HL spoke with ‘P-Valley’s Nicco Annan about Uncle Clifford’s life outdoors of the membership, how the present ‘shatters’ stereotypes, Uncle Clifford’s dynamic with Autumn, and extra.

P-Valley is undoubtedly the perfect new present of the summer season. The Starz collection, created by Katori Corridor, follows the lives of these working at The Pynk, a strip membership in rural Mississippi. Nicco Annan stars as Uncle Clifford, the queer, non-binary proprietor of The Pynk. There’s little doubt about it, Uncle Clifford (most well-liked gender pronoun is “she”) is the guts and soul of The Pynk.

MeSlop talked EXCLUSIVELY with Nicco about bringing this character from the stage to the display screen. He teased that Uncle Clifford’s backstory might be explored and “all points” of her life. Nicco additionally mentioned how the present will deal with what it means to be Black and queer within the South. Learn our full Q&A under.

Nicco Annan stars as Uncle Clifford in ‘P-Valley.’ (Starz)

You performed the function of Uncle Clifford within the play earlier than this TV present was created. When Katori [Hall] was within the course of of creating the present, was it even a query whether or not or not you’d play Uncle Clifford? What have been these conversations like? 
Nicco Annan: I believe that you would need to ask her as a result of these have been conversations between every particular person and God. I did should undergo the audition course of when it got here to the TV present. She did inform me that for community causes they needed to only do a large search to guarantee that they might solid — within the community’s eyes — absolutely the proper individual. I revered that. That wasn’t one thing that bothered me as a result of I felt, particularly with Uncle Clifford, it’s a personality that we haven’t actually seen earlier than on tv. I’ve seen and have had many individuals in my life which might be non-binary and that match into the mildew someplace of Uncle Clifford, whether or not it was Uncle Invoice or an Aunt Ruth. In order that wasn’t overseas to me, however I additionally thought it was simply a possibility for different artists within the LGBT group to have the ability to be woke up simply as I used to be that there are roles coming, that there’s illustration taking place. As an actor, I really feel like nobody can take your function from you. I really feel like in the event you’re meant to play it, it should occur. The character form of comes by means of the vessel that the character chooses. So I used to be very joyful and happy, after all, that I used to be chosen. To be 100 % trustworthy, it wasn’t one thing that was in my thoughts once I was auditioning. What was extra so in my thoughts once I got here to my first community audition for P-Valley was about getting it true, not getting it proper. As a result of again by means of my expertise of even doing the workshop and manufacturing at Combined Blood, I knew that individuals may misread Uncle Clifford, even within the design and development. I needed it to be clear that Uncle Clifford was not a drag queen. I needed it to be clear that Uncle Clifford’s attire is about an expression of how she feels that day. It’s not about attempting to be something. It actually is about simply leaving your self alone and accessing all elements of your self — the entire masculinity, the entire femininity, and if you acquire energy by means of your femininity or by means of your masculinity and male privilege, it simply was. So I knew that individuals may get that construed, and I simply actually needed to face in honor of her, of my group, and have the ability to present one other aspect of that character. I believe oftentimes we see the snap, we see the sharp tongue, however we regularly don’t get to see the guts and what occurs when a personality within the LGBT spectrum goes residence. I used to be simply enraptured by the truth that the character wasn’t in service of somebody.

One of many issues I picked up immediately is that Uncle Clifford cares a lot in regards to the membership and the individuals who work for her. The Pynk is in her blood. Will we get extra backstory on her because the season continues? 
Nicco Annan: The responsibility of P-Valley to me is that you just get to embrace the complete physique and all of its melanin, and I imply that actually and figuratively. It is possible for you to to see Uncle Clifford in all points of life, from work to many issues outdoors of the membership. You get to go residence along with her. You possibly even get to see a bit of extra of an intimate expertise along with her as effectively. It’s a full journey with Uncle Clifford.

