Naomi Series Co-Creator Ava DuVernay Explains New Approach to Projects

The last time we checked in with award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Arrow writer & co-executive producer Jill Blankenship's Naomi, viewers were treated to a preview image of Kaci Walfall and the rest of "Team Naomi": Lourdes (Camila Moreno), Nathan (Daniel Puig), and Anthony (Will Myers). Based on the 2019-debuting comic book series co-written by Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker, and illustrated by artist Jamal Campbell, the series follows a teen girl's journey from her small northwestern town to the heights of the multiverse. When a supernatural event shakes her hometown to the core, Naomi McDuffie (Walfall) is inspired to uncover its origins- and what she discovers will challenge everything we believe about our heroes.

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Photo: Ramona Rosales / The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Having been named The Hollywood Reporter's "THR Producer of the Year," DuVernay is offering a little background on how she's approaching this project differently than she did Queen Sugar and others. Admitting that she "can't be as hands-on with everything" as she's been in the past, DuVernay reveals some wise advice from two very familiar names. "A couple of years ago, I was at dinner with J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg just as I was thinking of doing another show in addition to 'Queen Sugar'- which I basically made like homemade cake in my kitchen. They have all this stuff with their names on it. I asked, 'Don't you find it difficult that people associate it all with you?' They both looked at me like I was crazy and then said, 'You've got to let that shit go,'" DuVernay revealed. But then again, DuVernay also sees her situation as being different because of the struggles female creators and creators of color face in the entertainment industry. "I've struggled with that. I think a lot of it is a lack of privilege that I still am not over after 10 years in making films- that feeling like a door can close," DuVernay explained.

But DuVernay is looking to learn to let go- little by little, citing Naomi as one project for a new approach where she's looking to be heavily involved in the front end for a smoother handoff once it gets underway. "I look at Greg Berlanti, Shonda [Rhimes], J.J. [Abrams], Steven [Spielberg]. There's a muscle there that I need to strengthen, the walk-away muscle. So what I've gotten into is this trying to give everything a strong start. For 'Naomi,' I went there, I prepped the pilot. I picked all the directors. I co-wrote the pilot. I co-created it. I'm in there. Once the foundation is strong, I can let go a little. That's the new model."

From Oscar® nominee/Emmy® winner Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship ("Arrow"), and starring Kaci Walfall ("Army Wives," "Power," "The Lion King" on Broadway) in the title role, the DC drama NAOMI follows the journey of a cool, confident, comic book–loving teenager as she pursues her hidden destiny. When a supernatural event shakes her small hometown of Port Oswego, Naomi sets out to uncover its origins, with a little help from her fiercely loyal best friend Annabelle (Mary-Charles Jones, "Kevin Can Wait"). She also has the support of her adoptive, doting parents, veteran military officer Greg (Barry Watson, "7th Heaven," "The Loudest Voice") and linguist Jennifer (Mouzam Makkar, "The Fix").

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Photo: Boris Martin/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

After an encounter with Zumbado (Cranston Johnson, "Filthy Rich"), the mysterious owner of a used car lot, leaves her shaken, Naomi turns to tattoo shop owner Dee (Alexander Wraith, "Orange Is the New Black"), who becomes her reluctant mentor. While unraveling the mystery of herself, Naomi also navigates her high school friendships with both military kids and local townies, including ex-boyfriend and high school jock Nathan (Daniel Puig, "The System"); Annabelle's longtime, loyal boyfriend Jacob (Aidan Gemme, "Deliver Us From Evil"); proud "townie" Anthony (Will Meyers, "Bad Education"); and fellow comic book enthusiast Lourdes (newcomer Camila Moreno). As Naomi journeys to the heights of the Multiverse in search of answers, what she discovers will challenge everything we believe about our heroes.

Based on the characters from DC Comics, Naomi is written and executive produced by DuVernay and Blankenship, and executive produced by Sarah Bremner and Paul Garnes of ARRAY Filmworks. Amanda Marsalis (Echo Park, Queen Sugar) directed and co-executive produced the pilot episode- with the series stemming from ARRAY Filmworks in association with Warner Bros. Television.

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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