Interview: ‘Claws’ creator Eliot Laurence talks love of weird Florida, going full female gangster in new series
Claws creator Eliot Laurence aims to go ‘full female Scarface' by the end of the Florida-set drama's first season.
"The goal is to have Desna go full Versace, full female gangster," he said in a recent phone interview while wrapping up production. "All in this crazy, wonderful setting of Florida."
The new series, premiering Sunday on TNT, stars Niecy Nash as Desna, the fierce, hardworking owner of Nail Artisan of Manatee County in Palmetto. She and her employees Jen (Jenny Lyon), Polly (Carrie Preston) and Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes) use the nail salon as a money laundering facility to the huge sums of cash coming out of a barely legal pain clinic next door. All Desna wants is to get her and her girls out of the strip mall and into a swankier location in Sarasota, but that takes quite a lot of cash.
The first few episodes see Desna and her crew dealing with all the consequences that come with the business of selling pain pills to addicts and laundering the proceeds through a strip mall nail salon. There are plenty of guns, a little bit of murder and over-the-top finger confections that never seem to chip.
And, according to Laurence, Claws is only going to get crazier.
"It's all about the rise of these five women in the traditionally male world of organized crime," he said. "At the end of the (first) season, there's a major power shift from patriarchal to matriarchal."
The series is excessive, absurd and showcases Florida's wild side with frequent shots of cheesy beachside villas, food shacks selling BIG SHRIMPS and even a little bit of alligator wrestling.
Laurence said his numerous trips to the area and discovery of Florida's bounty of beachy crime fiction spawned the idea for Claws.
"I visited Sarasota a ton with my mom and fell in love with the area," he said. "Then I stumbled upon the Florida noir literary genre like that of (authors) Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry."
He said his goal was to blend absurd comedy with crime and violence. That's comically easy to do in a setting like Florida, where just last week a Polk County man attempted to steal 15 quarts of oil and 30 DVDs by stuffing them down his pants. And on Monday, a boy in Orlando thought he was paying 25 cents for a vending machine toy, but got cocaine instead.
"There's a specific kind of madness that feels so Florida," Laurence said. "We wanted to bring that unique craziness to the show."
And while most of the series is filmed in New Orleans, Laurence and his crew made a few trips to Sarasota for filming scenes such as thuggish boy toy Roller's glitzy waterfront mansion.
"You'll recognize some of the beaches like Lido Beach, and St. Armand's Circle where we put the dream salon that Desna wants," he said. "We also filmed at The Ringling (for episode four), which was incredible."
Laurence clearly has a love for weird Florida, and it shows in his depiction of the state's scrappy residents, beachy nostalgia and affinity for the outlandish.
Claws may get bit dark and bend the truth when it comes to exploring organized crime and pill mills, but locals can still get giddy about seeing their hometown on the small screen.
"I have to say, the news stories that come out of Florida, I don't understand how it quite happens," Laurence said. "Whenever I have a bad day I just pull up some of them. They're so incredible to me."
Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.
Claws premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on TNT.