Meet Kaci Walfall, the newest addition to the DC superhero universe on the CWs Naomi.
The 17-year-old actress whose previous credits include Army women, the equalizer and Modern loveShe plays the heroine of the same name, Naomi McDuffie, a high school student (and Superman’s biggest fan) who is suddenly overwhelmed by mysterious superpowers after a fantastic incident in her city. Unlike previous superhero origin stories, Naomi – which hails from executive producers Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship and is based on the 2019 comics written by Brian Michael Bendis, David F. Walker, and Jamal Campbell – explores the untested waters of a young black girl trying to find out her place in the world as she unravels the truth behind her person Yes, really is.
“It was different from most fully trained superheroes where we just dive into the comic and she is who she is and she knows everything that it takes to become who you are supposed to be,” DuVernay told reporters during a Television Critics Association virtual panel on Jan. 6, “And that was something that was very interesting to me.”
Before the series debut on Tuesday, Walfall spoke to ET about entering the DC Universe, her working relationship with DuVernay, and why she’s excited for audiences to see “another narrative” of the hero’s journey.
ET: Naomi is a relatively new entry into the DC superhero universe with the comic book debut in 2019. When the role first came to you, how familiar were you with this character and this world?
Kaci whale fall: I’m a keen reader, but I’ve never really read comics. When I was first cast and started reading for the role, I read some of the comics. And then when I was cast I went and got it. So I’m excited to play this character and step into that role.
What personality traits of Naomi were you drawn to or related to?
Of course, one of the first things I did when I was cast for the role was to get a notebook. I like to have a notebook for characters I’ve played for a long time. And I made a diagram of myself and Naomi from the information I knew from the pilot and the information I knew from the book and with Jill. spoke [Blankenship] and Ava [DuVernay]. There are many similarities. I was 16. When I did the pilot, she is 16. We’re both teenage black girls. We are both intelligent. But I think what I really loved about Naomi is that even though I’m confident, I always strive for her [sense] of trust. She has that confidence and she’s so extroverted while I’m more of an introvert. And I loved playing that. I also loved how easy it was for her to interact with all of these different groups of people. On the side it was so nice. I felt really connected to it as an actor and it forced me to play that character.
You said you look forward to people seeing a different narrative within the superhero universe. What about Naomi’s story stands out for the audience who have seen other shows like The Lightning and arrow? What is it about this story that makes it unique and unique?
There are many things that make it unique and one of a kind. It looks different from other shows at first. The story is told differently when it is written, of course. And I think when people get super powered on these shows they are often super excited and it’s the biggest thing that can happen to them. But Naomi, it goes deeper than that. Because everyone knows all these answers about their life that they never thought they would have. And they don’t tell her. Since she’s only 16, that’s also a kind of pressure for her. We deal with this pressure within the show. She struggles with her worth as a heroine. I also think it’s different because it’s still in a high school setting and it’s still a coming-of-age story. That allows for so much joy within the show.
Naomi has a lot to do. She has her school, she has her friends, she has unresolved feelings about past relationships. There are secrets about the truth about their family history and childhood. What can you say about the way she juggles all these balls in the air?
She is special. It’s very, very special. In itself it is special, it is fascinating. But I also think she has all of these things balanced, has all of these clubs, has the third largest Superman fansite in the world, skateboarding, having such a good relationship with her parents, such a good high school life and such promising future is. That’s superhero-like in itself. Jill Blankenship and I often joke that she can because she’s a superhero. She just doesn’t know yet that she has powers. This is completely new territory for them. And it’s not something that she can identify with or that anyone around her can identify with. So it’s different and it’s also a pressure that she has never felt before. She always knew the answers. She always knows what to do. She always had a great moral compass. She was always loved. Being in a room where she doesn’t know what is happening and is uncomfortable feels like a lot. Fortunately, she has people she can rely on. She can rely on her parents and she can rely on her friends and she can rely on Dee (played by Alexander Wraith) who is like her Mr. Miyagi.
It’s cool to see a character like Naomi really thrive in something she loves to do – and in her case, Superman is following it through her popular blog. Is there anything that appeals to you? Naomi that you like to see?
Naomi has this love for Superman, I’m really happy that people who are fans of Superman are on her side and that she is this popular girl who is not afraid to accept it, it’s great. And it’s particularly nuanced. I feel in the television and film world and only tell this story of the character. I’m really excited that people are seeing the actors I work with. Everyone is just at the top of their game on this show. Cranston Johnson is great, especially the pilot [as Zumbado]. And so is Mary-Charles [Jones as Annabelle] and Alex [Wraith as Dee]. Everyone is absolutely stellar. One of my favorite scenes that isn’t actually a scene … when I saw it I thought, “This is so cool!” It’s a skateboard scene in the pilot. This song they picked … is just super cool and I’m glad people are seeing that.
How was your experience working closely with Ava in developing this character?
Working with Miss Ava was great. She is just a very nice and caring person. She’s such a great creative, but basically she’s just such a good person. This of course makes you want to work with her and be your best. She makes you shine and really make you feel worthy when you are in her presence. The cast and I joke that she has that aura surrounding her. And I am very honest. She just has such a great aura. But when I work with her as a creator it’s great because every time I talk to her I leave the conversation because I’m inspired by the character and the story. Hearing their perspective on things often really helps me as an actress, but it gives me a lot of creative freedom to explore and encourages me to explore. But of course it still guides me. In the pilot, when I was with her, we had a lot of conversations about the character. She had said things and I said things and I feel very blessed to have these conversations with her because they are critical to my performance.
What do you want people to know about the show?
I want people to know that of course there are different narrative stories to tell. I really want people to see themselves in Naomi even if they don’t look or look like her. I think people can look up to her. Part of her is so human. At heart she is a 16 year old girl. I want people to know that we should all trust each other and we should all know how special we really are. This is something Naomi takes on a journey throughout the show.
Naomi Premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 11 at 9 p.m. ET / PT on The CW.
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Reference from etonline