UPDATE: Catch the Season 2 finale of Black Lightning tonight on the CW! Check out this exclusive clip of Christine Adams as one tough lady and fierce mama bear.
Christine Adams will inspire you. If you are looking for a strong, tough, beautiful role model in Hollywood who isn’t afraid to share about the struggles in her journey, look no further. Christine is fearless, and when it comes to the challenges of the entertainment industry, a realist. But she is also an optimist, and very persistent. That inner strength has led her to a dream role on the CW’s Black Lightning as Lynn Pierce, a working mother of two daughters who happen to have inherited their father’s superpowers. But if you are looking for a supermom in real life, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to get to know more about Christine Adams!
Reel Mama: You’ve had an amazing career. How did you get your start in TV?
Christine: Probably like a lot of actresses. Um, it took a while. It was a lot of going
to lots of auditions and getting rejected and not really understanding why I was rejected, and then going back. Just really, persistence. I mean, that’s how it happened. For most actors there’s no such thing an overnight success. So it was just getting that first role where I had four lines and then working up to one scene and then eventually three scenes, so really it’s been a kind of slow build. For me it’s been great because you learn the most being on the job. You can go to drama school and of course, you should train. But there are so many things about being a working actor that are so different than when you’re learning it in school. So, it was a lot of sitting on the set with nothing to do but watch what everyone else is doing and absorbing it. And I’m grateful for it, because I think it’s bought me right here. So, I’m still learning every day. That’s the great thing about the job.
Reel Mama: I really love how you described yourself as an actress, mother, wife, ramen aficionado,
and optimist. Does your persistence tie into that optimism? How optimism, um, has been important for your career, and has it contributed to your success?
Christine: I think optimism, positivity is just part of my hardwiring. I’m a very half-glass-full type of
person, always have been. What are the defining things about my career? It’s one of the things that has allowed me to just keep doing it, even when it’s felt really hard, even when there’s been, you know, struggle. And I think a lot of actors don’t understand that there’s a lot of sacrifice and compromise that comes along with it the version that everyone else sees, which is, you were successful, you’ve made it you on TV on the show.
But actually there’s a real mental strength that you have to have, and different actors navigate it differently. I’ve always had a great ability to always find a positive in a scenario, but I think that is ultimately why I’m able to have a good career, because you have to take something positive away from an experience, you know? Otherwise, it would be really depressing business to be in. People are telling you no day after day after day, and that chips away at your confidence. And I think especially being a woman, that can be really hard.
It’s hard to not take it personally. I’ve done movies where my entire scenes have been cut. What you do about that? You can go one of two ways: you can sink into a deep depression and let that dominate your progress. Or you can go, yeah, but you know what? I had a great time making it. I made some money, I wore a beautiful dress on the red carpet. That’s how I navigate it. It’s just part of who I am. I know a lot of people have to really work on that sort of positive mindset and I’ve
always had it so it’s been an asset in, in my, in my career.
Reel Mama: I definitely can see how, how that strength has been really important for some of the
roles you have played. But before we jump into that, I wondered if you could talk a little bit about
how you balance motherhood with your busy work life?
Christine: You know what? Sometimes it’s chaos. I’m going to give props to my husband, honestly. I kind of couldn’t do it without him. I just couldn’t, because ultimately the way this job works is sometimes you don’t know you’re going to get a job until a couple of days before you get it. Sometimes the job takes you to Atlanta or New York or Australia, and you have to pack yourself up and you have to go. We’ve been together for such a long time, so he understands that piece of it. But obviously when children came into play, we definitely had moments where this was a lot of juggling and logistical headaches and a lot of babysitters, these horrendous spreadsheets where one needs to be at soccer and one needs to be here.
We’ve done all of that, and now actually what we’re doing is I’m going to work, and he’s at home with the children. Really it came down to, what sort of life do we want our kids to have? We’re in a nice position, we don’t have to both be working, which I know a lot of parents do. And I totally understand that, and we’ve been there. But ultimately we co-parent, and that’s how we do it. There have been times when I haven’t been working, and he has worked 70 hours a week and I’ve done everything. Now it’s the other way, and that’s fine. We’re very lucky, because I don’t know if there are many actresses in my situation, but there are lots of working mothers.
