Imagine a teen girl whose world suddenly flips upside-down.
That’s what happens in “Naomi,” the new teen-superhero series (9 p.m. Tuesdays) on the CW network. It’s also what happened to Kaci Walfall (shown here), who stars. At 16, she was suddenly flying from New York to Los Angeles and Atlanta for a new life ,,, and new eats.
That was courtesy of Mary-Charles Jones, who plays her best friend and lives in Atlanta, where “Naomi” is filmed. “She sent me a great list of food when we first came here,” Walfall said.
Walfall is from New York, which had been the center of her acting career. She stepped into a role in Broadway’s “Lion King” … did a couple “Equalizer” episodes (as Robyn’s daughter’s hard-scrabble friend) … and playing kids in random episodes, including six in “Army Wives.”
Then came the world of DC Comics superheroes, something she was less familiar with. “I’m an avid reader,” she said. “but I hadn’t read comic books before the show. I, however, was a big fan of the DC shows. I watched ‘Supergirl’ religiously in middle school and I’ve watched ‘The Flash.’”
Producer Ava DuVernay is also fairly new to this world. But she’s planning a “New Gods” movie and has a “DMZ” series coming this spring. “I was looking for more in the DC world,” she said. “when I heard about (a graphic novel with) a Black girl superhero. So I was like, ‘You gotta tell me more!’”
DuVernay has directed films that strongly deal with racie — the Oscar-nominated “Selma” and the Emmy-nominated “When They See Us.” By comparison, she said, “Naomi” simply offers “normalization,” a chance to “portray images without underlining them.”
The key was finding a star, via a cross-country, pandemic-era search.
Walfall says she “sent in a self-tape (and) didn’t hear anything for like two weeks.” Then she had a Zoom call with DuVernay, who soon summoned her to Los Angeles. Walfall flew there with her mother and did some virtual readings with other actors. She and DuVernay “had lunch at a vegan restaurant and talked about the show and talked about the character.”
It was impressive, DuVernay said. “She was 16 at the time, has that theatre experience, the work ethic, … the charisma. Then you sit down with her and you’re like, ‘Oh, I really like you as a person.’”
A week later, she got the role. For some of her co-stars, it’s the first real TV roles.
The exception is Jones, 20, who’s been acting since she was 6, including two seasons on “Kevin Can Wait.” She decided to unite the cast: “I was like, ‘Hey, would you wanna get on a Zoom so that when we pretend to be best friends, we actually know more than just first names?”
Six young actors spanned the country via Zoom, she said, doing “very teenager-y icebreakers. I think we asked what our star signs are and what our favorite ice cream flavor is, which is very much something you would do in like your English class on the first day of school.”
They were ready to play typical teens … except that one teen learns she may have superpowers.