As mentioned in this week’s Channel Surfing TV picks, the new series, Naomi, is set to premiere. Recently, a TCA presentation was held featuring the on and off-screen talent to tease what fans can expect this upcoming season. In attendance were EPs, Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship, and actors, Kaci Walfall, Cranston Johnson, Alexander Wraith, Mary-Charles Jones, Barry Watson, Mouzam Makkar, Daniel Puig, Camila Moreno, Will Meyers, and Aidan Gemme.
For those unfamiliar, Naomi is based off of the comic with the same name from creators Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker, and Jamal Campbell. The story follows the titular character, a young teenager who is a fan of superheroes, as she pursues her destiny. When a supernatural event occurs in her small Pacific Northwest town of Port Oswego, she is determined to uncover its origins. While attempting to solve the mystery about herself, she must also navigate her various high school friendships.
The source material really drew the EPs’ attention and was a big influence on why they wanted to adapt it into a show. DuVernay was always looking around DC for exciting new properties. She was attached to a New Gods film and has DMZ coming out later this spring on HBO Max. She happened to come across the character and was hooked.
DuVernay said, “when I heard the origin story, I really said, well, this must be mine because it was different than most fully-formed superheroes where we just dive into, to the comic and she’s who she is, and she knows everything that’s going on. Uh, this was really the step to becoming yourself, the steps to realizing your destiny, the steps that it takes to, to become who you’re meant to be. And that’s something that was very interesting to me.”
Naomi is a relatively new character to the comics so she doesn’t have an expansive history similar to other CW characters such as the Flash, Superman, and Lois Lane. However, that allowed the writers to take the character in different directions. They almost catch up to the comics in the first two episodes so they were able to come up with new cool things.
Blankenship shared her thoughts on the creative process. “I would say it was incredibly freeing to have this sort of foundation, but also just to get to explore all these different journeys and all these different stories and all these different characters in a way that wasn’t in the source material. So, so as a writer, it was extremely exciting.”
The original creators have been very supportive of the show and it will deviate from where the upcoming season two of the comic will go. “They are not involved in a day-to-day way. Um, and that was something that they gave us as a gift as artists and creators say, look, we’re not gonna micromanage this process. We love Naomi. We would love to, to see how she is in the hands of two women and you all take it and, and do your thing,” DuVernay revealed.
She continued, “I think Naomi is a muscular enough character that she deserves and can hold multiple iterations of artists interpreting her. Just like Spiderman, just like Batman, just, Naomi should be able to have those interpretations, multiple interpretations as well. So, we’ve enjoyed that freedom.”
However, because the series is on The CW, don’t expect any crossovers just yet. In the first season, they want to focus solely on developing Naomi and her own little universe. But nothing is ever off the table and who knows what might happen if it receives another season.
The cast also spoke of their experiences while filming. Walfall, who plays the lead role, gradually learned more and more about her character with each script. “[i]t does allow me to ease into it. As she’s finding out, I’m kind of finding out, which is really helpful as an actor. Cause I don’t know yet. Um, I think, you know, how I embody the powers in Episode 2 is gonna 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.”
Walfall later added, “as the audience is also finding out, Naomi’s finding out, I think that’s so beautiful in the story. So, to tell the most truthful and authentic story that I can, you know, with what Jill will share with me and I’m really grateful for that, but they also do keep things from me. And I think that that is, that is really helpful. Cause um, I can just have the most truthful and authentic performance.”
When the comic was first released, it was dubbed DC’s biggest and newest mystery. Leaning into it, Naomi receives her own “Scooby-Doo Gang” to aid in her search for the truth. Walfall, Jones, Puig, Moreno, Myers, and Gemme have great chemistry on screen and the group began getting to know each other early on. They would do group Zoom calls to develop the camaraderie with teenagery type icebreakers inquiring about random subjects such as astrology signs and favorite ice cream flavors.
Fans of the comic book should be familiar with the characters Dee and Zumbado, played by Wraith and Johnson respectively, but these versions will differ from their on-page counterparts. Johnson implied that they have a history. “What had been communicated [about Dee] was that generally this is a person that I don’t feel [I hold in] high regard. Uh, he’s someone that I do know from the past, without going into too much detail, but he’s someone that I don’t particularly care for, for reasons that we’ll find out later,” he explained.
“And I think the feeling is mutual. However, we will come to a point where we realize that maybe we’re gonna have to put some of these things to the side in order to work for a common good. Um, that’s where our relationship picks up, initially when the story starts to unfold.”
Wraith chimed in, “I don’t think Dee dislikes Zumbado, I think he’s, you know, he tries to keep to himself and stay kind of secluded and isolated and avoid confrontation and drama, because he’s been through a lot of that in his past before. But yeah, I think that the, the whole point is just to kind of keep the pond serene, to not create any ripples, because those ripples are gonna create situations and then situations have to be dealt with. So, and he knows that Zumbado, you know, will be there at the forefront if anything does go awry.”
Because DuVernay is involved, Naomi will address social issues but will take a different approach compared to her previous work. “It’s not about representation, it’s about normalization. So, we’re doing really muscular things as it relates to race and gender and class, but we’re doing it by playing it normal. Like it’s just a part of the everyday,” the EP said.
“And I say it kiddingly, but it is real. The more that you can portray images without underlining them, highlighting them and putting a star next to them, that show a different kind of hero, right? That center on a black girl, that centers different kinds of folks, right? Um, we start to make that normal and that’s a radical revolutionary thing. So yes, that is, it’s in there deep in the fabric of the quilt.”
With a passionate fanbase for all The CW DC Comic shows, the cast were asked if they were prepared for the increased scrutiny from being on such a high-profile series along with the rounds on the convention circuit and cosplay. Puig said it best, “Well, bring it.”
The series premiere of Naomi is Tuesday, Jan 11, on The CW.
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