China Anne McClain portrays the sassy, caring, drama-ridden teenager, Jennifer Pierce
China Anne McClain portrays the naive and imperfect Jennifer Pierce who gets put into life-changing predicaments on the CW’s Black Lightning. McClain’s performance made us slowly fall in love with her character and we loved every bit of the drama. Her transformation from a scared and afraid Jennifer to a badass was amazing. She pulled us into her storyline in the best ways possible. McClain delivered some of the funniest lines this season and her teenage attitude only helped drive those jokes home. Jennifer Pierce is the youngest daughter in the Pierce family, whose life is already complicated enough when she learns that she has superpowers inherited from her father.
McClain’s Jennifer went through battling bullies, losing a boyfriend to the town’s most prominent gang, to gaining superpowers that she didn’t want. The way McClain accomplished every struggle her character had to endure must be recognized. Right up to her last big scene of the season, we saw McClain take Jennifer from a character unsure of herself to one that is confident in her actions and a take no crap kind of girl. McClain hasn’t even helmed a super-suit and she is already making a making a huge impact on Black Lightning.
China Anne McClain’s performance as the annoying but lovely little sister alongside Nafessa Williams’ Anissa made us fall in love with her
One the best parts of Black Lightning is the relationship between Jennifer and Anissa. From just looking at the screen, we can see the chemistry between these two and it’s only amplified when McClain joins Nafessa Williams on the screen with her jokes and giggles. Even when they’re not in the same room together their sisterly moments are just as great. Such as when Anissa asks Jennifer if she knows where her black hoodie is and Jen responds with an“Uh, no, I got my own hoodies” and McClain makes the choice to cover herself with a blanket as if Anissa can actually see her with the hoodie on. It’s a toned down hilarious moment that makes the acting choice by McClain so relatable to the audience. We’ve all walked into our sibling’s room and snatched something from their closet without asking at least once in their life–and McClain illustrates this sentiment perfectly time and time again. The humorous scenes are the ones that we get the most from the duo. McClain speaks her lines with ease when she’s given something lighter to work with.
Anissa: “That’s what you do when things get tough, you walk away. Go ahead, quit.
Jennifer: “Girl, bye.
The two are just as great in their comedic scene as they are in their more emotional ones. They often have talks when Jennifer is afraid and China makes the look of a distressed teenager come across so well. She manages to make a problem that most see as miniscule seem like its the end of the world for Jennifer. Even when she’s justified in her dramatics, McClain makes a seriously angry Jennifer have a different look on her face than one who is just an annoyed teenager. In one of their best scenes of the season, McClain got to do some great acting when the two sisters get into an argument over Jennifer using her powers. The tiredness and frustrated look on her face as she begins to walk away from Anissa’s insults is perfectly carried out. When she transitions to showing her anger building up in her body, to a face raked with terror as she begins to see her veins light up, Jennifer’s every movement is flawlessly executed by McClain.
Jennifer and Anissa’s relationship is filled with fun banter and talks that show how close their relationship is. McClain has great scenes when she plays the discouraged girl confiding in her older sister. Even when Anissa makes a huge show of demonstrating her powers to Jennifer, it is McClain who steals the scene by making sarcastic jokes and running away with a horrified expression. This shows how confused and scared she is of what her character is learning about her family.
Jennifer’s character development is reflected in China Anne McClain’s amazing portrayal of this conflicted character.
Black Lightning starts off the season trying to paint Jennifer in a bad light by casting a lot of her issues to the side and showing her doing a lot of dumb teenage things. However, it is China Anne McClain’s performance that makes us more intrigued by the mysteries of this character and leaves us wanting more from her. We see the battle that Jennifer goes through during the season from the emotional facial expressions that grace her face when she’s battling to make a decision. Even when McClain’s acting may seem a little rocky in some instances– like her drunk antics with her friend Kelly, they change when she sports unbothered looks, during a lecture from Khalil, or how sad and confused she looks about where Jennifer’s life may be going after getting kidnapped.
McClain’s acting does not go without its flaws, but that is a part of why we’re naming her our scene stealer. In the earlier episodes of the season, she gets attacked by a boy who shoots her with a gun full of paint– instead of presenting a face of disgust and fear, she instead chooses to look stunned and frozen. It was an interesting choice to make for that scene and didn’t necessarily seem to fit. But as the season progresses, so does McClain’s material and acting.
