From Richmond to L.A.
When Richmond native Jai Jamison was 5 years old, he "dressed as Superman multiple Halloweens,” the writer-director told WTOP News. “There’s a VHS of me dressed as Superman singing ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.’ That was part of my origin story. … People ask who is your Superman? Is it the old cartoons? Christopher Reeve? Brandon Routh?" For Jamison, who now works as a staff writer on the new CW show Superman and Lois, the answer is clear. "Now, it’s the one we’re creating.”
While Jamison's enthusiasm for his new gig is clear, his path there was long, slowly built on a combination of education, experience, and connections. He first interned on Spike Lee-produced You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Kills You after graduating from Hampton University in 2007, then won the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship and a full scholarship to the M.F.A. film program at American University.
WTOP reported, "After his masters, he was hired to direct his first feature film, 'TRI'...He also worked on Hollywood productions in Virginia, including AMC’s 'Turn' and Steven Spielberg’s 'Lincoln'."
He told WTOP, “My experiences working on ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Turn’ were great, but because of the nature of the storytelling, the only roles available to Black actors were slaves." This ended up inspiring Jamison's short "Slave Cry," about life in Richmond. He explained:
"The premise is young, Black millennials growing up in the capital of the Confederacy. My lived experience is not 'The Wire.’ … I grew up in the suburbs. One of my friends runs an ER in Milwaukee. Another developed the X-Box Kinect for video game tournaments that sold out the Staples Center. Another is a Supreme Court clerk."
Courtesy of The CW
Ultimately, he won the WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Script Competition for his Black Superman pilot “The American Way"—which was circulated by writer and producer James Stoteraux and led to Jamison's new gig as a staff writer on CW's Superman and Lois.
Jamison wrote Episode 7 of the new show and told WTOP, "This is not an origin story. This is a Superman who has lived in the world and has been working for a while. He’s married to Lois and they have two teenage boys. It’s about his struggles as a father and Lois’ struggles as a mother. It’s a family drama, but a lot of fun superhero action. The thing that makes Superman interesting is when he’s faced with a problem he can’t punch."
Superman and Lois premiered February 23 on The CW, and we look forward to seeing Jamison's work in future episodes! Let us know what you think of the show in the comments!