Alisha Wainwright didn’t think twice before signing on to play Nicole, a single mother in Atlanta struggling financially while trying to help her gifted son (Ja’Siah Young) thrive, on Netflix’s Raising Dion.
“You come across so many superhero stories that usually are from the perspective of the person inflicted with the powers,” says the 30-year-old actress. “It was so refreshing to hear the story from the person whose life is so dramatically affected by that: the caregiver of that young person.”
Indeed, Dion’s “gifts” are of a supernatural nature. (Telekinesis is one that manifests early in the nine-episode series, which is based on Dennis Liu and Jason Piperberg’s comic book of the same name and launches Oct. 4.) But Dion has a pretty good sense of humor, too — a trait shared by 8-year-old Young, who says he took the role because “I should be a role model. And I really like superheroes!”
The drama also stars Kevin (Probably) Saves the World’s Jason Ritter as Pat, a close friend to Nicole’s late husband, Mark, a scientist who died under mysterious circumstances. Mark, a recurring character on the series, is played by Raising Dion executive producer Michael B. Jordan. As a Black Panther fan, Young says it was “amazing” to work with Jordan. And although he was a “bad guy” in that movie, Young is quick to point out that Jordan is “a good guy in real life.”
EW’s sneak peeks offer a glimpse at Wainwright and Young reacting to Dion’s impressive powers, including a run-in with some cereal and a boat ride complete with levitating fish. But in reality, those reactions were often the result of someone holding “a silver ball” in their line of vision, or, in the case of the lake scene, well, nothing. “They did some really beautiful drawings of the fish in the air,” Wainwright says of the effects team. “So I had some concept art of what was actually happening, but all of our reactions in that boat are to nothing. Those were the most fun ones, because you are in complete control of what you think you see.” Young also enjoyed the imagination exercise: “It was really exciting but challenging…but it was really cool to make those faces.”
Between Raising Dion and her recent gig on Shadowhunters, you might surmise that Wainwright is a fan of the supernatural, but “I don’t believe in ghosts,” she says with a laugh. “Sure, maybe there are aliens out there, but if something happened where things just started floating around, or someone I knew started doing weird stuff that I couldn’t explain with physics or gravity, yeah, I’m running. I am not staying anywhere near that situation.”
To read more from the September issue of Entertainment Weekly, pick up a copy at Barnes & Noble this Thursday, or buy it here now. (The issue will beavailable on all newsstands starting August 22.) Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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