“When I was 12 years old I could not have imagined this moment right here,” reveals Nicco Annan about his starring role on “P-Valley.” In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above), he adds, “I am literally standing on blessed and fertile ground. It has been a love. I’ve witnessed a lot of transformation in people’s hearts.”
“P-Valley” takes place at a strip club in Mississippi called The Pynk. It uses noir storytelling to explore the lives of the characters who work at and visit the club. Annan says, “The creator and showrunner Katori Hall always talks about the pole as a metaphor for life. Sometimes rising feels like falling and falling feels like rising. Nothing in the show is arbitrary and that’s how I look at life.”
In the Starz program Annan plays Uncle Clifford, the non-binary owner of the club. Annan explains, “The concept of the character came from the notion of what a character could be like if they accepted all of their femininity and all of their masculinity. I’m a gay man being able to play a character that is on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum as an artist that grew up at a time where characters like this didn’t exist in this kind of way. She survives, in the black southern culture, by having parameters and being able to dream and see beyond it.”
Annan explains that a challenge in portraying Clifford is that “there are times when you are in a very deep and emotional state of being. But there is something that comes out, and the way it comes out, that can be humorous. That humor comes from a place of relatability. I find a lot of oppressed people have to laugh to keep from crying. Balancing those two is tricky. Always having a little heat and a little sweet. One scene that was very difficult is my prayer scene in episode seven. The emotional preparation and weight of that was really big. At the same time she wanted to endow others with the strength to go out there and ‘dance like it’s their last night, even if there ain’t no money raining.’ That scene was really hard, on top of it being a seven page monologue.”
The actor reflects on growing up that “I thought about the times when as a gay child that I would be on the outskirts. When it came to homecoming or prom or school dances. I wanted to take a boy, or dance with a guy, and that didn’t happen. I though about what I saw and felt at what I didn’t see. Honestly, I have been blessed in my career to be able to play a range of roles that are on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. That is not something I intended. I was raised and trained at a time when I was told, ‘in order to get a job you gotta play straight. You gotta take some of that sass away.’ I’m not the first, I’m not gonna be the last but I’m holding the door for someone coming in behind me.”
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