Kaci Walfall in Naomi
Playing the titular character in The CW's Naomi marks a milestone in Kaci Walfall's career — it's the first time the actress, whose credits include The Equalizer, Modern Love and Power, has played the lead role in a series.
"It can feel like a lot of pressure, especially at a young age," says Walfall, who turned eighteen on June 20. "But when you're surrounded by the right people, and you're telling a story that you genuinely care about and that you genuinely work very hard at, it's great."
In the coming-of-age story, based on the DC comic book of the same name, Naomi McDuffie is a Superman-obsessed teenager leading a fairly ordinary life in the Pacific Northwest — until she discovers that she, too, has superpowers and goes on a quest to uncover her origin story.
Walfall, who grew up in Brooklyn, wasn't one of those kids who fantasized about being a superhero when she grew up. That said, she relates to the desire to have special powers.
"I loved Wizards of Waverly Place when I was younger, and I was convinced I was Alex Russo," Walfall says, referring to the young wizard Selena Gomez played on the Disney Channel sitcom. "She would keep her wand in her boot. So in elementary school, my friends and I would take pencils, and we would keep them in our boots — those were our wands."
On set, Walfall always has a Naomi comic book in her bag so she can refer to it for inspiration. She also creates episode-themed playlists to help her get into the right headspace. "Once I feel what's in my character's heart," she says, "then the audience is going to feel it."
One of the best parts about playing Naomi, Walfall adds, is working with Ava DuVernay, cocreator–executive producer of the series.
"I've always looked up to Miss Ava," she says. "I saw Selma [DuVernay's 2014 feature film] in the fourth grade with my family, and I remember always being inspired by the stories she's told — A Wrinkle in Time, When They See Us.... But the great thing about Miss Ava is, she has so much range within her work, and she tells these great Black stories."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #6, 2022, under the title, "With Heart and Hand."