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The Creative Team Behind ‘Claws’ on The Female Friendships at the Heart of The Wild TNT Hit

Jalal Hadad looks at the return on Claws

Last summer the first season of Claws made a big splash on TNT. Starring Emmy nominee Niecy Nash the show features an eclectic group of nail artists fighting to be scene and chasing the American dream all while navigating the wild underground (but out in the open) world of Florida crime.

Heading into its second season Claws has become a major hit with audiences and the creative team behind the show is hoping to capitalize on its perfect mix of absurd comedy and a story that perfectly speaks to the real working-class America. ADTV spoke with creator and executive producer Eliot Laurence as well as showrunner and EP Janine Sherman Barrois on the inspiration of the first season, the female friendships at the center of the story, and why Florida is the perfect setting for this wild crime saga.

Inspiration 

At its core Claws is about the unbreakable bond between women who will stop at nothing to chase their dreams and build each other up in a society that has denied them the American Dream. For creator and executive producer Eliot Laurence, a lot of that inspiration came from his love for stories about badass women taking on the world, especially the films of Pedro Almodóvar. “In the case of this film, the female crew consists of a grieving mother whose son just got killed in an accident, an HIV positive nun, a transsexual prostitute and an aging theater actress. These women had nothing in common but formed this incredible bond and were really there for each other.”

From there Laurence knew there was no better world to drop these characters into than that of a nail salon. “As a writer who is curious about female spaces and female friendships, a nail salon felt perfect.” The women at the center of Claws have been shunned by a large part of society but that hasn’t stopped them from chasing the American dream and so much of that is represented in their work. “Manicures are about self-expression, but also armor.”

Showrunner and executive producer Janine Sherman Barrois knew she had to be a part of Claws the second she read the pilot and fell in love with the women at its center. “I had never read a script with such fully developed female characters written on the page and I was blown away by how specific they are and how layered they were.”

In fact, the diverse and complicated friendships at the center of Claws are relationships we rarely see on TV. As Barrois described it “You rarely see a group of diverse women being friends. Despite their races and backgrounds they actually have a commonality of being women and they respect each other’s points of views. They’re able to see beyond these stereotypes that they put on each other and see them for who they really are.”

Throughout the entire process, Barrois wanted to be true to this group of women who were fighting for to be noticed and for their slice of the American dream. “These women are finally standing up. They are no longer hiding in the back but instead of fighting for what is theirs. They are truly emblematic of the time.”

(Photo: TNT)
The Absurdity of Florida Noir

Historically film noir and the crime genre has been characterized as a dark and shadowy genre but the creators of Claws although inspired by the genre wanted to take the story in an unexpected direction. For showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois she was drawn to the idea of taking these stories out of the shadows. “Other noir subgenres typically happen in the dark but with Florida specifically these crazy absurd things are happening right under the bright colors of the Florida sun.”

For Laurence, it was clear from the beginning that there was no better state than Florida to center the world of the show. “As a locale, Florida brought everything to the table that I was looking for – luridness, a mix of high and low culture, an inherent craziness, natural beauty. It’s a place where shady stuff happens in broad daylight.” After finding inspiration in the wild stories that seem to pour out of the state Laurence devoured authors and stories within the genre. “Florida noir merges crime stories with bizarre humor, which was irresistible to me.”

What to Look Forward to in Season Two

The second season premiered this month and fans of the show have a lot to look forward to as the summer progresses. For Barrois one of the most exciting elements of the second season was the chance to dive into the backstories of the women. “In the second season, we begin to learn more about each character and how they became who they are. We slow it down and audiences will begin to understand Polly and Quiet Ann more. We dive more into Desna and Dean’s past and what made them so close as brother and sister.”

In the first season Desna was trying to make a name for herself and silently trying to break out of this world of crime organized by men but in the second season there is a clear power shift that excites Barrois. “The second season has a much more matriarchal energy. Last year we were dealing with Uncle Daddy and the patriarchy but now that he has been dethroned we have a new antagonist.”  The new power shift brings a group of new characters that Laurence is particularly excited about. “Desna will find an unlikely mentor in season two in the form of a female Russian mobster and author who fancies herself Russia’s answer to Sheryl Sandberg.”

The first season of ‘Claws’ is currently up for consideration in all major categories at the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards. The first season is currently available to stream on HULU and new episodes are available  every Sunday on TNT at 9/8c