Since premiering in July 2020 – in the heart of a pandemic that shut down the very strip clubs it depicts – Starz’s “P-Valley” has been one of the most consistently subversive and provocative shows on television. The drama, which Katori Hall adapted from her play “Pussy Valley,” follows an ensemble of adult performers who make ends meet at The Pynk strip club in the fictional town of Chucalissa, Mississippi. The series was notable for its three-dimensional depiction of sex work – which was crafted by its all-female creative team – as well as its captivating cast and endlessly fabulous costume design.
When the second season premiered, the series had built a passionate fan base who were eager to see what their favorite motley crew of strippers were up to. At IndieWire’s Consider This Event in Los Angeles on Saturday, “P-Valley” stars Nicco Annan (Uncle Clifford), Brandee Evans (Mercedes) and J. Alphonse Nicholson (Lil Murda) joined music supervisor Sarah Bromberg for a Wide-ranging panel discussion moderated by IndieWire’s Marcus Jones.
Season 2 also seemed to be responding in real time to major current events unfolding in the US at the time of airing: most notably the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court.
“Mercedes’ 14-year-old daughter gets pregnant this season,” Evans said. “As a former dance teacher, I once saw a 10-year-old student get pregnant. And to be able to reflect that kind of experience on the show is so meaningful. That episode fell right around Roe v. Wade being tipped and the number of DMs I got about what she said moved me.
Nicholson added, “Katori writes what she feels. It’s August Wilson-esque that way. I don’t think he planned that episode to come out right when Roe v. Wade was flipped, but he tapped into the currents that ultimately led to this.
“You may have never been to a strip club before, you may have never been to Mississippi before, and it’s spotlighting stories about a lifestyle that may be new to you,” Nicholson said. To that end, Bromberg notes that getting musical authenticity right was essential: “Katori has made it available for artists in the area to submit their music,” Bromberg said, referring to Memphis-born artist Jucee Froot among others.
This is a difficult time across the South as reproductive rights have never been more limited and a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation has hit hard. Exploring identities that aren’t usually represented — Annan’s Uncle Clifford is non-binary, Nicholson’s LaMarques is a closeted rapper who performs under the name Lil Murda — is something the entire team wanted to be a part of.
“Playing a closeted rapper has made me understand the LGBTQ community a lot more,” Nicholson said. “He has to hide because he wants to keep this masculine facade, or people get an impression of who he was. Identifying with his struggle has made me a much better ally.
“I’m not new to this industry, but it’s not often that you get to do things you’re passionate about,” Annan said. “Things you really care about. And this you can see the culture changing. I’m a black gay and I’ve been a black gay since I was a black gay boy. So, to see my generation and the generations before me resonate with that, one 90-year-old said to me ‘Doesn’t that look like Uncle Clifford?’ And I was so excited when I pulled the mask down and said, “Thanks for looking.” One pastor told me, ‘I didn’t think this was a show I was going to enjoy. But I’ve been watching and what you’re doing matters and what you’re saying is a message of love that people need to hear.’”