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Black Lightning's Christine Adams on Doing Right and Being Wronged

Black Lightning's Christine Adams on Doing Right and...

By Tim Beedle Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Despite not having any superpowers herself, Black Lightning’s Lynn Stewart has remained one of the most devoted forces for good within Freeland’s metahuman community, aiding them with research and science that has saved lives and helped them take control of their burgeoning powers.

Of course, she’s also been helping Agent Odell and the ASA in doing so, meaning all of her work—despite being done with the best intentions—has a pretty serious dark side. While she may be assisting Freeland’s metahumans, she’s also making them more effective as weapons. In giving them control over their powers, she’s taking away their control over their lives. And as if the ethics of Lynn’s work weren’t murky enough already, she’s now managed to become hooked on Green Light—the very drug responsible for most of the metahuman damage within Freeland.

Far more than just the hero’s spouse, Lynn Stewart is one of the most complex, challenging and rich characters on television right now. It’s a rewarding role for an actor, but a difficult one at times, as we recently learned from Christine Adams when she spoke with us on the Black Lightning set earlier this month. Adams also shared her thoughts on how Lynn views Agent Odell, whether she’ll be confronting Jennifer Riker’s Dr. Jace again and why Queer Eye for the Straight Guy may just be the perfect medicine.

Note: The below interview has been edited for clarity.

Do you think Lynn feels a little bit responsible for the metahuman virus?

A little bit? Yeah! Fourteen kids died last season. As a medical professional, she wasn’t able to solve that problem. Also, I think there’s the whole element of having Dr. Jace come in, who ultimately sabotaged the whole endeavor. So, really, there’s this double guilt of not being able to solve a problem that she thought she could, but also allowing someone else to negate her process. She’s on a mission this season to fix it. It’s one of those weird things where it’s almost not even about the kids anymore—it’s about Lynn having to right a wrong. But ultimately, was it her fault, or was she just a product of the environment and the circumstances? She’s even more driven this season, but it’s in a way that I would say isn’t massively healthy.

Lynn’s desire to help people has really been used as a weapon against her this season. Is that going to change her approach at all? Will she still want to help?

I hope so. With everything that she’s going through this season, I hope that within all of that there’s still that desire. I mean, she’s still taken her medical oath. She’s still a scientist and an investigator. I think that’s just part of her DNA. However difficult the next few months might be for her, I still think that when all’s said and done, when she comes through the other side, I think she’ll always have that desire to figure out what the heck happened. That’s just who she is.

Lynn thinks that she’s in control of the situation, but we’ve seen that Odell has been playing her. When is she going to realize that?

Well, here’s the thing, just because of where we are and where I’m about to go—it’s not a direct line to that conclusion. She’s got to go through a lot more. It’s almost bigger than the kids and bigger than Odell. This is Lynn’s journey and I don’t think she’s in a place to go, “Who’s responsible for this?” She’s not thinking rationally. Obviously, we know they’ve been giving her the glimmer. She’s working frantically because now there are genuinely sick children who are going to die. So, I don’t know that she’s in that mindset where she’s thinking about the grandmaster. I don’t think that’s dawned on her.

Actually, I don’t think she even cares because she’s so laser-focused on figuring out how to solve the problem. Ultimately, anybody in their right mind would have known that Odell was a bad cat. That was obvious last season. The way he appears! You’re in a room and it’s like, “What the heck are you doing in here?!? Dude, where did you come from?!” He’s evil incarnate!

It’s so crazy because Bill Duke is the nicest, kindest, sweetest, but when he goes into Odell, you’re kind of frozen. He’s really compelling in a very sinister way.

But yes, anybody in their right mind, they would have seen that. Lynn being where she is and the circumstances—the stakes are really high, Freeland’s at war—she hasn’t connected the dots yet. And I don’t think the dots actually even end with Odell. I think it’s even bigger than that. I don’t know that for sure, but I feel like the world is opening. I think we’re going to realize that there are more people at play.

What do you hope fans take away from Lynn and her journey this season?

I think right now they just feel really bad for her because she’s clearly about to descend into a bit of a drug mania. Just broadly speaking, what we’re doing, which we haven’t done before, is we’ve shifted away from that family-centric version of Black Lightning. We’ve kind of moved more into the comic book version of Black Lightning, which I think is quite right. I think that’s what we should be doing because we are a DC show, but nevertheless, it’s a transition. So, in terms of what the audience will take away, I’m not sure because I think we almost have two camps right now. We’ve got the camp that’s like, “Yes, DC! Yes, crossover! Yes, ‘Infinite Earths’! Yes, Markovians!” But then you’ve got people that are like, “I want to see the family. I want to see Jeff and Lynn! I want to see the girls!”

So, how do we marry these two things? I think that’s sort of where we are in season three. In some ways, we’ve been really successful. In other ways, the jury’s still out.

