“Tom Swift” Brings Black Excellence to the CW

Fans of the CW’s Nancy Drew have been eagerly anticipating a spin-off since episode fifteen of season two, which introduced Tom Swift into the Drewniverse. At WonderCon 2022, the cast and showrunners ‘zoomed’ into the convention to share some inside scoops about the upcoming show.

Since Tom Swift was green-lit in August 2021, I have been awaiting the tiniest breadcrumbs about the show, and well, this panel didn’t just give me breadcrumbs, it gave me an entire loaf of bread. It is obvious that the showrunners and the cast really care about the smallest details of the show, —and each one is designed to showcase one thing: Black excellence. While I wish I had a trailer to share with y’all, believe me when I say that just hearing the panelists talk about their experiences working on this show was enough to get me even more excited for Tom Swift (if that’s possible!).

Creating a Tom Swift for the 21st Century

Fans of the famous book series may notice one, or two, not-so-subtle differences between the novels and the television series. When asked about the choice to make Tom Swift a Black, gay, billionaire, the showrunners said it was important to bring the character into the 21st century and that it ultimately was a unanimous decision to update him. The books are dated and it was time to modernize Tom to appeal to audiences. Even so, when asked what it was about lead actor Tian Richards that reminded the producers of the titular character, the answer was, “Literally everything.”

The 10-episode first season is designed to “lead with a spirit of Black excellence”, according to the producers. Not only are all the lead characters Black, but so is co-creator Cameron Johnson, as well as a majority of the crew including makeup & hairstylists and the costume designer, Ayanna James. James, in particular, was noted for having “put her whole foot in the costumes” (one character will be wearing a suit with tiger embroidery that I am particularly eager to see!). Ashleigh Murray, who plays Zenzi Fullerton on the show, noted that it was a relief to come to work and not have to feel responsible for her hair/makeup being done correctly and that she could “come to work and focus on the work.”

It isn’t just the physical appearance of the characters that demonstrate Black excellence. Even the set dressing is meant to showcase Black culture. In the Swift manor, all of the artwork that audiences will see hanging on the walls are pieces created by local Black artists in the Atlanta area, where the show is filmed. Such attention to detail really drives home the fact that this is a show committed to demonstrating and living Black excellence, and I am here for it.

What can we expect from the first season?

Well, the panelists were very tight-lipped about the story arc for season one, BUT they did mention that a Big Event occurs in the pilot episode that will alter the lives of all the major characters. We also know that Albert Mwangi’s character, Rowan, is probably the bad guy—”he’s there to cross paths,” according to Mwangi—and also maybe Tom Swift’s love interest?

Y’all, if we get an enemies-to-lovers trope I may just die a happy woman.

What we won’t get in season one, unfortunately, is a crossover with the Drew Crew. Even though the shows are both set in the Drewniverse, in our universe, Nancy Drew is filmed in Canada while Tom Swift is in production in Atlanta, so a crossover in season one is not going to happen. However, no one denied the possibility of cameos from the Drew Crew, and the Tom Swift producers did promise Easter eggs to the observant Drewds in the audience.

Lastly—and most importantly (to me, anyway)—though he was not present in the panel, actor LeVar Burton will be in the show as the voice of Tom’s AI companion.

Tom Swift premieres at 9 pm on May 31, on the CW.