By Lynn Elber
The exquisitely painted nails are out in full force on “Claws,” but sisterhood is at the heart of TNT's dramedy set in a Florida nail salon.
It starts with Desna, the formidable owner of the Nail Artisan of Manatee County salon who's played to the hilt by the vivid, ever-versatile Niecy Nash (“Getting On,” “The Soul Man,” “Masters of Sex”).
“My character is everyone's mother. She mothers the world,” Nash said in an interview. “It's not about her making it for herself. It's, `I want to make this happen for all of us.”'
Nash describes the series, debuting 9 p.m. EDT Sunday on TNT and at 10 p.m. EDT on Twitter, as a combination of funny, surreal and very dark moments: “I mean southside of midnight dark. Pitch-black dark.”
Her co-stars include Carrie Preston (“True Blood”), Jenn Lyon (“Justified”), Judy Reyes (“Scrubs”) and Karrueche Tran (“The Nice Guys”).
The women, or most of them, are “family, and they've created this situation where they can prevail together. They don't have to do it alone,” Preston said during a panel discussion.
Nash sees a similar bond within Hollywood's growing ranks of African-American actresses, directors and producers, among them filmmaker Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “Queen Sugar”), director Victoria Mahoney (“Claws,” “Grey's Anatomy” and actress Aisha Hinds (“Underground”).
“We are all, to a large degree, at least my `tribe,' in support of one another. We celebrate each others' shows, we tweet about it, we post about it,” Nash said.
“I can go to an audition and see five girls I know, and three of them I called to make sure they got there,” she said. “And instead of looking at each other with an evil eye, we're praying for each other, laughing, checking on each others' families. That's what makes this all the more sweeter. This sense of community is just amazing.”
But she lamented that similar opportunity for other women of color is badly lagging.
“I'm happy to be a part of (a group) that's celebrated now, but in the big scheme of sisterhood I'm still waiting on the other sisters,” she said.
On-screen diversity can be especially meaningful for youngsters, as Nash can attest. She was just 5 when she saw the “gorgeous” singer-actress Lola Falana on television and immediately informed her grandmother that she intended to be “black, fabulous and on TV.”
(Message to Falana: Nash still longs to meet you.)
For its part, “Claws” presents a rainbow-colored world of black, white, Latino and Asian-American women. The men along for the ride are similarly diverse, with cast members including Jack Kesy (“The Strain”), Harold Perrineau (“Lost”) and Dean Norris (“Breaking Bad”).
But ethnicity takes a back seat in the series from executive producers Rashida Jones (“The Office,” “Angie Tribeca”) and Will McCormack, partners in a production company.
“Money is an issue. Sexism is an issue,” said Nash. “It's not so much about the black and white of it all, or the oppression of it all, it's more about being underserved as a woman and wanting to have respect.”
Like “Getting On,” in which Nash played a nurse in a hospital's geriatric unit, “Claws” is grounded in daily life, albeit with touches of heightened reality.
“It's not a shiny big story. It's everyman,” Nash said, with “real people, in sometimes hard situations, trying to figure it out. .... If we play our cards right, you will be rooting for these women to finally get that break that so many people want.”
322 W. Compton Blvd.
Suite 100 B
Compton, CA 90220