It’s been a minute, but the Fab Five are finally back for season two of TNT’s hit dramedy Claws.
And from the looks of the season premiere, it’s clear that Desna, Polly, Virginia, Jen and Quiet Ann are up to their necks in money laundering, Russian mobsters, the Dixie Mafia, avoiding getting killed and of course, the nail art game.
While the show, which stars the amazing Niecy Nash and Karrueche Tran, may be over the top at times—in a good way of course—it never lacks authenticity, which matters since the story is centered on a Black woman and her “ride-or-die” crew. What’s also clear is that a lot of that realness has to do to with its seasoned showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois.
HelloBeautiful sat down with Barrois to talk about the importance of telling strong women’s story, why Niecy Nash is the show’s anchor and whether Claws has encouraged her to be more daring with her nail art.
HelloBeautiful: You’ve written for shows like ER and Criminal Minds. While Claws has a criminal element, it certainly isn’t about serial killers or hospital drama. What about a nail salon in Florida drew you in?
Janine Sherman Barrois: It was just so bold and refreshing. I read the pilot script [the show’s creator] Eliot Laurence wrote and it was just so good! I loved the Florida noir aspect and the humor and the drama it possessed. That, and the idea that it was a centered on these five cool fierce women. So often on television, women are not on the forefront, they usually serve as sidekicks to the male leads. But with Claws, these women are the heart and soul of the show.
HB: I watched the season premiere twice, it was so outrageous, amazing and the gender power dynamic has really shifted from the first season. Instead of the Desna working for the Hussers, they work for her under the Russians, who are also women. With the #MeToo Movement stronger than ever, why is having Desna & company in charge so important?
JSB: First, while Claws is definitely about female empowerment and women sticking up for themselves, I don’t want to conflate the #MeToo Movement with the show. So with that being said, yes, I think the gender power dynamic shifting from a patriarch with Uncle Daddy [Dean Norris] to a matriarch with Zlata [Franka Potente] is a great thing.
Women have always been woke and we’ve always been trying to take our power and say we’re not putting up with inequality anymore, so it’s more than just that. We are in a time where we are even more vocal about [being entitled] to parity with men, whether it be financially, sexually or creatively. Time is really up for inequality, especially for these women that work at a nail salon in the middle of a strip mall in Palmetto, Florida.
HB: Niecy Nash is such an anchor to this series, I couldn’t imagine the show without her. I read that initially she wasn’t available for the pilot because she was shooting a different one, but that later changed and she was cast with the quickness.
JSB: When you look at the show now, it’s so clear that the only person who can play Desna is Niecy. But at the time, we were looking at lots of women of difference races—we really didn’t know who could play this role. But when we heard her pilot wasn’t happening, the head of studio called us and asked did we want to meet with her. We said yes.
The minute she walked in the room, she just blew our minds. She was different from anything we had ever seen. Niecy embodies power and has this unapologetic fierceness to her. Let me tell you, this was all from just a meeting, but we knew from day one she had so much passion to play this role and would give Desna the layers she deserved. But what’s also great about Niecy is that she’s not just passionate about her character, she’s passionate about everyone else’s and advocates for the writing room to make sure they are just as cool and layered as Desna.
HB: One of the strengths of the show is the power of friendship and it’s interesting because from their race to sexual orientation, they are very different. We rarely see this on TV, especially in a way where they are all equals, not just sassy sidekicks that boast up the white female protagonist. I absolutely love it.
JSB: Over the weekend one of the show’s actors shared that someone told them the Claws shows them that Black women and white women and other women of color can forge real friendships and get along. I think that’s very key and in so many parts of the feminist movement, women of color have asked white women, “Where are you when it comes to our causes?” So I think its very important to see that these women are bonding and forging friendships that is about their humanity and their race.
Also, we wanted for it to be authentic. When we were casting Jen [Jenn Lyon], we wanted someone who we really believed would be best friends with Desna. We needed something about Jen’s worldview where it was clear that having a diverse group of women in her life came from her own desire and her soul. Too often, these types of friendships come because you’re paid to have it, like you work with someone and you’re forced into this friendship. Or you go to college and you’re the first person of color your roommate has ever seen.
But these women aren’t like that. There is a commonality of sisterhood that exists despite of their race and sexual orientation, something that TV has ignored for far too long.
HB: Being one of the few Black female showrunners in the industry along with Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy), Lena Waithe (The Chi) and Karin Gist (Star) to name a few, how important is to for us to have a seat at the table?
JSB: It’s extremely important. The more diverse people you have in the room, the larger point of view you have to shape the story. And when you have people of color running a show, they can help make sure inclusion happens behind the scenes, with the actors and the crew.
This is the world of the new generation to make inclusion and diversity a part of life and how we do things in Hollywood. We are far more woke than the older generation and with them getting older and retiring, we are going to see a real shift. I believe things are getting much better.
Also, we have Shonda Rhimes who has made billions of dollars for her network and once you bring in that kind of money, and show that not just white men can do it, you open the doors for so many other women of color and show them and the execs that it’s possible.
HB: What’s your advice for Black female writers trying to break into the industry?
These three things. First, you need to write everyday, it’s far too competitive not to. Also, you also have to read a lot. Whether it’s fiction, screenplays or television specs, the more you read the better storyteller you will become. Most importantly, be persistent and look for the opportunities. A lot of people don’t know how to find them and when they have an opportunity, they miss out on it because they weren’t prepared or they didn’t realize. Keep your eyes open and be ready.
Honestly, if you want to make in the industry, you have to be obsessed with it.
HB: Finally, given that Claws is about a nail salon, how often do you get your nails done? And has the show encouraged you to be more creative?
JSB: [Laughs] I work so much that I can only get my nails done about once a month, but I will definitely try funky things, especially if I have an event or a press junket for the show. I’m also into wild press ons too.
But I do love getting my nails done, not only does it complete your look, but it relaxes me and you can hear the best stories just sitting back in the salon. It’s my therapy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Catch Claws on Sundays on TNT at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central.