Niecy Nash is tough as nails in TNT's wickedly dark dramedy, "Claws"

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10 June 2017

TNT, Sunday, June 11, 9:00 PM ET

By Barb Oates

It’s a sunny afternoon in Pasadena and a blinding glare is cast across a closed hotel bar, making it hard to see the entourage approaching. Niecy Nash struts purposely across the dimly lit room. She extends her exquisitely manicured hand — her nails are a bedazzled work of art — and greets me. “It’s pressure now,” Nash says of her nails, which I’m enamored with. “You can’t be on a TV show called Claws and have your manicure looking raggedy.” Her mile-long smile radiates confidence, as she knows she’s landed the Walter White-like role of her career.

Nash plays Desna, the owner of a South Florida nail salon that serves as a front to launder the profits of an illegal pain clinic (run by a deplorable thug, played by Jack Kesy) in TNT’s new dramedy Claws (premiering Sunday).

The wickedly dark yet sassy series is executive produced by Rashida Jones and stars an ensemble cast of amazing women. Desna’s the matriarch to her eclectic staff of four, made up of the sweetly deranged Polly (Carrie Preston), who’s got a penchant for identity theft; their silent but deadly security guard and driver Quiet Ann (an almost unrecognizable Judy Reyes); Desna’s best friend and badass Jennifer (Jenn Lyon); and the newbie of the group Virginia (Karrueche Tran).

“I read that script and was like, ‘Oh my God, this is delicious,’” Nash says. “I’m so in love with Desna and I’m happy for people to meet her through me because it’s a character I’ve never played before.”

Desna’s an Everywoman. She’s loyal to her core and will do anything for her girls, but it does come at a cost. “The thing that breaks my heart about her is that she doesn’t seem like she can catch a break,” Nash says. “She’s called to take care of many, and she takes it on willingly, not only her brother [portrayed by Harold Perrineau], who is mentally disabled, but all these women in her salon.”

But don’t be fooled thinking this is some warmhearted, well-up-and-cry soap. It’s a far cry from the Dolly Parton-run salon in Steel Magnolias — as these gals have some dark moments mixed in with some biting comedy. It’s the nail salon setting, however, that provides a familiarity.

“It is the one place that women of all socioeconomics can gather. Because at some point, you’re gonna need something done, even if it’s just a special occasion,” Nash says. “Now you got your soiree in there every two weeks, the ones with a little born money who come every week, you know what I mean? But when you all come together, that energy, the energy that comes with a gaggle of women, is just an interesting backdrop for the story. It serves the money-laundering business ’cause usually nail salons are cash business.”

Nash had quite an influence over Desna’s wardrobe and look, originally believing she was being pictured too fancy. “Initially the powers that be thought a soft bob with a beachy wave, and I’m like I don’t feel right. I don’t feel like the words I’m being called to say go with this look.”

They listened, and Nash definitely nails it.

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