When I meet Niecy Nash in New Orleans, it feels like meeting a distant aunt for the first time. She seems wise, exuding the sort of confidence that you only get from living long enough. But she is still cool enough for me to actually want to hear what she has to say. I quickly learn that I’m not the only one who feels this way about the Emmy award-winning actress. On the set of upcoming TNT show, Claws, Nash tells me that the rest of the cast agrees that she is most like her character, Desna. “I mother all of these women,” she says. Apparently, the urge I felt to tell her all of my problems was justified.
The women that Nash claims to mother include True Blood’s Carrie Preston, Judy Reyes from Scrubs, and the stunning Karrueche Tran. Together, these women play a team of manicurists moonlighting as criminals. The dark comedy, set to premiere on June 11, is undergirded by their personal bonds as they try to get ahead in life. “No matter where you come from, where you were born or raised, your race or religion, the tie that binds is being a woman,” Nash says. I couldn’t help but think about this as a metaphor for the current state of women in America. Under the leadership of what feels like a common foe, the call for togetherness seems more important than ever. And Nash agrees, “In that place we have a lot that we need to fight for, because there’s a lot at stake. And how do we do that? Through sisterhood.”
Nash answers with a definitive “Yes” when I ask her if Claws is a feminist show. Having watched the pilot, I can’t deny the various feminist themes I picked up on, many of them coming from Nash’s lead character. Desna is a vivacious, seasoned woman and owner of the nail salon where the characters work. At home, she is the primary caregiver for her adult brother with special needs, a driving force that encourages her to work even harder at buying a new shop and going legit. She also has a young lover who serves as her connection to a criminal underworld. She is complex in a moment when even the best women characters can sometimes come off as flat, which makes the new series feel refreshing and forward-thinking. Nash hopes this is something viewers pick up on as well. “Most of us on this show are women of a certain age. To show that you can be on the south side of 40 and be viable, and sexy, and vibrant, and all of those things… I hope that’s a takeaway,” she tells me.
The vibe that I get from Nash is that she isn’t afraid to ask for what she needs or speak up for something she believes in. She felt very strongly about Desna’s wardrobe being too fancy when it was initially put together. So she met with the wardrobe department and the network to dress Desna up in a way that shows she still has “a long way to go.” And since Claws has some pretty steamy sex scenes, the actress sat her husband down for private viewing before the public would see it. She laughs as she tells me that she was “sitting there biting [her] fake fingernails off, hoping he [didn’t] have a fit.”
This honesty from Nash is also one of the things that makes Claws feel authentic, even in its most over-the-top moments. I don't doubt that this is due, in part, to Nash’s grounded, generous energy. At the end of a long day, I ask her if I can caption our Boomerang selfie "My auntie Niecy," and she agrees.