There was that attention-grabbing scene with Lil Murda within the premiere. Will we see him cross paths with Uncle Clifford once more? 
Nicco Annan: You might even see him or you might even see another person. What I do know is that it was vital I believe to Katori and myself to indicate one other aspect of life and the way we love. How is it and what’s that journey for a non-binary individual? What does that appear to be in 2020? As a homosexual man myself, I do know what it may be like courting on the LGBT spectrum. Whether or not I’m courting a person that’s homosexual, whether or not I’m courting a trans man, a pansexual man, I do know that there’s a complete vary of issues. However one of many issues that I discover so attention-grabbing on this story is that individuals are typically drawn to Uncle Clifford, regardless of no matter parameters they’ve placed on themselves. I believe which will switch to the viewers as effectively, however I believe that comes from the truth that she’s strolling in her fact. And when an individual is strolling of their fact, that’s what’s enticing. You’re seeing their gentle. Oftentimes, we all know homophobia and that misogyny can come out of ignorance and concern, however I additionally assume that typically persons are simply enthralled as a result of they wish to know the key to the way you turned that free. How are you that courageous? In order that dialog and journey are very attention-grabbing, however I’m right here for the entire full circle journey.

Earlier than ‘P-Valley,’ Nicco notably had roles on ‘This Is Us’ and ‘Claws.’ (Photographer: Diane Zhao)

From the second that Uncle Clifford stepped onto the display screen, I used to be entranced along with her and what she was bringing to the scene. You talked about Uncle Clifford’s attire earlier than, and I needed to level one thing out that I observed. When she was going to the financial institution, she was wearing a go well with. She had sure enterprise to do, and that was mirrored in her wardrobe. What’s it like simply being in character as Uncle Clifford?
Nicco Annan: It’s freedom. It’s actually flight. I might inform my solid members that once I’m in character I is perhaps little an excessive amount of when it comes to supplying you with orders or bossing you round like Uncle Clifford would. But when we’re in between takes or no matter, simply let me know. I’m good however typically her spirit could be very sturdy, so there could be instances the place you can get caught up in that. You talked about attire and requested how does it really feel… In case you pay shut consideration, there may be all the time a feather. For me, that feather signifies the flight and freedom and in addition resilience. The literal imagery that was laced into the story got here from the script. It got here from actually the phrases on the web page. So if on the web page it says the dancers are flying excessive across the pole, legs swinging like cricket, singing within the night time, that is perhaps what a stage path is within the script. To me, in each scene once I’m actually taking a look at my women going ham on the pole, there’s a complete different emotional situation that’s occurring with Clifford. For me, despite the fact that the membership goes, tons of persons are there, the music is bumping, I’m fully nonetheless. I used to be occupied with nighttime if you’re in a subject. I’m within the South. Cricket. The sound of moisture and the humidity in it. Possibly a frog, what I’m saying? These sorts of sounds. I’m seeing this image. And there’s only a feather, whether or not it’s on my earring, whether or not it’s on my pin, whether or not it’s on the women’ costumes, whether or not it’s on mine, it’s an indication. In character and wardrobe, it was like placing on the pores and skin. It was simply freedom. That’s why I take advantage of that phrase.

There may be such an enormous prevalence of homophobia within the South — nonetheless. Will the present discover a variety of what it means to be queer, non-binary, and Black within the South immediately? 
Nicco Annan: Completely. I believe that the present could be very daring and courageous in that it assaults stereotypes and shatters them. I believe that the homophobia that exists within the South and the misogyny that exists in hip hop tradition is altering. Persons are actually being enlightened. They’re being knowledgeable. I believe that visibility helps that. I believe that having conversations round language helps that as a result of I believe oftentimes Black individuals generally, however particularly within the South, they will not be talking about homophobia and misogyny from an educational standpoint and utilizing that tutorial vernacular. Oftentimes, they’re extra involved with primarily ensuring that you just keep alive. How do you navigate systemic racism, and the way do you take care of this? They usually’re instructing you about God as a result of God goes to save lots of you from the whole lot. One of many lovely issues with this present is that I really feel that it showcases optimistic relationships between the queer Black group and the heterosexual group. I believe that when the second of homophobia or misogyny does come up or sure issues could also be spoken, there may be straight after that some corrective language that occurs. I believe that you’ll be able to see male our bodies on the LGBTQ spectrum and feminine our bodies represented as effectively. There are many tales which might be laced over and laced all through the present that discover that factor. It doesn’t hit you over the top, and I used to be joyful about that as a result of it’s actual life. It’s not sensationalized. It’s truly one thing that’s embraced for its normalcy.  I believe by means of showcasing the normalcy of it, I believe that’s how the change can occur as a result of individuals at residence, individuals that won’t have a relationship with anybody that could be non-binary or a relationship with somebody that could be on LGBTQ spectrum larger than three levels of separation. I believe that it’s a possibility for them to have an intimate expertise with individuals which might be in contrast to them and see simply how human they are often.