“Okay, well what about when somebody is trying to regulate upside your head.” -Jennifer Pierce
China gets a chance to show more of what she is capable of when Jennifer delivers insults to her bullies, then proceeds to best them in a fight. The best part of the whole scene is the hair flip and the smirk of “Yeah, I did that.” that McClain deliberately does when she walks off. It’s just too good– the scenes are more enjoyable to watch once she gets a good grasp on who her character is. We hate having to see Jennifer go through her whiny teenage stage, but it’s less painful when China Anne McClain navigates so well through the scenes.
By the time Jennifer reaches the point of dealing with her powers, we’re all in because McClain has slowly made us want to see more of this character. After being frightened of what her powers will do to her, Jennifer sees them work to help her father and we see a new bravery come into the character. In the season finale, Jennifer zaps Martin Proctor up in the air and then slams him to the ground– the hair flip, head cocked to the side, and eye roll performed by China was excellently done. Every single action gave us life and we laughed while simultaneously sitting in awe of how amazing she was in that moment. If this doesn’t say, “scene stealer”, we don’t know what does. Jennifer is going to be so great in season two and with the fantastic performances already given to us by China Anne McClain, we’re ready to see the fierce body language and facial expressions she decides to grace us with.
Black Lightning is all about the family affair and without China Anne McClain as Jennifer Pierce, the family would truly not be the same.
Jennifer Pierce is the teenage misfit of the Pierce family. McClain portrays her as an eye-rolling queen who has all the attitude and vigor to debate her parents and sister on every decision they think is a bad one. Her most entertaining moments are when she’s throwing in a sarcastic comment to lighten the mood or a sardonic smile at a villain. Jennifer having a simple conversation with her father (brilliantly played by the amazing Cress Williams) can turn into a fun life lesson chat due to China Anne McClain’s ability to change the mood of the scene. She even directs the scene to a lighter territory with her bright presence even when she’s having a teenage breakdown.
The scenes with members of her family are when McClain really gets her shining star and scene-stealing material. We love it when Jennifer tells her parents that she’s ready to have sex and McClain graces them with a nonchalant attitude. She has the demeanor of a person who is simply discussing the meal for the night– shocking both Lynn and Jefferson. She’s the carefree teen that this show needs but she’s also riddled with uncommon struggles that come with having a superpowered family.
Jennifer: “Well, Anissa not coming sucks.”
Jennifer: “Sorry. This turn of events is dispiriting as I wished for her support during this repast.”
Jefferson: “What do you need support for?”
Jennifer: “I’ve decided I’m ready to have sex.”
McClain’s most memorable scene-stealing moment is when Jennifer has a moving talk with Lynn about the fears she has of possessing powers. At first acting reluctant to talk, she finally opens up to her mother, played by the fantastic Christine Adams, who always adds to the scenes that she and China share giving her more space to show her chemistry with other actors. McClain depicts a young teenager scared of what having these powers will do to her life, both physically and emotionally. The distress and panic in Jennifer’s eyes when she realizes all of the problems these powers could cause is displayed all over McClain’s face. We loved this scene and how it separates the two characters of Jennifer and Anissa apart. McClain did well with the material she was given to help her grasp exactly what Jennifer was feeling.
Jennifer is a unique part of the Pierce family and brings the right amount of drama and laughs that a teenager would. McClain has perfect chemistry with the cast and it makes all of those scenes ones to look forward to.
China Anne McClain struck us with all her amazing and captivating acting.
We were expecting action and fun from this crazy superhero show but we did not expect for China Anne McClain to come out being one of our favorite parts of it. We’ve seen her in many things before and always loved her as the cute little girl or the evil Uma on Disney’s Descendants 2, but we were in for a treat to see her starring in Black Lightning. She’s the surprise hit that we can’t wait to see more of. Jennifer is the member of the Pierce family that we saw have the most character development and we saw it all beautifully executed by McClain.
RELATED | 5 Reasons to Watch Black Lightning
China Anne McClain definitely went above and beyond in exceeding our expectations of Jennifer Pierce. A character that could have continued to be left in the background of her family stole all her scenes and paved her way to becoming the star of the series. She came into the season performing a little off kilter and visibly brought out her own and her character’s fierceness and spunk. We’re positive she will show us much more of this in season two and we’re already anticipating the chatter that will spread of her performances– especially once she gets her own super-suit. We had no other choice but to document China Anne McClain as our season one Black Lightning scene stealer!