The Future Is... is TV Guide's celebration of all the women on camera and off who are pushing boundaries and making history.
TNT recently renewed Claws for a third season, and the bold and brassy dramedy couldn't be more deserving. The series — about a group of manicurists who get drawn into the world of South Florida organized crime — was a bit of a sleeper hit when it premiered last summer. It drew people in with its comedy but quickly proved to be so much more than a light summer binge. Claws' examination of abuse and power — and how women persevere in a system that is stacked against them — perfectly tapped into the cultural movement of female unrest and action that exploded following theNew York Times' Harvey Weinstein expose.
"We were a little bit ahead of #TimesUp, #MeToo. We were doing it already," Carrie Preston, who plays the lovable con artist Polly, told TV Guide at the ATX Television Festival last month. "So it feels like we had our fingers on the pulse of something."
With an ensemble led by Niecy Nash, Claws follows the eccentric women of the Nail Artisan Salon: Desna (Nash), the leader of the bunch who just wants to achieve her dream of opening an upscale (and completely legal) nail salon; Jennifer (Jenn Lyon), Desna's best friend who married into the Dixie Mafia; Polly (Preston), a parolee with a penchant for pretending to be other people; Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes), the reserved enforcer with a lot bubbling under the surface; and Virginia (Karrueche Tran), the cocky protégé who surprises herself by falling in love with Desna's autistic brother.
Although Desna initially only agreed to launder money for the Dixie Mafia for a short period of time, the women found themselves stuck in the criminal underworld after Desna and Virginia attempted to murder their boss' son Roller (Jack Kesy) — who also happened to be both of their lovers. Things only spiraled out from there and now, halfway through Season 2, the women are in so deep it's sometimes hard to see a way out that doesn't involve a bullet to the brain. But despite being pawns in larger mafia games, the women of Nail Artisan Salon consistently refuse to let anyone dictate what their lives are and should be. Even when forced into impossible circumstances, Desna and her girls are repeatedly shown to retake control over their lives, drawing the strength to do so from the loving community they have built with each other at the salon.
"When I first read the script, it was so exciting to see a show where it's about these women defining collected power from each other. You're getting power from the collective instead of going after each other," said Preston. "In Claws, they're clawing their way up together. And I thought this is great, in this day and age."
However, this season does find many of the central friendships tested following the arrival of a new boss, Zlata (Franka Potente), a ruthless Russian Mafiosa who weaponizes feminist messages in an attempt to mold Desna into her mirror image. This is a far cry from Desna's previous boss, Dixie Mafia member Uncle Daddy (Dean Norris), a man with little regard for the women's wellbeing or worth outside of their ability to make him money. But while Zlata preaches about the importance of women laying claim to their own power — particularly power over men — she has a very narrow view of what this power should look like, and when Desna's opinions are allowed to matter, raising questions of whether or not things really are better under a female boss.
"This woman kind of lures us with money and the idea that women can be just as powerful as men and 'I'm going to show you how to take what's yours in the world,'" Nash said. "And then on one hand, she's certifiable. So, it's a very interesting pendulum with this woman, and it's going to wreak havoc in Palmetto, for sure."
"And that's where, particularly, Quiet Ann comes in and sees it from the outside, or from the inside as it were, and challenges Desna to see what's happening," added Reyes. "But when women are trying to make it on their own as outlaws in a business that's always pitting us against each other and against the system, you get blinded by your needs and your desires as opposed to your relationships."
But as messy as the relationships between the women get — and they get messy this season — the more we are able to learn about what it really is that bonds the women together. Every character on Claws, even the typically silent Quiet Ann, is driven by their own set of contradictions, desires and dreams and is given the space to showcase these complexities and explore how they influence their actions. And as much progress as has been made when it comes to the available roles for women on TV, an ensemble like this is still a rarity that shouldn't taken for granted.
"I've been in this business almost 25 years; nobody has ever asked me to play uber sexy, uber sinister," Nash explained. "So, for me, I have to say, it's very different territory. What I do love is that we're all grown women... We're seasoned. We're unapologetic. We have our own agenda. We have sex for our own pleasure. So I love the statement that that makes."
"And I think the audience sees themselves and their friends and their relatives in us," added Preston. "We're not something that they haven't met before. We might be an elevated version of it, but different sizes and shapes and kinds of women are being represented."
"We're talking about people who've served time in prison, people who've been raised in the foster care system who got one bad break after the next," Nash explained. "So I think that we definitely live a life that, for us, we want more. We're not starting at a place of 'we have it all.' Not only do we not have it all, we don't have it all together, you know? It's delicious in a lot of ways because of that, I think. And it makes you want to root for us."
Claws airs Sundays at 9/8c on TNT.