To be a successful working mother, you have to have somebody at home that really supports that choice in every single way. Do you know what I’m saying? Whoever that is. I do have to give credit to my husband and to all the people out there that support successful women out there. And, and when I’m home, when I’m not working, I’m 100% mom. I go the market, make the lunches, make this, do that. You know, I do it. I go into class and I volunteer.
We’re not a nine to five family, and my kids know that. So as a unit, as a family, we’ve all kind of signed up to this lifestyle and when I’m doing it, that’s what Mommy’s doing. And Mommy’s going here now and when I’m not mommy’s at home, and she’s going to put you to bed. So they’re happy.
Reel Mama: It’s so great that you figured out a solution and some balance with so much family support for you to be able to manage your creative career. It’s really fantastic.
Christine: Yes. Thank you!
Reel Mama: Well, I would love to talk to you about your role on Black Lightning. The show was just renewed. From your perspective, what is the show about and then who is your character on the show?
Christine: Yeah, absolutely. Black Lightning as a comic book superhero based on a comic written in the 1970s from the DC universe. Jefferson Pierce is not only principal of a high school during the day and a superhero at night, but he is also father to two older daughters who have inherited his superpowers. He is separated, but co-parenting with my character, his wife, Lynn Stewart, brilliant doctor and neuroscientist. They are navigating this very strange world of being superheroes in a modern city in America, and all the trials and tribulations that come with that. So it’s part social commentary and part family drama, and part action. It’s so many things.
So Lynn Pierce is a neuroscientist. She and Jefferson met when they were just out of college, I believe. She was the only one who knew about his power. But he would be out every night fighting crime. And it really became this very sort of difficult, thing in their relationship because, his life was being endangered every night. Eventually, the marriage ended up breaking up for that reason. So they’re separated but they’ve got these two daughters and they’re committed to parenting them. She has pursued her career. She’s very ambitious, very smart.
Obviously, I think one of the things that’s interesting about this family is that the daughters live with Jefferson and grow up with Jefferson, and Lynn is actually the one who sort of comes in and out, which is quite unusual. So often it’s the man who’s gone off and pursued his career.
Lynn has taken her career to the next level while still being a phenomenal mother. She has decided that he would be a parent that could be more consistent with like the values that they have as parents. She’s smart, she’s ambitious, she’s very successful.
She exists in a world where for sure she would have been one of the only women, and definitely one of the only black women. I think her skills as a scientist and doctor come into play more than she probably would like in the show. But again, just talking about juggling, she’s able to switch between “this is mom talking” and “this is the doctor and the scientists talking.” She’s able to straddle those two worlds, and she’s able to have her professional eye and have the female, motherly, wifely eye on things as well.
So just like all women do. So I think, you know, she’s a very well rounded character and I love playing her. I have been so lucky to be able to play all the colors of the rainbow, that’s what every actor dreams about. We’ve really seen all her vulnerabilities, and all her fears and all her choices. You know, she is a real woman I think.
Reel Mama: I have definitely been inspired by her character, and I was a very entertained when you wrote, “I feel like I’m in my own music video where a serious but sexy mom/doctor/bad ass gets shit done.” I really love that tweet from you about your character, and I’m wondering what it means to you to play such a strong and fierce woman.
Christine: Yeah, I mean to be honest, it’s not like it’s a stretch for me to play a strong woman. I think often when I’ve had most success is when there are qualities which really resonate with me, Christine Adams, which I really connect to. So, you know, when I first read the pilot for Black Lightening, there were so many things that I could relate to [with the character of Lynn]. Obviously, being the mother of two and her ambition, her intelligence, her curiosity, her empathy, all of those things resonate with me.