Uncle Clifford’s backstory might be explored this season. (Starz)

For me no less than, I’m not accustomed to the strip membership tradition. I really feel like lots of people assume they know what it means after watching a film like Hustlers, however that’s simply not the complete story. Even simply the primary episode was extraordinarily enlightening for me. The athleticism is unimaginable. I don’t know if it was Brandee [Evans] or a stunt double doing these strikes on the pole within the premiere, however that was wonderful. 
Nicco Annan: We do have doubles simply due to the quantity of instances you must do it, in order that the physique didn’t get drained out and issues like that. However all of us went to a dance camp/ pole camp. We have been all in it, together with myself, and also you do get to see some glimpses of Uncle Clifford on the pole. For me, even within the coaching and boot camp, we have been all so severe about it as a result of that degree of authenticity was mandatory. Even when my women have been in rehearsal with our choreographer, I might be there simply as Uncle Clifford would, once I could be in my workplace going over some paperwork or attempting to run some numbers and coming in to see what the mixture was going to be for tonight’s efficiency or for Freaky Fridays, which occurs on a Friday as soon as a month. It was only a pure journey.

I believe one of many greatest mysteries of P-Valley proper now’s Autumn. The present begins along with her, and she or he could be very a lot a thriller. What are you able to say about Uncle Clifford and Autumn’s dynamic? As a result of he actually takes an opportunity along with her.
Nicco Annan:  I believe she takes her in given the circumstances of figuring out that Mercedes is leaving. There are a few issues which might be in play right here. Considered one of them is colorism. Colorism down within the South is certainly prevalent, and in strip membership tradition it’s prevalent and a essential subject. Katori positively needed to assault that head-on. As a result of oftentimes, the lighter-skinned dancers get higher shifts the place there are extra clients than possibly the darker-skinned or the women with pure hair versus straight hair. All of these dynamics are mentioned, even when Uncle Clifford is speaking to Lil Murda and says the entire record like a menu — we obtained White women, Black women, brown-skinned women. We now have all of it. My membership has the whole lot {that a} man wants. Autumn falls into that as a result of she’s coming in at a time the place Uncle Clifford is simply discovering out that Mercedes is leaving, so there’s a spot that’s opening up. No, she received’t be within the high spot, however she’s light-skinned, she’s fairly, and it looks as if she will be able to dance. I believe that when Uncle Clifford sees her dance in the course of the booty battle, and despite the fact that she’s solely successful $50 and a scorching plate, I believe seeing how free she was capable of permit herself to be on the market… as a result of what occurs is when girls are on the pole, you aren’t doing that for the viewers. You’re doing that for your self. You’re discovering some form of liberation. For me, as Uncle Clifford, what she did when she received the battle was I noticed that she was dancing for a motive. So I used to be there for that. Even if you lengthen it additional, I believe you will notice that Uncle Clifford just isn’t a stranger to laborious instances and to a troubled previous herself, whether or not that’s in romantic life or simply how she’s navigated by means of the world. In the identical method she was capable of determine with Miss Mississippi’s previous abusive relationship and sharing her expertise there, I believe that there could also be some experiences that Uncle Clifford and Autumn share, and Uncle Clifford can see that in her.