As a viewer, I think I’m trying to figure out where we’re going and if I’m still invested in the Pierce family. Because if you’re not invested in the Pierce family, then I don’t know how long we can keep people on the journey. This is a really long-winded way of saying that I hope the audience still feels a connection to the Pierces in the same way that they did in seasons one and two. If they feel that, then we’ve done our job. When it gets crazy and we get into metahumans and people flying and morphing into different pieces of furniture, there has that be that sense of what the emotional core is. For me, that’s always been what I would want as an actor—the audience to feel that there is a real emotional connection and that they care about what happens to this family.

I think it helps that the Pierce family was so well developed in the first two seasons.

I think that’s where we were smart. We said that you have to be with this family. You have to go with them, love them, trust them and want them to be okay. You have to care about them in order for us to take you on the journey we want to take you on. So, I hope that we can keep doing that.

You’re one of the characters on the show that doesn’t have superpowers, but now you have an arch-nemesis with Dr. Jace. Is Lynn gearing up to take her down?

I love all the stuff with Dr. Jace, just because as an actor, it’s really fun to play. They’re both competent, brilliant doctors. So, in another universe, they’d be curing cancer. They’d be solving the world’s problems if they could actually work together. Unfortunately, Dr. Jace is a sociopath and a psychopath, so obviously, that’s problematic.

What Dr. Jace brings is so good because it’s almost like she’s the dark to my light. She’s the mirror version of “do you use your powers for good, or do you use your powers for evil?” I think together it’s a really good counter. I’ve really enjoyed all the stuff that we’ve done and there will be more.

So, will we be seeing her again?

Well, again, as an audience member, that’s what I want to see. Let’s just say I think there’s a real question of when those two are going to get into the ring again, literally and metaphorically. There’s going to be some knockdowns, isn’t there?

I think there has to be!

If I know Salim Akil, there are definitely going to be some knockdowns. It’s so fun because that’s the thing I don’t usually get to do. I don’t get to do the fighting.

That’s the great thing about Lynn. I get to live in all these worlds. There’s the scientist and the mother and the wife and now the drug addict. It’s so great as an actor. You could just be playing in one lane for seven seasons of a show. I’m so happy that we’re at season three and I’ve already covered so much. I mean, I’ve killed someone. I’m basically the only person in the family that killed someone until probably quite recently. I’ve saved some kids. I’ve lost some kids.

It’s been an emotional rollercoaster.

It really has! And people don’t understand what that actually is. You come to work and you do all this crazy stuff and then you have to go home and be normal. And I’ve got kids, so it’s even weirder. You’re at work all day punching out Dr. Jace, and then you just go home and make some pasta. They’ve got no idea, my kids. They’ve been to set, but they don’t really know what my day entails and where I have to go in my mind to do what I’m doing. Especially in this season. It’s great because it’s grounding, but it’s definitely a weird kind of counter to play Lynn Stewart on her rollercoaster and then just go home and be mom like nothing happened.

How do you turn it off?

Drinking’s good! But obviously, that’s not good if you leave work at one o’clock in the afternoon.

It’s not?

Not when you’ve got to go and do the school run! It’s like, “HEEEY, KIDSSHH!!!” (laughs)

It’s hard. I wouldn’t say that I’m a massively method actor. It’s TV. We work very quickly and we don’t have a huge amount of time to jump from moment to moment. But I definitely see how actors that play these roles that are emotionally challenging, why it gets grey and difficult to turn it off. For me personally as an actor, I do have to go somewhere emotionally in my mind to get what I need in a performance. When you go somewhere emotionally, that actually starts to make things happen in your body physically. So, that’s the thing that’s quite challenging. You have to go there, but to go there something starts to happen. I can’t even describe it, but it’s a hard thing to transition out of.

Often what I’ll do is I’ll just sit in my dressing room and watch half an hour of Netflix. Usually a bit of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy because I find that’s good therapy to just lift me out of it. It makes me feel good, but also it helps me cry, and then I’m good! I’m ready!

What’s been your most challenging emotional journey with Black Lightning so far?

Really all the stuff we’re doing now. The stakes are really high. The drug issues are obviously starting to present themselves. The kind of fracturedness of her family and of her life. Those combinations together are really hard. Also, I’m a very sort of buoyant fun, happy-go-lucky, positive person. So, it’s quite hard for me to come to work, and I have to say to the crew, “Don’t talk to me today. I’ve got to be in the mode.” Otherwise, I’d be yakking it up and laughing it up. You just can’t do it. It’s not possible to get to where you need to be.

That’s the challenging thing. You’ve got to find a way to sit in that nasty, messy, upsetting place and do your job. I’m definitely flexing all my acting muscles right now, which is great. I mean, that’s what you want. You don’t want it to be easy! You don’t want to come in and just read some words.
 

Black Lightning airs Mondays at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CST) on The CW. Visit our Black Lightning page for more features, news and articles about the Pierce family.