BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Ava DuVernay dealt with science fiction elements layered on a coming-of-age story as the director of the feature film “A Wrinkle in Time.” The Oscar nominee and Emmy winner faces a similar task as an executive producer of the new CW series “Naomi.”
The series – scheduled to launch at 9 p.m. Jan. 11 – focuses on a cool, confident, comic book-loving teenager who faces the shocking reality that she has a secret – and very super – past. Naomi (Kaci Walfall) begins to realize how different she is when a supernatural event hits her hometown of Port Oswego. Her quest for the truth gets some help from her loyal best friend Annabelle (Mary-Charles Jones).
In bringing the latest comic book-inspired series to the CW, DuVernay found one element of the story the most compelling.
“I think of it as a coming-of-age story first. And those are things that I really love most about it,” DuVernay says. “I mean, I love that, all comics are really personal human stories about the journeys that we all take, written in with issues of heroism and magic.
“But really the best stories are the ones where things are happening that we can all relate to.”
Not everyone can connect with what it would be like to discover one day you have abilities far beyond those of regular humans. DuVernay is looking for viewers to make connections through Naomi’s supportive parents – veteran military officer Greg (Barry Watson) and linguistics teacher Jennifer (Mouzam Makkar), the complicated life of being a high school student and dealing with all of the complicated emotions triggered by the heart.
“Naomi” has its fair share of superhero elements that unfold in the Multiverse that has cut across so many of the CW series based on publications from the DC Comics universe. Those come from the Naomi comic book that was created in 2019 by writer Brian Michael Bendis, writer David F. Walker and artist Jamal Campbell.
Unlike previous CW Network series “Supergirl,” “Batwoman,” “The Flash” and “Arrow,” “Naomi” is being adapted from a comic book series that doesn’t have a long history of stories. Executive producer Jill Blankenship – who held the same title with “Arrow” – has not seen that as a problem.
“I was personally such a big fan of the comic, like [it’s] so beautiful, so characters jump off the page,” Blankenship says. “I think what’s been really exciting is to kind of move forward in the storytelling and really honor sort of the lineage of the comic while sort of expanding the world even beyond the comic.
“For me personally, to see this cast bring them to life in such a way that it’s like beyond my wildest dreams.”
The biggest demand to make the comic book characters come to life falls on Walfall. She comes to the series having worked on “Army Wives,” “Power” and “The Equalizer.”
Walfall needed to do some homework to get ready to play Naomi.
“I’m an avid reader, but I hadn’t read comic books before the show,” Walfall says. “I, however, was a big fan of the DC shows. I watched ‘Supergirl’ religiously in middle school all the time and I’ve watched ‘The Flash.’
“So I was a fan of the film world a bit, but I hadn’t read comics before.”
She might not have been a comic book reader but Naomi knew what it meant to be part of a TV series based on a DC Comics character. Walfall also pushed hard to land the role once she saw that DuVernay was connected to the project.
Once she landed the role, Walfall faced the challenge that she not only had to play a convincing high school student but she also would have to deal with all of the physicality of playing a character with super powers.
She caught a break in that the way the show is designed, Naomi slowly discovers her abilities. That meant Walfall would be able to start slowly with all of the training to do the stunts and build through each episode.
“It does allow me to ease into it. She’s finding out, I’m kind of finding out, which is really helpful as an actor. Because I don’t know yet,” Walfall says. “How I embody the powers in Episode 2 is going to be how I am, different than how I embody the powers in, let’s say Episode 11.
“I think that it allows me to grow and I think that it allows the character to grow. I work out so that I can stay fit, but also, you know, maintain energy. And then it’s really helpful because as the series goes on, she’s figuring out things and she gets better and better every episode.”