I’m not really having to make a massive emotional leap to inhabit Lynn. What I said on Twitter is how I feel about my life. I’m often driving the car with the music playing, on my way to trader Joe’s, thinking, “I am in a music video and I do have a soundtrack playing,” and that’s how I walk through life. So I think that’s ultimately where the connection between Lynn and me is that there’s a real sense of, I know who I am, and she does too. Ultimately I do know who Christine Adams is. I know what’s in the hard drive of the Christine Adams computer, you know what I’m saying?
Reel Mama: I’m sure a lot of moms love to hear that, because we don’t always feel like a soundtrack is playing. But we shouldn’t, because moms are bad asses. And even if we are just going to trader Joe’s, why not?
Christine: Well, it’s funny, because I know what it feels like on the other side of that. I know what it’s like to come into your power and feel like, I’m feeling really good about what I’m doing and the way I look and all of that stuff. I know what that feels like, but I also know what it feels like to not feel great. And you know, there were definitely times in my career when, after my second daughter, I really wondered would I ever work again, and does anybody even care? I felt like I sort of disappeared. I’ve found myself in the playground alone thinking, “Hang on, what happened to that other version of Christine Adams? I don’t know where she is. I don’t if anyone really cares.”
And you know, I relate to that too as a mother. And I relate to those feelings of guilt of actually going out to work and not being with my [family], I mean, all of it. That’s what I’m saying. I know what it’s like to feel all of those things. I know what it’s like to run into a friend when you’re at the market and you’ve had no sleep because your kid’s been up all night and you feel disgusting and you can’t think straight, and then you run into a friend that looks absolutely amazing and is just having a great old time. And you know what? I’m saying like I’ve on been both sides, so I understand deeply what it’s like. I think confidence grows out of all the feelings of insecurity that come before it.
I want to do what makes me happy and follow my truth and not listen too much to the external voices, because they’re always going to be there. It’s about pushing them away and going, actually, no, the old Christine Adams is in there, the new Christine Adams in there, all of the Christine Adams, they’re all doing fine.
Reel Mama: Some of the conflict that that you’re talking about, I’m wondering if that plays into your role of Lynn, especially given the fact that she doesn’t have superpowers, but her other family members do. How does Lynn view that or process that as she cares for her family on the show?
Christine: Yeah, I mean I think again, there’s the scientist who wants to explore what [her family’s gifts as superheroes are] and what the kind of genetic riddle this is. Because we think about this as a doctor, as a scientist of the brain, there’s some pretty interesting stuff in terms of these three people having these powers, and all of them are exhibiting them in a very different way, and are being triggered by very different things. [The superpowers] have the capacity to destroy and you know, that’s fascinating to her as a scientist. But then you have fresh and blood. So, you know, as a mother, I always say like, “Well if my kids said, ‘Oh yeah mom, we’re going to be cops,’ I think I would be really scared. I think I would be scared every single time they walked out the door.”
I think if they said, “Mom, we’re getting motorbikes,” I would be terrified every single time they walked out of the door. So I think that’s the other piece of it, that it’s not just about her going, “Oh, we don’t want you to do this.” It’s, “I don’t want you to be hurt or to die. I don’t want you to put your life at risk. I don’t want my whole family to potentially be taken away from me.” I mean, that’s devastating. So I think I’m on both levels. Yeah, she struggles, she’s struggling. It’s a constant struggle, then sort of the third layer to that, that we’re sort of getting into now is this idea of, well, how can she use her knowledge to help them? Then it gets weird because it’s like, well, actually I do have the knowledge and the power to perhaps help them with their functioning.
As a scientist, I could develop something that would help them control these impulses. I can isolate genes. I can do something scientific, right, that would ultimately help them. Then that’s a whole other level of weight. So I’m helping them to go out and endanger their lives. Okay, this is really weird. What am I doing? What am I doing? You know? So I think, it’s an interesting metaphor for, with your kids, loving them, letting them be who they need to be, and believing in that whilst
also trying to protect them.
