TV: Claws – Multi-ethnic steel magnolia trash

Culture

Janine Sherman Barrois, one of the series writers for Claws – a great new TV series says creator Eliot Laurence, “told me he used to read the Florida Man [Twitter account], he’s seen all these cases of women who bit off their spouse or partner’s d— in Florida. And it inspired him to write about that area in that sort of Florida-noir, Elmore Leonard kind of quirky, dark humorous way.. that’s sort of where it all sort of evolved from.”

Claws is fucking hilarious, speaking about finally having a seat at the table in the interview below, the cast talk about being able to truly be themselves at work and the difference it made to producing quality for their audience. Desna, the protagonist is played by Niecy Nash, she explains they’re real women on set, not size 2, they DO eat on camera and have complicated relationships – despite many embarrassing truths and blood drawing challenges – the show is about women coming together and blends a diverse cast of women without it feeling forced.

 

One of the features of the show is the brilliant writing and the perfectly timed bursts of  humour amidst robbery, drugs, the Russian mafia and more – the other is the wardrobe by costume designer Dana Covarrubias. In an interview with toofab.com she said:

“I honestly don’t think there’s any other show on television that’s like this show and/or is representing the kind of women that are in this show… I would say in the first few fittings we were still trying to perfectly figure it out because we really didn’t want these characters to look and feel like cartoon characters or like we were poking fun at these people. There is obviously heavy tongue-and-cheek cheese factor to the show but as far as the costumes went, we wanted to have fun with them. We wanted them to be fun and crazy but we also wanted them to be real. That was the only challenge in the beginning; trying to figure out where that line is exactly.”

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The Claws team struck the balance so well. The woman are perfect in the way they balance their portrayal of real life woes and hood-rich glamour. One of the reasons I love a series is because it lets me tap out from real life and enjoy a fantasy story that has me guessing what will come next like Heroes, Empire, Scandal, Banshee or How to Get Away With Murder, this show had me wanting more too. In the YouTube interview above they advise up and coming actors to “learn your craft  and study because we are in a microwave generation and everything is shorter, quicker, faster”. 

Karrueche thanks her fellow cast for their support in her role as an actor just beginning her career. Her character Virginia is written into the show as an outcast who grew up with no family, she’s drawn to the love and support she sees the group giving each other and she works hard to get into the clique. The writing-in of her character shows an open minded and warm understanding of the real life dynamics between women. It’s like producers knew viewers wouldn’t want to give her a chance, so they wrote her in accordingly. She spends the first half of season one trying hard to make the others love her but ends up being the brat you expect.  Eventually you love her. But you hate her first.

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It is currently up to season two, episode four on TVNZ On Demand and I haven’t laughed so hard and unexpectedly at any media, like from the gut, in a long time. Mainstream needs more content like this, more Outrageous Fortune, Baby Mama’s Club type-humor and reality.

The other feature of the series that caught me was Harold Perrineau who plays Desna’s autistic brother. Watching him juxtaposed among all the bright pastels when you’re used to seeing him play darker more serious characters like Mercutio in Baz Luhrmaan’s Romeo and Juliet or an action hero in The Matrix was perfect. Writer Eliot Laurence says he loves stories of female empowerment, sister hood and kick-ass women and that he was super influenced by they Florida noir literary writers like Carl Hiaasen.

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From left: Virginia (Karrueche Tran), Polly (Carrie Preston), Desna (Niecy Nash), Jenn (Jenn Lyon), and Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes).

FURTHER READING:

This interview from the Essence Festival with Queen Latifah, Monica, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mary J. Blige, Niecy Nash, Dee Rees and Kristi Henderson talks about the importance of telling stories the writers “could identify with that couldn’t be relegated or ghettoised”.

 

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