'Black Lightning' Star on Why Tobias Whale Is One of TV's 'Most Misunderstood' Villains (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Black Lightning features one of the most formidable foes in Tobias Whale.
On The CW superhero drama, actor-rapper Marvin Jones III, aka Krondon, plays the former corrupt politician-turned-leader of The 100 Gang, who faces off against Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), aka Black Lightning, in the fight against rising crime in Freeland. While Jefferson has dedicated his life to keeping the town and its community safe from the violence infiltrating the city, Tobias has a less than rosy outlook on keeping his place atop the food chain.
"If you think about it, [Tobias] and Black Lightning have more in common than they have differences," Jones III says. "In the way that they're misunderstood, I believe that's where both of those characters take full form, and as you watch the show, I hope Tobias Whale will become the most understood villain in some time."
Ahead of Tuesday's episode, ET spoke with Jones III about his playing a powerful nemesis to Black Lightning, if Tobias Whale is truly redeemable and what to expect in coming weeks.
ET: First of all, congratulations on wrapping the first season of Black Lightning. How does it feel?
Marvin Jones III: It was incredible, very emotional. [Creators] Salim and Mara Brock Akil are the best bosses and mentors you could ever have. I don't like to make comparisons, but they're like the Michelle and Barack Obama or Beyonce and Jay-Z of television, honestly. They're just a class act. It was sad to see it end so soon and, hopefully, we'll be back to work in no time.
What have you learned through working with the Akils that you'll take with you for the rest of your career and life?
One thing that I've taken from them is family first, that you can live out your dreams fully and have your family be completely a part of that, and that integrity is No. 1. Being true to yourself in a business like the Hollywood show business is something that can be done. It's not necessarily always a prerequisite in this business, but the Akils are shining examples that being true to yourself and family first will pay off. This is a passion project beyond words and it's near and dear to him. For it to come out and be received so well and have the success it's having, I ask him all the time, "Bro, how does it feel?"
Tobias Whale is quite a unique and intriguing character. He's not the archetype of what a villain is. What initially connected you to this character that you weren't expecting?
I knew that Tobias Whale was an African American with albinism, so that's just something at face value that we have in common. Salim's thing was he wanted his actor to be African American with albinism, but he wanted him to be a really good actor. When I read the character, it wasn't just about the look per se, but it's going to be about his layers. If you watch the whole arc of the story that we have out so far, I didn't know that Salim was going to tell Tobias' story from a human perspective of the history that anybody with a genetic indifference or something that's unique to them, whether it be a handicap or a genetic disposition or racial or geographic, and the ridicule or the bias that you might face, how it somehow shapes and molds you. I didn't think that the story would go there to create such a humanity for me to tell. So, Tobias isn't just a one-dimensional villain here -- we're going to eventually go into the fourth and fifth dimensions of this guy.
How do you view Tobias' turn to the dark side? Do you personally believe that evil is learned or nurtured?
If you look at the layers in the backstory of Tobias Whale, it is definitely the things that he experienced in life. I think with everything, if you looked at the backstories of any villain, fictional or non-fictional, you will be able to find a thread -- whether it be childhood, adolescence or young adult, or somewhere in life -- that caused this. Now when I say this, and I mean this sincerely, because we have to be careful how we justify things, and I'm not justifying anyone's heinous act, but what I will say is that evil is taught and it's learned and it's infused in the human spirit because everyone that God makes is innately good. God makes babies and they're innately pure until we get into a point, and the clean, pure water is dirtied up by this muddied world that we live in.
Do you see Tobias as a redemptive character?
I do. I always did, though. In the layers of his immorality, he has so much morality and standards, and he is redemptive to a point. If you think about it, and it was something that was in episode one that a lot of people caught and [others] didn't catch, that him and Black Lightning have more in common than they have differences. In the way that they're misunderstood, I believe that's where both of those characters take full form and as you watch the show, I hope Tobias Whale will become the most understood villain in some time.
You've had memorable moments over the course of the season so far, and it's clear Tobias is someone you don't want to mess with. How do you get into such a ruthless mindset?
The Bible says that if the man thinks it, so is he. We all have an air of villain inside of us and we make a daily choice, all of us, to suppress some sort of villainous thought and villainous act within us. Most of us don't have a difficult time letting the good shine through. In this role, I'm able to explore some of these inner thoughts and feelings that I've had or seen or felt that, by the grace of God, I was able to suppress [and] make better decisions in my act. Now as an actor, I can have fun and play and do some of those things.
Looking ahead, last we saw Tobias was in the process of turning Khalil and bringing him onto his side. What can you tease about how that storyline moves forward?
It's going to be a huge reveal on where we're going. Khalil is in a lot of pain right now, and Tobias Whale plans to exploit that pain. It's unpredictable what's going to happen, but in the climax of the series, you're going to see something incredible.
If Tobias had a song that encapsulated his journey, what would it be?
First of all, Tobias is a jazz man, if you can't tell by his demeanor or by the way he carries himself. This is not necessarily a jazz song, but it's by O.V. Wright and it's called "Motherless Child." I consider that to be a theme song for Tobias Whale.