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Kaci Walfall is only 17, and she’s about to be the center of her own TV universe

Kaci Walfall stars in “Naomi,” which premieres Tuesday on the CW. (Fernando Decillis / The CW)
Kaci Walfall stars in “Naomi,” which premieres Tuesday on the CW.
(Fernando Decillis / THE CW)

Kaci Walfall has a universe on her shoulders.

The 17-year-old actor plays the title character in “Naomi,” DC Comics’ panel-to-screen adaptation about an overachieving teen who discovers that she’s beyond extraordinary. Good thing Walfall has some superpowers of her own.

“When I’m casting … the hard part is, do I want to be in a relationship with this person for potentially many years? That is something that was apparent very early on in the process with her,” said executive producer Ava DuVernay (“Colin in Black & White”), who has another upcoming DC adaptation, “DMZ,” for HBO Max.

“When it all comes together — the talent and the personhood, who they are — you get lucky and magic happens, and she’s our magic.”

Naomi McDuffie — whose last name is a tribute to the revered late comics writer Dwayne McDuffie — is a popular teenager who lives in the military town of Port Oswego, Ore., and is obsessed with Superman because they’re both adopted. When what appears to be her favorite hero is seen fighting above her town, Naomi skateboards to the scene but passes out before she can get the scoop for her fan website. Revelations, surprising powers and menacing antagonists ensue. Soon, she enlists her friends to find out more about the “stunt” and what’s happening to her — and to her town.

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Naomi — a.k.a. Powerhouse in the comics — was created in 2019, a relatively new superhero when it comes to TV adaptations. The show’s writers are excited about the room for growth.

“I was such a huge fan of the comic when it came out — Brian Bendis, David Walker, Jamal Campbell’s beautiful art. What they created was this incredible foundation. But what was so lovely is that they also really gave us the freedom to kind of make it our own and to really run with it,” said executive producer Jill Blankenship (“Arrow”).

The comics are just a launching pad, DuVernay says. “Where she’ll go in the series will be a different path than where she’ll go in the next season of the comics. I think Naomi is a muscular enough character that she deserves and can hold multiple iterations of artists interpreting her just like Spider-Man, just like Batman does.”

One might assume that includes the crossover events for which The CW’s DC shows have become known, but this is “Naomi’s” world.

“I really think that this is the first part of the Naomiverse and that people need to be trying to cross over over here,” said DuVernay. “You won’t see any crossover Season 1. That’s a little spoiler.

“She is firmly in her story. And we are singularly focused on that journey.”

A “grateful” Walfall (“The Equalizer”) is all in: She “feels like this world existed before.” She talked with The Times about that journey, what she has in common with her superhero alter ego and universal responsibilities.

Five people holding shining flashlights stand side by side.
Kaci Walfall, center, with her crew — Aidan Gemme, left, Mary-Charles Jones, Will Myers and Camila Moreno — in The CW’s “Naomi.”
(Danny Delgado / The CW)

Who is Naomi?

Naomi feels like a friend. Someone that I just want to be protective over and tell her how great she is. She’s a 16-year-old girl. She’s still in high school. She’s still trying to figure things out. But what I really love about her, and this is genuine, is her heart. She is genuinely a great person. She really sees the best in everyone. No matter if it’s in her teenage world or her superhero world.

Did you find similarities with the character?

I have this green book that I carry — I have since the pilot — and the first thing I did once I got the script of the pilot and finished reading it, I wrote down a diagram of my character in the comic versus Kaci versus Naomi. And that was really helpful because I could pull things that I love from the comic and then pull the differences that I loved and then also pull things from myself that I wanted to bring within the character. Because I think once you pull things from yourself and your experience, sometimes they feel more authentic.

The way that you interact with other cast members feels authentic too. I know the writing is where it’s at, but was it almost natural when you guys got together?

Yeah, I think I have chemistry with everyone. The great thing about the cast is we all truly get along. And we love working with each other. The younger generation of the “Naomi” cast did a Zoom before we started because we couldn’t see each other in person really, because of COVID. … I also did a Zoom with Mary-Charles [Jones], who plays Annabelle, because it’s a little hard when you don’t know someone to fake being best friends with them for three years.

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Ava called you an “incredible leader of the cast,” and said, “You’ve done it with such grace,” Your co-star Barry Watson called you a gem. What do you feel when you hear how enthusiastic the producers and the cast are about this character and in turn also you?

It makes me feel good just to know that Miss Ava chose me and says that I’m a good leader because she’s the best leader. She’s like the alpha and Naomi’s the alpha, so I take that within my character and pull that out of myself. And I’m the youngest. Sometimes when you’re young you can feel like older people are trying to be more “powerful” than you, but they don’t treat me like I’m younger, which I really love. Just being in this leadership position, it’s been fun. And just having the support of the cast, the crew and the producers and everyone — WB, CW, Array, DC — is really helpful because I’m often very hard on myself.

Teenage girls that look like you can see themselves onscreen with “Naomi.” Is that in your head too? Do you feel like you need to speak up for them?

I think 13-year-old me would look up to Naomi. I don’t know if I feel pressure because ... this show’s grounded in normalcy. It’s highlighting, like, the greatness of being a Black girl, and, you know, Black girls who are powerful when we’re all powerful. Naomi is a great example. She’s like a lot of girls I know in real life.

A portrait of a young woman with long hair wearing a black jacket, looking upward.
Kaci Walfall, star of “Naomi,” photographed in New York.
(Stepahanie Diani)

You have said that this role checked all the boxes, that it was everything you ever wanted. What are those boxes?

One, working with Miss Ava. Miss Ava loves her job. These shows are like her prized possessions. And then CW checked my box because I’m a teenager, and I’ve seen CW shows, and I don’t think I’ve ever auditioned for a CW show before. Then DC checked my box. DC-CW, like that combination is just great. And that checked my box because I don’t think I had ever auditioned for a comic book character either. And what really, really, really, really checked my box was the character description. It’s this cool, confident girl and I remember the words that they put in it were like “charismatic,” “confident,” “has doting parents,” “in all these AP classes,” “knows nine languages.” I was like, “I want to know about this girl.”

Ava said, “This is the first part of the Naomiverse.” What does that mean for you?

I love that it’s put into a different universe. And I love how universes can come together, like the Arrowverse can come to us or we can come to them. Not to speak for her but that could imply maybe future people, future stories and future DC characters — she’s in the Justice League, and she’s in Young Justice — will live in the Naomiverse with her.

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You have entered an arena where the fandom is intense. Are you ready?

With intensity comes power and weight, and DC and all these great superhero outlets have gained a great mainstream fandom and that’s so beautiful because these stories are being listened to and are being told. Art is subjective. Stories are subjective. And people may not be a big fan of it, but all I’m asking is just to give it a chance.

Do you want to say something else to your fans?

“Naomi” is on The CW, and it’s generally a teen-based genre program, but I think you can totally watch it with your family. And I think that people of all ages can see themselves within the characters and within the story and within the message. The message is really two things: That you are enough, and even sometimes when you may feel like you aren’t or feel like you’re different, there’s gold within that difference. Once you find that within yourself, that is your power. And then I would also say don’t believe everything you think, don’t believe everything you hear and don’t believe everything that someone tells you about someone else. You really have to find people’s background stories before you judge them.

‘Naomi’



Where: The CW

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday

Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)








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