And I think that’s, that’s a dilemma mothers face isn’t it? Of, you know, that my kid is going to school, I really hope she has a great day and that someone isn’t mean to her, but you know what?
They might be mean to her, and I have to be okay with that, because that is part of life, and I can’t protect her from that. They have to be exposed to sort of bad things, because bad things happen. Right? So how would Christine feel in this situation, you know, how does this reflect what’s going on in my own life as a mother? I have a small child who’s six, but then a girl who’s almost a teenager, coming at it from two different ends, and there are all kinds of conversations: what am I trying to protect them from, and what do I want to talk to them about?
Reel Mama: I think that’s what really sets Black Lightning apart in many ways, because, for instance,
the depth that you’re describing in Lynn’s character is really remarkable. And it’s not necessarily something that’s the norm for an action or superhero show or movie. With the role of the spouse or significant other of the superhero, you don’t often get to see that kind of depth. So that’s really exciting.
Christine: Yeah, I think so. And I think in all the show is so lucky, because I think the chemistry between the characters has worked really well, and I think it’s something actually the audience has responded to in a really profound way. A lot of times if I meet people in the street who have watched the show, that’s something that they will talk about, that the family dynamic is so interesting and has so much depth, and it feels quite real. It feels like the way Jeff and Lynn discuss what to do with the kids, that feels like how couples talk. One thinks one way, one thinks the other. “You’re doing too much.” “You’re not doing enough.” “You should say something.” “I’m not saying anything.” We’re touching on things that you wouldn’t normally see in a show like that. I think a lot of the audience really respond to it. So it’s been great.
Reel Mama: I definitely think families from all walks of life can relate to the struggles of the family in Black Lightening. But I’m wondering, with the success of movies and shows like Black Lightning and Black Panther, do you think that this is an important cultural moment for African Americans in particular in Hollywood?
Christine: It looks that way. On the one hand I feel like guys, it’s 2019, we should be way beyond this. Would we should have been seeing representation in this way consistently. I think there’s definitely sort of a bit of a renaissance, and I think it is somewhat cyclical. I think it’s also about stories. I think we’ve seen so many of the other stories over and over again. I think now the stories of African American culture and what African Americans are experiencing in modern day America are stories we haven’t seen. And I think that is quite captivating. I mean, look, a good story is a good story, but also new stories, fresh perspectives. I think also there’s been definite financial success with all these things. And that was obviously a driving factor because this is show business. And I think, you know, there is a desire from a lot of the audience to want to know a bit more. And I think for African American audiences, they are so happy to see themselves on screen.
Yes, there is the moment, but I hope that it’s more than a moment, and I hope that we can sort of keep the momentum of what we’re doing, because with the doors open, we’ve got to go through it. We’ve got to make sure that we bring the young talent, young voices into the mix.
Because our problem is, is that I don’t think we’ve quite figured out how to bring in a lot of mentorship programs, but I’d love to see a way that we could encourage more people of color to start writing their stories. Tell them: you can be a director, you can be a producer, we need your stories. So we need that level. We need those people creating that content. And then we need the people in the big rooms making the big decisions about the budgets and what goes on TV. We need a lot more people of color in those rooms as well. So it’s a top to bottom, or bottom to top, change.
I’m so happy that Black Lightning’s out there. I’m so happy for Barry Jenkins and Shonda Rhimes, and all these incredible talent and incredible people, what they’re doing, and the opportunities they’re giving to other people of color. But we’ve got to keep that content and those conversations going.
Reel Mama: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed our conversation and, and with everything you were describing, hopefully it’s not going to be something that we’re talking about as extraordinary, but as normal and the exciting part is that they are great stories and not the fact that it is African American culture that’s being explored here.
Christine: Yeah. I mean it should just be stories. I think that’s sort of where I would like to get to, where it’s not about the color, it’s about the story. That’s where we need to get to, it’s that universal thing that resonates with all of us. We’re definitely getting there. But yeah, color blind, I guess if you could even aspire to that. But you know, maybe one day.