'P-Valley' Cast Breaks Down Big Teak's Tragic Episode in Season 2 (Exclusive)

John Clarence Stewart and J. Alphonse Nicholson talk to ET about season 2's most unexpected episode yet.

While there’s been no shortage of drama on P-Valley, season 2 just debuted its most shocking episode yet. Written by creator Katori Hall and co-executive producer Nicole Jefferson Asher and directed by Melanie Mayron, “Savage” sees Lil’ Murda and Big Teak’s relationship pushed to its limit before ending with an unexpected, emotional punch to the gut. 

Through conversations with ET, J. Alphonse Nicholson and John Clarence Stewart break down this week’s powerful episode, reveal what it has been like working together this season and push back on homophobic criticism of their characters’ groundbreaking relationship. 

[Warning: Spoilers for P-Valley season 2, episode 6: “Savage.”]


While Andre (Parker Sawyers) continued to move forward with his mayoral campaign -- much to the chagrin of Autumn (Elarica Johnson) and Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan) -- and Mercedes (Brandee Evans) found herself further entangled with things in Memphis, it was the relationship between Murda (Nicholson) and Teak (Stewart) that took centerstage this week. 

Things started off strong as the two celebrated the release of Murda’s new song with Tina Snow (aka Megan Thee Stallion), but their momentary bliss is eventually shattered when Murda realizes Teak has been preparing to take his own life. And by the end of the episode, the two spend time together as Murda tries to talk Teak out of killing himself. 

Sadly, however, Teak goes through with it, shooting himself in front of Murda. And the episode ends with the bloodied and stunned rapper at Clifford’s doorstep, where he gets consoled by his ex-lover.  

While both actors were aware from the beginning that Teak’s arc would end at some point before the end of season 2, neither of them knew exactly how his story would conclude. It wasn’t until they got the script for “Savage,” that they learned about Teak’s fate, leaving both men in tears.

“When I read 206, I cried,” Alphonse reveals. “I was sitting in a Barnes & Noble with my daughter and my wife. And we were looking for some books and I happened to read the script and I remember it brought me to tears, man. Right there in Barnes & Noble. Then I called Katori and I said, ‘Wow, this is a journey.’”

“I bawled,” Stewart says of reading the episode, explaining that “it’s a wonderfully heartbreaking, complex examination of depression and a man that doesn’t have the tools to be in the world that he’s been reintroduced to.” 

Despite being released from prison, Teak found himself overwhelmed with pain and anger and ultimately unable to cope with the pandemic and the ongoing social injustice, as well as his deep childhood traumas, which includes seeing his mother murder his siblings when he seven years old.

“He’s just a really sensitive, poor soul in a world that wasn't made for him,” Stewart says, explaining that Teak was struggling to survive.  

After Teak shares what he’s gone through to Murda, the two sit on the hood of the car as they rap Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean.” The sweet moment was indicative of the caring, intimate relationship the two formed over the past few episodes.

The song choice, it turns out, was improvised by Nicholson. “I’m a drummer and Katori said, ‘Come up with something you all would be rapping.’ And I just thought that was the perfect song,” he says, explaining that in that moment, “it just felt right.” 

The sequence, which ends with the two in the car where Teak kills himself, was Stewart’s last day on set. “So, you felt that energy,” Nicholson says. “We shot those things in order. We shot the top of the hood first and then we moved into the car. And so, it felt very real. The emotions that you see on screen, we were breathing and believing it.” 

He adds, “It felt so real in the moment.” 

“The scene is -- it’s just special,” Stewart says. “There’s these two men and the journey they go through in that scene from ‘So Fresh, So Clean’ to the end, it’s an exquisite and epic journey in the span of that scene. We tried not to overplay the hand or skip any beats, but just live in the moment and tell the truth. As Alphonse would say, ‘Breathe and believe.’ And I believe we did that.”


Stewart then goes on to credit his co-star for being “an incredibly present, generous” performer. “The magic that happens between the two, you know, it takes two people pinging the ball back and forth. And there was no better actor to do that with than J. Alphonse,” he says. 

Echoing his sentiment, Nicholson says he was happy that he could share this with Stewart. “I knew he was going to bring his A-game, but once we got into it and started getting the scripts and reading what it was that we were gonna have to share and the time that we were gonna have to share on the screen, we realized that we were gonna make history together,” he says. 

“That meant a lot to both of us. He’s now a great colleague, a friend of mine, and I’m grateful that I could make history with such a talented brother,” he continues, revealing that after shooting their final scenes together, “We could smile and release that energy and hug each other and celebrate the wrap of John Stewart.”

While Teak’s suicide cuts short the romance between him and Murda, both actors say the relationship was deeply meaningful for both characters. 

“For Teak, specifically, Murda is one of the only safe places he’s ever had,” Stewart says, explaining that from the time they were incarcerated together, they formed a special bond. “In [episodes] four through six, we get to see this connection. We get to see this intimacy that they have, which is beautiful in my opinion. It’s beautiful and vulnerable and for Teak, this echoes back to the safety that he experienced when they were initially together.” 

“Their relationship is so complex. It’s a relationship that we haven’t seen on screen before, and it’s purely genuine,” Nicholson says. “Their anger is genuine. Their love is genuine. Their longing for different things they want, not only in each other but in their personal lives, is very genuine.” 

He adds that “by the time we get to [this episode], you see them sit in all of those elements and all of those parts of their relationship and friendship and brotherhood. And then, unfortunately, it comes to a tragic end.”

Unfortunately, there has been some fan backlash to the onscreen relationship, with co-executive producer Patrik-Ian Polk calling out the homophobic responses. “The gay ain’t goin’ nowhere,” he wrote on Twitter last month, adding later that anyone feeling “triggered” by gay sex scenes or Murda and Teak's romance should “do the work; look inward.”

“I knew prior to doing the scene that we were gonna make history,” Nicholson says, specifically referring to Teak and Murda’s sex scene in episode four. “I just didn’t know what that wave was gonna feel. But I was prepared for it… And so, I’ve just chosen to take in the love as much as I can.” That said, he “still gets surprised by the backlash that comes from certain people and people you don’t expect.”

Stewart, meanwhile, says that he doesn’t “condone any phobic speech or rhetoric or hate of any kind.” But instead of focusing on the backlash, he has pivoted his focus “on the people who this was made for,” the actor says. “The people for whom this was made, from what I’ve received, have felt so seen and considered. And that scene, that moment, was for them.” 

Ultimately, for the actor, “the work speaks for itself,” he says. “I think that what we have is an incredibly intimate scene on the back of devastating trauma and a way that Black men comfort one another and love one another in the midst of the hurricane. And that's everything.”


As real as that relationship was between Tweak and Murda, things are just as passionate and intense between Murda and Uncle Clifford, who finally reunite at the end of the episode. And Nicholson couldn’t be more excited to see them back together, even if it’s due to such tragic circumstances. 

“For Lil’ Murda, it was a life changing experience,” he says. “You know, we lost Teak, who [the audience] have started to understand by the end of episode six. You understand his anger and where he’s coming from and then you lose him immediately, you know? So, it’s very bittersweet, because we lost him, but then people have just been craving for Uncle Cliff and Lil’ Murda.” 

“To see them come back together is a beautiful moment,” the actor continues. “Obviously, they’re coming back together on such devastating terms, but I think the audience, ‘The Pynk Posse,’ as we like to say, has been waiting for that.”

Nicholson ends by teasing that the two pick back up on that relationship started in season 1 as they “venture into different lanes of their mindset and their understanding of who they are as a couple and who they are as individuals… I can’t wait for people to see it.” 

P-Valley season 2 airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.