A new superhero is headed to television, and the relatively new DC Comics character is one to watch. Kaci Walfall is debuting in the titular role of Naomi on the new The CW series that premieres next week. Naomi McDuffie's first comic appearance was in 2019-- and she already has a television adaptation.
Executive produced by Ava DuVernay, the series "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."
Shadow and Act talked with Walfall about the series ahead of its premiere.
"I did not know the character before I signed onto the show," she told us. "I'm an avid reader, but I didn't read comics before Naomi. When I booked the project, I went and I read the comics, and I had the Justice League [comics] and I went to a comic store and I always carry them on me. So, I think her being a fairly new character, there's so much potential in her, which is why we're doing this show and so many great things. But I think that it also allows the story to grow and it allows her to grow."
After booking the show and reading the pilot, a part of the way Walfall connected to the character was breaking down their similarities.
“I made a Venn diagram and connected similar things,” she explained. “I only know one language, and a little bit of Spanish [laughs]. Naomi knows nine…[but] to be fair, her mother’s also a linguist. She’s adopted so she’s lived in all these places so she knows all these languages, she takes all these AP classes. I’m pretty smart, but I have not taken as many as she’s in. She’s in all these clubs…So, she’s definitely more of an extrovert. I would describe myself as more of an introvert, depending on the setting and depending on the mood.”
However, what’s the most similar about her and the character is the passion and drive that they share, adding, “I think that that is what I can use and pull for myself. We’re both also teenagers [and] teenage black girls. There are similarities within that.”
One big thing about the first episode of Naomi is that it begins to fill out the character’s personal relationships. The show introduces a rag-tag ensemble of characters, including her best friend Annabelle (Mary-Charles Jones), Annabelle’s boyfriend Jacob (Aidan Gemme), her own ex-boyfriend and jock Jacob (Daniel Puig) and two other potential love interests in comic book enthusiast Lourdes (Camila Moreno) and “townie” Anthony (Will Myers).
“You’re not necessarily tied down to anyone [when you’re a teenager],” said Walfall of potential entanglements. “So, I think that there’s always room for her to try different things and hang out with different people. I think that storyline is prevalent throughout the show as we get more and more. So I think that what I can tease is that people will see more of Naomi’s relationship and personal life.”
We also so meet our traditional "superhero" world characters -- seemingly "good" and "bad" guys.
One looks to be a mentor, Dee (Alexander Wraith), and another seems to be an adversary Zumbado (Cranston Johnson). “I think that Dee specifically, especially through the pilot, you see him with Naomi and he’s giving stuff away to her,” the actress explained. “I would describe him as her Mr. Miyagi, her teacher. I love working with Alex and Cranston.”
And Walfall is doing a bit of glass ceiling shattering herself as a young Black actress leading a network television show and playing a superhero.
“It feels like a blessing to be in this story and to tell this story, and to be the actor chosen to tell this story, that is just great,” she said. “I know younger me would love Naomi. That is just such a great feeling. So, to inspire the younger generation and even generations later than that is a blessing. So, to play this character…there’s representation of all, and representation is always so necessary. But I think she’s also a character that we haven’t necessarily seen reflected on TV before. I think that that’s super inspiring. It’s definitely pivotal in my career. This is my first big break, and I think that this project just checks all the dream boxes. Being 17 and being in this space, I’m so grateful. So, I’m grateful to be a black female superhero and inspire other girls, and just everyone. I think there are aspects that everyone can see themselves within Naomi.”
On working with DuVernay, which she says "is an experience like nothing else," Walfall said that she's "a great person and creative, but also a kind person."
“Being around her is just… It’s almost like a light comes at you, and she’s just great,” she continued. “Working with Miss Ava was a dream of mine, so to be in this space and working with her, especially on a superhero show.”
Teasing the rest of the season, Walfall says that audiences will be on “a fun ride.”
“I think Naomi goes through a lot. She’s definitely different in episode one versus the later episodes. It’s almost like every episode she uncovers something new about herself and her hidden destiny.”
Naomi debuts Jan. 11 on The CW.