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'P-Valley' Star Nicco Annan on Playing Non-Binary Characters: 'I Don't Want to Make Her a Joke'

At Starz’s P-Valley,

Nicco Annan’s Uncle Clifford, owner of the Mississippi Delta strip club at the center of the show, is part hardworking caretaker and hedonistic business owner. Annan created the character when Katori Hall’s Pussy Valley was a stage play – she considered herself non-binary and used her/her pronouns, so the cast Most of the time has been playing this role for the past ten years. Annan spoke with THR about non-binary representation and Uncle Clifford’s clothing ahead of receiving the TV Actor Award at the Critics’ Choice Awards Black Film and Television Celebration on Dec. wardrobe, including a cape made from Crown Royal bags.

From beard to hair to nails, Uncle Clifford has carved a compelling presence on screen. How much does her appearance affect your performance?

The transformation happens first in the makeup chair. When Janine Carthone did my makeup, it was part of the transformation, even when Uncle Clifford was naked. All characters in this world are some form of sex worker. In order to play this role, for me, I have to be very comfortable with my body. Sometimes when I’m not in costume, it’s actually more in character. I always talk about strip club nudity, which makes us — as actors — so naked and raw in our performances. Then, for me, the closet is when it really turns up.

Annan as Uncle Clifford with P-Valley co-star Elarica Johnson.

Annan as Uncle Clifford with P-Valley co-star Elarica Johnson.

Annan as Uncle Clifford and P -Valley co-star Elarica Johnson. Presented by Starz Entertainment LLC

what the closet said to her ?

Uncle Clifford’s fashion is the way she travels. That’s how she sees the world, and that’s how she sees the world. I remember in the midst of all this pandemic, when we were coming up with options, I would tell [costume designers Alita McGhee Bailey and Tiffany Hasbourne], “It’s not enough. Clubs are closing down, there’s nowhere to go, and I’m getting dressed. This has to It’s an event.” Everything became an event. When you give your grandma insulin shots, you have a good pajamas because you want to feel good. When you first meet Uncle Clifford this season, you’ll see her in a cape at the car wash. That cloak was made from a Crown Royal bag: Royal made that cape. So, all the royal crowns at the club, Uncle Clifford took home. I read [in the script] that I knew the depression was happening. I know this role is heavy. The weight is different, the wardrobe told me so.

Uncle Clifford is one of the few examples of a non-binary representation in the main series. Is the historicity of the character something you’ve been working on?

It all started when I acted and I understood that as a gay man, even when I was In my experience of marginalization, I also enjoyed certain freedoms. As [the actor] who played Uncle Clifford, I know that, but if I were Uncle Clifford in real life — a real-life non-binary person, they wouldn’t have the same freedom and luxury. When I felt and understood that, I knew there had to be a level of authenticity not only in the show but in my performance as well. I don’t want her to be a joke. I don’t want people to just be fascinated by fashion. I want people to really feel who she is and what she’s been through.

What should the entertainment industry do to stay away from P-Valley success, already renewed for a third season?

I hope this is a sign of dreaming big. Katori dares to dream big with a character like Uncle Clifford, and in doing so, I think she hits the jackpot. I know I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot because there’s no limit to where she can go. This is the space we all strive to be. Even Uncle Cliff is still fighting for all the freedoms she has.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in November Issue of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Click here to subscribe.



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