Naomi: Stephanie March Talks Her "Ripley-esque" Character

By Nicole Drum
On The CW‘s Naomi, Stephanie March plays Akira, a mysterious figure not from this earth who has been hiding on Earth for the past 16 years, though that situation is rattled a bit when she’s visited by Zumbado (Cranston Johnson) who reveals he’s found a girl who is manifesting her abilities — a girl he feels is key to taking back their home world. That girl is Naomi (Kaci Walfall) who is seeking out answers of her own.
While much about Akira and her connection to both Zumbado and Naomi remains a mystery, March is herself a familiar face. The actress is perhaps best known for her role as Alexandra “Alex” Cabot in the Law & Order franchise series Law & Order: SVU. But while Alex Cabot and Akira are two very different women, there are aspects that they both share and particularly with Akira, there’s still a lot to unpack with this strong, complex character we’ve only just begun to get to know. recently spoke with March about her Naomi character, how she compares to the much-loved Alex Cabot, how the character has major Ripley from Alien vibes, and how the newest The CW DC inspired series is changing the narrative about who can be a hero. [You play] a very different character than what I think a lot of people like myself are used to seeing, like, again, I know you very well from Law & Order. What can you tell us about Akira, and how did you come to be a part of Naomi, which is its own unique show within the superhero universe?
Stephanie March: It is. It’s a really interesting mashup of a lot of different things, and I think it takes the superhero genre as we think of it and colors it with some really interesting character development and, I mean, the fact that it’s centered around a young black woman who doesn’t come from a history of trauma is, I think, exceptional and really cool.
And it’s funny, Akira and Cabot are quite different, but in some ways, they’re independent, loners, fighting for… Well, we don’t know what Akira’s fighting for yet, but certainly fighting for what they think is right. When I auditioned, the role of Akira was described to me as a, quote, “Ripley-inspired intergalactic badass,” and I thought, “Well, yeah, I want to do that.” “Let me have a shot at that,” and so far, I hope that’s how it’s come across. It’s certainly been fun to play.
I was going to say, I definitely got some strong Ripley vibes. I’m also a big Ripley fan. I grew up sneaking around watching those movies when I wasn’t supposed to…
Right. Well, they’re scary.
Very scary, but also highly inspiring on some level because Ripley is a badass.
Well, a couple of times in interviews, people say, ‘Well, what’s it like to play an alien?’ And I think well, considering the Ripley analogy, I’m like, ‘I’m not quite the alien in this scenario. I’m the metahuman. I’m the intergalactic humanoid.’ But alien makes me think of the creature, an alien. I’m not quite an alien, we’ll find out.
What we’ve found out a little bit regarding the most recent episode, about where these interesting folks who are in Naomi come from, they apparently come from another Earth. So, maybe you’re not really an alien, you’re just a metahuman of some fashion.
Well, we’re going to find out, aren’t we? I’ll just say, there’s more to the universe than meets the eye and actually the tagline for the whole season is, ‘Don’t believe everything you think.’ And I love that because it’s really applicable to a lot of things in our lives. What may seem one way on the surface, give a second, bother to question, bother to be curious and bother to watch and observe. You may find something else is true. And I’m enjoying seeing that play out in multiple characters and multiple things throughout the show. It’s been really fun.
Speaking to this most recent episode, we got to see Akira have a revelatory conversation with Naomi, in a sense. I mean, we find out at least what we think is the truth about where they’re from. But what I thought was interesting in that specific scene is, we also got to see a little bit of an emotional side to Akira, when she talked about what home was for her, and what it was like before Zumbado, who is someone we’ve also seen her interact with, and had a very intense interaction with. Naomi’s looking for answers. From my perspective, Zumbado is looking for power and control. What do you feel like motivates Akira?
I think Akira is motivated by a deep sense of sadness for the loss of her past, and I think she’s doing whatever she can to wrestle with those demons and rectify what she believes is wrong with what happened. But everybody’s opinion of what needs to happen for things to get better is different. I think there’s a haunted quality to Akira that I really like. It’s interesting to play somebody who’s so strong and so wounded.
And that seems to be a… I tend to be drawn towards characters like that. I mean, I think Alex Cabot was quite strong, but certainly had her own demons, and I think the same was true of a woman named Deborah Green, actually a real-life story, who I played about a year ago in a Lifetime movie. And I think just because a person appears to have it all together, I mean, who really does, right? So, I love exploring the duality there.
Absolutely. And I think what’s a really strong quality for the show Naomi generally is that we’re seeing an authenticity, particularly for the female characters. As someone who lives and breathes that comic book world, we don’t always see the dual side of our female characters.
I’m going to give 100% credit to DeMane Davis, who’s one of the producers and directing our episode now, Jill Blankenship and Ava DuVernay, creators, and writers. Jill is our showrunner. There is no male comic book character versus female comic book character. They’re all people or humanoids. They’re fully realized individuals, and that gives every woman on the show an opportunity to be this fleshed out, complicated person and I love that.
I will say that each character, no matter what age we are on the show, has a dynamic that’s fleshed out in this kind of, I don’t want to say intellectual, but there’s real meaning behind our interactions. It’s not like hypersexualized teenagers and really, really dark scary adults. It’s not the extremes. It’s true character exploration, and everybody gets a fair shot at being a full person and I really love that.
What can we expect to see from Akira going forward?
March: The particulars of her relationship with Zumbado will evolve in some unexpected ways. We’ll find out more about their past together, and her relationship to Naomi. Let’s just say it all evolves in a way that you might not have expected it to, but it is gratifying to watch, and certainly gratifying as an actor to play.
Also, I get to wear some amazing boots. I’m super excited about the boots I get to wear.
What has been the most memorable experience you’ve had thus far while making Naomi?
I will say, I think when I started in this business, which was not forever ago but not yesterday, the idea that there is a teenage Black woman who is about to take over the role of a major hero. [This is a world where we] can watch a Black woman become this source of power and not from a place of trauma and not from a place of disaster and not from a broken home and there’s no criminal story behind. She just realizes and comes into her own power and has to make decisions about that and I love, love being in a show that is about strong young women. I just think it’s great and it’s not tokenism and it’s not something that we’re doing just to say we did. It’s authentic, it’s grounded in that world, and we’re all enjoying it. It really feels like being at the beginning of something new in this genre, and I’m so excited to be a part of that.
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