Part feminist buddy comedy, part nail-salon thriller, Claws sees five shady ladies dole out the dirty deeds in the weirdness of South Florida
Claws follows the dodgy dealings in a Florida nail salon
How about a little murder with that nail gloss? Or maybe a beat-down while we spruce up your tips?
Female badness never looked so good as it does in Claws, a wickedly surreal series about the rise of five treacherous manicurists at the Nail Artisan of Manatee County salon, a shady South Florida establishment where there’s a lot more going on than silk wraps and pedicures.
Just reading a ridiculous turn of phrase like “treacherous manicurists” should tell you you’re in for something out of the ordinary.
Hailed by The New York Times as “a mash-up of Steel Magnolias and Breaking Bad”, this midnight-black meditation on female badness has already scored approval ratings of 78 per cent with critics and 85 per cent with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes – plus a second-season renewal from TNT network in the United States.
Catch the opener this Friday on OSN Series First HD, with the first of 10 episodes that delve into the lives of good, hard-working women caught in bad places with worse men. Only adding to the weirdness, and a character in its own right, is the bright, gritty landscape of Florida – a hothouse for luscious, absurd crimes where evil grows fat and juicy like the grapefruit.
These women are “compli-cated, imperfect and totally unapologetic” says showrunner Janine Sherman, who cut her broadcast teeth with ER and Criminal Minds, and has Rashida Jones of Parks and Recreation on board as one of her executive producers.
At the eye of this estrogen hurricane is salon proprietor Desna, played by American comedian and actor Niecy Nash, a 2010 Emmy winner for her seven-year reality stint as host of Clean House on the Style Network. In Claws, she lives with and cares for her mentally ill twin brother, Dean (Harold Perrineau of Lost and The Matrix).
“The word I use to describe it is delicious,” Nash says of the first time she laid eyes on the script. “I saw all of these women, so rich, so full, so vibrant – it’s not often you get a script where all of the women are so strong.”
Rounding out the fearsome five are Desna’s staff: Jennifer, her best friend, a somewhat sober ex-party gal who’s raising two children from previous relationships – played by Jenn Lyon, best known for her role as Mackenzie Bradford-Lopez on the sitcom Saint George; Quiet Ann, Desna’s enigmatic driver who also provides security for the salon – played by Judy Reyes, previously seen on Scrubs and Devious Maids; Polly, a mild-mannered preppy who just did time in prison for identity theft – played by Carrie Preston, known for her work on the TV series True Blood and Person of Interest; Virginia, who makes zero effort to disguise her boredom and irritation with her job – played by Karrueche Tran, an American actress and model who gained visibility as the girlfriend of singer Chris Brown before acting on The Bay, a web series.
Preston says that, as an actor, she couldn’t wait “to get inside the skin” of Polly.
“She’s an identify thief. She was in jail for that. But she also puts on a front, and underneath, there’s a lot of layers, a lot of stuff going on,” Preston adds, “and I can relate to her that way.
“As a woman, I grew up in the South, where we were conditioned and encouraged to put on a face – to present the most beautiful, most positive, most flawless side of ourselves…. But there’s a lot of stuff underneath – stuff I can’t wait to spring on people.”
Reyes simply calls her drama “the real deal”. “The women are so authentic. I feel like I know each and every person.”
Lyon says she loves how the women drive the dramedy. “I feel like, all too often in TV, the women are connected to the man who’s doing the activities. And in this, it’s the women who are doing all the activities. This feels so refreshing. And exciting.”
Karrueche says she’s simpatico with her role: “Virginia had to fight to survive. There are moments in her life, certain circumstances and certain moments, that made her who she is. I feel like I’ve been in that same position, where I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve had this madness going on, it’s crazy. I’ve felt like I’m over, I’m done – but you have to kind of pull it together and hold the faith. I’ve had that in my own life.”
Bringing some volatile testosterone to the chaos of the Nail Artisan are: Roller (Jack Kesy, a former US Marine and theatre actor), a gangstered-out redneck who runs a barely legal pain clinic and uses Desna’s nail salon to launder their obscene profits; Bryce (Kevin Rankin, Breaking Bad), Jennifer’s husband who is also newly sober and trying to stay grounded by working as an abundance coach; and Dr Ken Brickman (Jason Antoon, Minority Report), a bona fide doctor at a decidedly un-bona fide drug clinic. A singular treat, especially for Breaking Bad fans, is watching Dean Norris, who rose to fame as the doomed DEA agent Hank Schrader on the iconic series.
In Claws, he inhabits the rollicking, perverse “Big Daddy” – a ruthless sort who’s no stranger to the seedy side of life.
Obviously, the show is not about stereotypes, and Reyes says she’s thankful to have broken free, especially as the sphinx-like driver Quiet Ann.
“You do one thing well – and then you have to do many versions of that one thing well,” Reyes reflects on her career as a Latina actor. “Or they can only see you as one thing, as a woman of colour. I get the sassy everything. The sassy receptionist. The sassy maid. The sassy this and the sassy that. And you know, you have to make a living. So you buy into it, or you try to add some variety.
“So to have an opportunity like [Claws] – to go completely against (stereotypes) and to take a risk – this is almost overwhelming.”
Watching the dynamics of the players during a group interview, one thing becomes abundantly clear – the women of Claws are not only empowered, they’re having a ball making television.
Lyon draws a cavalcade of bellylaughs from her co-stars when she declares: “I’m nothing like my character (best-friend Jennifer). She’s sort of like Southern ... and trashy ... rough around the edges ... just too much. So it’s been a stretch.”
Claws airs 11pm on Thursday on OSN Series First HD