'P-Valley' Star Nicco Annan on Image, Spirit Award Noms and What It Means to Feel Seen (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
When P-Valley premiered last summer on Starz, it not only tapped into the zeitgeist with its depiction of Southern strip club culture, it also produced a breakout star by the name of Nicco Annan. On the series, the actor plays Uncle Clifford, the eccentric, non-binary owner and fierce protector of The Pynk. While speaking with ET, Annan opened up about bringing the character to life onscreen, his much-deserved nominations for a NAACP Image Award and Independent Spirit Award, and what it means to feel seen.
When it comes specifically to the Spirit Award nomination for Best Male Performance in a New Scripted Series, Annan says, “I feel like, ‘Wow. You saw it. Like, you saw the hunger, you saw the fight.’” He adds, “It feels amazing. It feels like, ‘Yes, you see me. You see the work. You see the stories of these women.’”
As for the series’ nominations for the NAACP Image Awards, including Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for his performance, and GLAAD Media Awards, “It’s like, ‘OK. So, people are feeling seen,” the actor says. “There are so many community groups within the culture that are just feeling recognized.”
It’s not hard to see why. Characters like Uncle Clifford aren’t a farce. They are real and layered and an important part of the series. So much so that Annan says he’s heard from the likes of Alex Newell, Miss Lawrence and even Lee Daniels, all celebrating his performance. “I have heard from the community and the support is real and the love is real and I’m grateful,” he adds.
Created by Katori Hall, P-Valley is based on her own stage play, which eventually served as the foundation for the series. Among the original characters to be adapted for the screen is Uncle Clifford, who uses she/her pronouns and was inspired by Hall’s own family. “Uncle Clifford feels so real because she’s based on three living ancestors in my life: my mom, my dad and my real Uncle Clifford,” she says. “None of them are queer, but all three of them have this nurturing side of them but they’re also tough as nails.”
Annan originated the role onstage in 2015 before being asked to audition to reprise the role onscreen. Because of all that time in Uncle Clifford’s head, the actor knows the character inside and out, with the TV adaptation providing a wealth of opportunity to expand who she can be.
While excited to bring her and this particular southern Black experience to a wider audience, Annan also worked with Hall to make sure they get to see Uncle Clifford in “love on multiple levels in terms of romance, family and how the gender fluid community intersects with the cis, heterosexual community,” he says.
That also included in a sexual and romantic relationship with Lil Murda (J. Alphonse Nicholson). “Some characters that are on the LGBTQ plus spectrum, they are not always a fully fleshed out human being in the story,” Annan says. Whereas in P-Valley, audiences “get to go home with Clifford, get to see her full life.”
Renewed for a second season halfway through its debut, season 1 ends in a precarious state for Uncle Clifford, who throws Lil Murda out after he uses homophobic slurs and is dismissive of her in front of others at The Pynk, which was put up for public auction.
Looking ahead to season 2, Annan says that Clifford will have to come to terms with having a new partner, Hailey (Elarica Johnson), who won the auction, after spending so much “emotional angst” trying to save the club from outside proprietors. “It’s going to be very interesting to see how that relationship continues,” he adds.
As for Uncle Clifford’s romantic life, Annan says, “Everybody needs love. And I think that that’s a part of what gave Clifford the energy or the strength to endure another day.” Whether that’s with Lil Murda or not remains to be seen.
“That part I’m waiting to find out myself,” the actor says, revealing that he hasn’t read any scripts yet. However, the show is slowly getting back into production. “I anticipate being back to work when it’s good and hot.”
And when it comes to all the attention and recognition, “I am like a kid in a candy store,” Annan says, adding “for such a bold character and such a bold world to be embraced in a bold way, it feels like a change... It feels like, ‘Oh, this is why I waited. This is why this did not happen 10 years ago because the time is right now.”