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TNT’s Claws Delivers the Female Anti-Hero We’ve Been Begging For Since Breaking Bad

There are no meth labs in TNT’s upcoming dark comedy Claws, but the show does have its own sympathetic anti-hero who turns to crime as a result of unfortunate circumstances.  Niecy Nash stars as Desna Simms, a nail salon owner who dreams of a better life for herself and her autistic brother Dean (Harold Perrineau). During this year’s Vulture Festival, she told us the show felt “so different” for her as an actor. “I guess it’s overused when you say it feels ‘fresh,’ but it’s just nothing like it,” she said, explaining how after the pilot “everybody was like what’s going to happen?

When we pointed out that the show is really dedicated to the sisterhood of the women, she agreed, saying, “When women typically are together on television today it’s combative. It’s cat fighting, it’s weave pulling and table tossing, so you get to see women who genuinely love each other and even though I have challenges with Virginia’s character, played by Karrueche [Tran], she ends up being the person I like the least, but I need the most. So she becomes part of our family too. So once you in, you in. You know what I mean? We’re having a good time.”

Written and co-executive produced by Eliot Laurence, produced by Rashida Jones and directed by Nicole Kassell, the show centers on five manicurists whose bond is stronger than the glue they use to bedazzle their clients’ elaborate press-on nails. It’s very much a female-driven story set against the gorgeous backdrop of central Florida and contains robust surprises not intended for younger viewers.

Laurence cited Pedro Almodóvar, Tennessee Williams, and John Waters (he hopes Claws is in the continuum of gay dramatists) as his influences, and it definitely shows in the material. He also revealed that while his writing team is made up of an equal amount of women and men, he created the show “out of trying to entertain myself and [make something] that I would be obsessed to watch and that’s what I did.”

“I know I’m a dude,” he began, “but I just always preferred things about women, female friendship, and female empowerment and I find it more engaging. I feel like we’ve seen so many shows about complicated men like Walter White and Tony Soprano it’s like, I wanted to give women a show where they can be as complicated and not apologize for it.”

True Blood alum Carrie Preston, who plays an unassuming ex-con named Poppy, also spoke about how Claws is filling a strong need for interesting female characters. “Usually on TV you have what I like to call ‘the wife of the weak’ you know, or the ‘quirky best friend’ or something like that. You don’t get to see the women at the center,” she said. Naming shows with flawed leading characters like Breaking Bad or Mad Men, Preston pointed out that “it’s still always a guy at the center” before referencing Orange Is the New Black as another show that, like Claws, “is a woman at the center with her crew around her.”

“I think it’s important, and also fresh and new, that we have diversity on the show that’s not just racial diversity but sizes, shapes, types of women,” Preston added. “There’s just a lot of complicated layered stuff going on in the show. I’m excited about it.” And so are we.

Claws premieres June 11th.

(image: TNT)

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