi. “I love the relationship with Naomi and Dee, especially in the pilot. It’s sort of like that scene in the comics when she goes to his shop and he has his back and she’s asking all these questions. I think that Dee is sort of her Mr. Miyagi. He’s her teacher. He doesn’t have all the answers, but he teaches her a little bit of about how to control herself more, and they are so different, but Naomi sees the best within other people. So she sees the best of Dee. They’re so different but their interactions are very comical and funny.”
While The CW has shown bits and pieces from the Naomi pilot, one big mystery is where is her costume. When asked if she could tease Naomi’s super-suit, all Walfall would say is that “I would say that the suit in the comics is amazing and I can’t wait till she gets one,” teasing that perhaps the costume will come a little later in Naomi’s journey.
Something fans will get to see quickly in the Naomi pilot is that our titular character is surrounded by a huge friend group, their Scooby-gang if you will. When asked about how they get involved in Naomi’s journey once she starts exploring her destiny, Wallfall said “It’s so funny because whenever we do scenes with all the younger adults, we call them the Scooby gang. I think that she’s a teenager, and she’s in high school. And she is very close with these people. But I also think that it is about protecting the people that she love if they could possibly be in jeopardy and be in danger.
For many, this will be the first time they ever come in contact with Naomi, if they haven’t already read her journey in the DC Universe. When asked what she hopes fans will get out of watching Naomi, Walfall hopes that viewers get to see that this is a different superhero experience. “I would say [what] fans get out of it is a different story. I think that the show is grounded in real circumstances. Although the circumstances aren’t real, what we would do, what a 16-year-old black girl would do if she found out that she had this hidden destiny. So I hope fans appreciate and take away a new narrative but I also hope people are reminded: don’t believe everything you think and don’t believe everything you hear and really make decisions for your own self.”
As many of our readers and listeners are well aware of, the superhero genre has exploded in the world of television. With the Arrowverse having launched more than five shows over the last decade, how does Naomi differ from the many comic book series that exist today? On that, Walfall explained that “I think what separates Naomi from other superhero shows is it looks different than other shows. But I also think that it is not [just about] that she gets powers. And it’s she’s super happy. I think that in this show, we explore the pressure of that [getting super-powers] and the pressure of someone putting such a big destiny on someone. So I think it’s different with that. And of course different sorts of characters, different narratives and different stories that are told. I think that it is different, but then there’s also sweet aspects that are like other shows.”
For the time being, Naomi is not set in the Arrowverse as the story takes place on a different Earth where the concept of superheroes is a bit different. However, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t do crossovers down the line and when asked that, Walfall was more than open to that, while also sharing which shows she would especially love to show up on. “I think that would be super cool. I think that when I was in middle school, I would watch the crossover episodes. And I would watch the commercials that they would do. And those were super cool. So of course, I would love to do a crossover. I think if I were to crossover with any show, that is still going, it would probably be The Flash. Stargirl would be really cool! The Flash, Stargirl, or Batwoman, I know that’s a lot of answers. But they’re all super cool.”
“From Oscar® nominee/Emmy® winner Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship (“Arrow”), and starring Kaci Walfall (“Army Wives,” “Power,” “The Lion King” on Broadway) in the title role, the DC drama NAOMI follows the journey of a cool, confident, comic book–loving teenager as she pursues her hidden destiny. When a supernatural event shakes her hometown of Port Oswego to the core, Naomi sets out to uncover its origins, with a little help from her fiercely loyal best friend Annabelle (Mary-Charles Jones, “Kevin Can Wait”). She also has the support of her adoptive, doting parents, veteran military officer Greg (Barry Watson, “7th Heaven,” “The Loudest Voice”) and linguistics teacher Jennifer (Mouzam Makkar, “The Fix”). After an encounter with Zumbado (Cranston Johnson, “Filthy Rich”), the mysterious owner of a used car lot, leaves her shaken, Naomi turns to tattoo parlor owner Dee (Alexander Wraith, “Orange Is the New Black”), who becomes her reluctant mentor. While unfolding the mystery about herself, Naomi also effortlessly navigates her high school friendships with kids on the military base as well as well as local townies, including ex-boyfriend and high school jock Nathan (Daniel Puig); Annabelle’s longtime, loyal boyfriend Jacob (Aidan Gemme); proud “townie” Anthony (Will Meyers, “Bad Education”); and fellow comic book enthusiast Lourdes (Camila Moreno), who works in a vintage collectible shop. As Naomi journeys to the heights of the Multiverse in search of answers, what she discovers will challenge everything we believe about our heroes. Based on the characters from DC, NAOMI is written and executive produced by Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship (“Arrow”), and executive produced by Sarah Bremner and Paul Garnes of ARRAY Filmworks. Amanda Marsalis (“Echo Park,” “Queen Sugar”) directed and co-executive produced the pilot episode. The series is from ARRAY Filmworks in association with Warner Bros. Television.”
Naomi, starring Kaci Walfall as Naomi McDuffie, Mary-Charles Jones as Annabelle, Cranston Johnson as Zumbado, Alexander Wraith as Dee, Daniel Puig as Nathan, Aidan Gemme as Jacob, Will Meyers as Anthony, Camila Moreno as Lourdes, with Mouzam Makkar as Jennifer, Barry Watson as Greg, and Stephanie March as Akira, premieres on Tuesday, January 11th, at 9/8c on The CW.
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