China Anne McClain says she was planning Black Lightning exit before cancellation
The actress also implied she was fed up with Hollywood, saying, "All this is an illusion. This industry for what it is and everything that people look to and praise, it's not important."
The actress, who plays Jennifer Pierce/Lightning on the superhero show, shared the news in an emotional video posted to her Instagram on Saturday. She also said she didn't know about the cancellation beforehand and "found out with everybody else."
“What I did know and have known along with the rest of the cast since before we even started shooting this season is that I am leaving the show and was leaving the show," McClain added. "This was going to be my last season, regardless of if it went on or not. For different reasons, that, to be honest, I don't want to go into. I just want y'all to trust me on it."
She also said she only signed on for a limited number of season 4 episodes, so audiences will see less of Lightning when the series returns Feb. 8. During the nearly 13-minute video, McClain also implied she was at her breaking point with Hollywood.
“There’s been a lot to happen over this quarantine, and I’m not talking about the PC side of it,” she said. “These people that are dying and the way of the world now. It's real. And all this is an illusion. This industry for what it is and everything that people look to and praise, it's not important."
McClain continued, saying she was "doing God’s work now, and I’m not doing anything else.”
She also clarified that her decision to leave was not due to tensions with the network or the show.
“I’m not leaving because I had a terrible time working at the CW,” she said, fighting back tears. “I like the CW. I like [CW network president] Mark Pedowitz, I like [Warner Bros. president] Peter Roth, [EP] Greg Berlanti, I love [showrunner] Salim [Akil], I always will. He gets it. And people that actually know me… they know why I make the decisions that I make.”
Near the end of the video, McClain congratulated Akil and costar Jordan Calloway, whose spinoff Painkiller is currently in development.
“Congratulations to Salim and Jordan, who just got a spinoff. Please support him in that. God did that for him and he’s going to do great, I know it,” McClain said.
Premiering in 2018, Black Lightning centered on Cress Williams' Jefferson Pierce, a teacher and retired superhero. In the pilot, he suited back up as Freeland's electricity-powered hero Black Lightning after his daughters Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (McClain) were kidnapped by a local gang. Eventually, his daughters started developing powers and joined the family business as Thunder and Lightning, respectively.
A reason for the show's cancellation wasn't given at the time of the announcement. Akil released a statement thanking the cast and crew, as well as the "Blerds and all comic book fans" for supporting the drama.
"When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black Women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre. The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined, Black People Want To See Themselves in all their complexities," Akil wrote. "Thank you to the phenomenal cast, writers, and crew without whom none of this would’ve been possible. I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve been able to do and the moments we’ve been able to create in bringing DC’s first African American family of superheroes to life for the culture."