The new year is kicking off with the birth of a new primetime superhero. Naomi premieres on The CW tonight and even on the superhero-rich network, this show promises to stand out. Based on the critically acclaimed comic by Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker and Jamal Campbell, the primetime drama stars Kaci Walfall in the title role of Naomi McDuffie, a comic book-loving teenager with a remarkable destiny she’s only just now starting to understand.
“It’s so great to step into this role and to tell this story,” says the 17-year-old Walfall. “It’s just been a privilege to play this character. Stepping into this world allows representation in so many ways. It allows representation for people who look like Naomi, but it also allows for representation for so many people. She’s super into comics, she skateboards, she is super-confident, she knows all these languages, she’s in all these AP classes. I think there are so many different, great things that Naomi does that people can relate to. But they can also probably relate to how great of a moral compass she has.”
Naomi was developed by Hollywood legend Ava DuVernay, who also wrote the pilot. Working alongside the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning producer/director/writer was a one-of-a-kind learning experience for Walfall, who found her to be a wonderful teacher.
“Working with Ms. Ava has been great,” she enthuses. “I learn something new every time I speak with Ms. Ava. Importantly, she’s reminded me that I’m enough, and to trust myself, and to trust my work. It’s a dream to work with her.”
It’s rare for a comic book to be adapted into a television drama when it’s only a few years old, but Naomi is no ordinary series. For Walfall, the comic was an important piece of research material.
“Of course, I got my hands on the comics,” she says. “I feel like it would sort of be an injustice not to. David Walker, Brian Michael Bendis and Jamal Campbell, who illustrated the book—it’s such a great story. I carry the Naomi comic in my bag all the time when I’m at work. I think that it’s such a good reference point. It makes me feel so centered to the character.”
There’s always a lot of pressure in being the first person to bring a beloved comic book character to the screen, especially one that blazes so much new ground like Naomi McDuffie. But the series star prefers to see the challenge as an opportunity.
“I think that it can actually be a little more fun,” shares Walfall. “It allows for more freedom, while still always staying respectful to the material and going back to the comic. There are different aspects within our show that aren’t in the comics. Exploring those teenage relationships that aren’t included in the comic is actually really fun.”
Another major difference between the Naomi comic and television series is the setting. In the comics, Naomi lives in the DC Universe alongside characters like Superman, while in the television series, Naomi is in a world without heroes and Superman is a fictional comic character.
“It is a different universe,” Walfall reveals. “She can’t necessarily call on the Flash, she can’t necessarily call on Supergirl. But then, I also think that it allows for her to grow more, and it allows for her to learn for herself. In her universe, she has people like Dee. He doesn’t have all the answers, but he can teach her more about her life that she’s navigating throughout the series. It’s also a different narrative and a different story that’s told. The show is kind of lighter, but it’s also much darker and much more personal.”
Of course, Walfall still has aspirations to meet some of her other favorite DCTV stars.
“I would love to meet Grant Gustin,” she exclaims. “I love The Flash. Candice Patton. Melissa Benoist—I love Supergirl. Javicia Leslie. There are so many great people who have told great stories within the DC world that I would love to meet.”
Of course, if you’ve seen the show’s trailer or the sneak peek that was a part of DC FanDome, you know that Superman is still a part of the show. Naomi McDuffie is a big Superman fangirl who runs her own website dedicated to the Man of Steel.
“I think that if she were to meet him in person, she would faint,” Walfall muses. “She would ask him twenty million questions, and I think that it would be one of the funniest meetings that would happen in Naomi’s life.”
Of course, as anyone who’s read the comic knows, the real heroes in Naomi’s life are her parents.
“Her adoptive parents are Greg and Jennifer,” affirms Walfall. “She’s been with them since she was a baby. It is almost as if they are her best friends. She often says they are the coolest parents because they are. They dote on her. They allow her to be her best self and embrace that. The reason why she is the way she is with all this confidence is because of her parents. She has this great relationship, and it’s not an angsty relationship. She doesn’t talk back to them, she doesn’t argue with them, and she doesn’t raise her voice. It’s not that she’s Little Miss Perfect, they just have such a good relationship.”
So, what does the future hold for Naomi? Will she follow in the superhero footsteps of her comic book counterpart?
“I think that the suit in the comics is amazing, and I can’t wait until Naomi gets one,” Walfall teases. “The most surprising part about the experience is how surreal it is. The cast is so great, the crew is so great, and the story is so special.”
Naomi premiere tonight at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CST) on The CW. Looking for more on DC’s newest small screen hero? Check out our official Naomi show page.