‘Black Lightning’ Star Cress Williams on Why You Don’t Need a Supersuit to Slay an Audition

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Photo Source: Caitlin Watkins

“I always wanted to play a superhero, but this is different,” the CW’s “Black Lightning” star Cress Williams told Backstage in our Oct. 9 interview. The boundary-pushing DC Comics series, which charts the retired Jefferson Pierce’s return to crime-fighting as Black Lightning to protect his family, returned for Season 2 that same evening. With training in theater and past experience playing recurring roles on “Code Black,” “ER,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Friday Night Lights,” to name a few, Williams mined his own Hollywood experience to offer up some stellar audition advice and more. We’ve rounded up five highlights below.

Playing Black Lightning offers variety.
“From an acting standpoint, I go to work and every day it’s something different. Some days it’s about green screen and the special effects and kicking butt, but some days you’re getting to have a real scene with your daughter about bullying or you’re having a domestic dispute with your wife. I get to do so many different things.”

Don’t agonize over the audition.
“As soon as I leave I discard the sides, and then I’ll get them again if they want me to come back tomorrow. But after, I just let them go. It’s important to have a life outside of acting—hobbies and friends and things—so as soon as an audition [is] over and I put it down I [try] to get back to that instead of, like, dying by acting.”

It’s important to be your own person.
“You’ve got to be patient. Because of social media and everything, it’s easy to compare yourself to other people. We know so much more of people’s successes. It’s important to know that your journey is your journey.”

Keep creative.
“Always be acting, whether it’s producing your own play, [or] writing material and doing it. You can create your own reel these days, writing some scenes and getting together with your friends and filming them. Rent out a little theater and do some theater. Always be acting and not just waiting by the phone. The actor who’s not doing all of that creative stuff that keeps your juices flowing—their auditions are few and far between, and they get an audition and they are holding onto it so tight. It’s almost like they choke because the desperation, you can smell it in the air. But if you’re doing things that are creative [outside of auditioning], when the audition comes, it’s just another thing, and [you can] just play and hopefully you’re more successful.”

Take control of your audition.
“If you look at an audition like a rehearsal and take control of it, it’s incredibly attractive to the people on the other side of the table and it’s just fun. It’s taking control and realizing you’re there to play, because when we rehearse, we’re so much looser—we do so many great things, and so if you look at an audition that way, good things happen.”

Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s TV audition listings!

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