‘Claws’ Premiere Postmortem: Niecy Nash on That Shock Ending

Mandi Bierly
Deputy Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Jack Kesy as Roller and Niecy Nash as Desna in ‘Claws’ (Photo: TNT)

Warning: This interview contains spoilers for the series premiere of TNT’s Claws.

On the same day that Niecy Nash found out Fox hadn’t picked up her latest pilot, her agent called and asked if she remembered that script she’d been sent for a show called Claws. “My agent was like, ‘Those people want to see you tomorrow.’ And I was like, ‘Let me read it again,’ because I was so consumed with the project I was doing,” Nash says. “I read that script and listen, it was delicious. I wanted more. I was like, ‘Yes. Please and thank you. I will meet them tomorrow.'”

The next day, before she got off the lot after meeting the show’s creator, Eliot Laurence, and showrunner, Janine Sherman Barrois, she got another call saying the role of Desna, a Florida nail salon owner who launders money for the Dixie Mafia, was hers if she wanted it. “I loved that there was a Florida noir aspect being introduced into this particular show, which elevated it into sometimes a very surreal space. But more importantly, the sisterhood,” she says. “These women are survivors. They are hustlers. They are accountability partners. They’re flawed. And funny. And I was like, ‘Yes, please. I’ll have seconds.'”

As we learned in Sunday’s series premiere of the TNT drama, Desna is a woman on a mission: she needs money to secure a more upscale location for her staff (Carrie Preston, Jenn Lyon, Judy Reyes, and Karrueche Tran), as well as a nicer home for her autistic brother (Lost’s Harold Perrineau). “I wanted to make her relatable. I wanted to make sure that there was some aspect of her life that you could identify with,” Nash says. “I know a lot of women who don’t have children, but they are mothers nonetheless. She definitely stands in that place to mother people who she has not given birth to. She is loyal. She has been at the bottom, so her story is aspirational. She wants to thrive — but it’s not a selfish thing. She wants it for all the people around her.”

The premiere also showed us what happens when Desna doesn’t get it. After Dixie Mafia boss Uncle Daddy (Dean Norris) and his protégé, Roller (Jack Kesy), stiffed Desna on her bonus, she went to Roller’s house and interrupted him choking his new lover, Virginia (Tran), during pool-side sex. As Desna proceeded to thred Roller’s eyebrows, he suggested she “finish him off.” Instead, she struck him over the head and tried to drown him in the pool. He resurfaced and began to brutally beat her — until Virginia returned to shoot Roller dead.

“I think that Desna showed up to the house that day believing she was going to get her money. She knew he had it and could give it to her — or she was going to take it. By any means necessary, she was going to leave with the money she was promised,” Nash says. “And I think that what she stumbled upon when she got there threw her for a loop. I don’t think it was planned. But I think that there’s a very wonderful show that coined exactly what happened called Snapped. And I think that she snapped in that moment and was like, ‘I can’t take another thing. Especially not from you.'”

The nails, Nash says, tell the story. “You know how New York was another character in Sex and the City? The nails are another character in Claws. That last scene, I had what we called a shark nail, where it was a hologram silver with blood on the tips.”

Keep an eye on Desna’s nails, because the drama is just beginning. “I’m very, very happy that the industry has invited me to another part of it that was very far-reaching before,” Nash says. “I’ve been in a lot of multi-cams, a lot of improv things — that was my lane. At least that’s what the industry told me. ‘You have a lane, dear.’ And so, to be invited to this part of the party — a one hour — and to be leading the charge as No. 1 on the call sheet, it’s a great undertaking. It’s a whole lot of work, but I’m grateful every day for the opportunity.”

Claws airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on TNT.

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