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Judy Reyes on Playing a Quietly Tough Lesbian Security Guard

How the actress developed her soft-spoken queer character. 

There is a hell of a lot going on in TNT’s comedy Claws. A nail salon that functions as a money laundering operation for the Dixie Mafia, which is headed by a bisexual strip club owner in Florida, is ripe for plot twists. And while the season finale, which aired Sunday, didn’t fall short on that end (Virginia, played by Tinashe, certainly played a big role) the show’s lasting impact is the story’s diversity.

“When I read this spectacular script with these five women, who were so real and so confident, I [knew I] had to be a part,” actress Judy Reyes, who plays the show’s Quiet Ann, said. Ann, a mostly quiet but intimidating lesbian who represents the “muscle” of the salon, is one of many queer characters featured on Claws.

At the beginning of the series, Ann has very few lines, but she doesn’t need them. “When we did the first table read, Anne said a lot,” Reyes said. “Neicey would ask what I thought and I would say, ‘She’s talking too much.’ As much as I, the actor, would love to say shit all day long, it wasn’t right for the character.” But Ann’s presence was known, sitting outside the salon, either keeping an eye out for danger or occasionally kicking off a lip-sync session. As situations become dire over the course of the show, Ann becomes a bit more talkative.

While Claws was in the process of developing characters, Reyes said Anne was originally written as a large figure. But this didn’t make sense to the actress. “I had to rebrand that into an inner toughness and quality that was intimidating,” she said, citing people she knew personally as inspiration in order to bring authenticity to the role. One in particular stood out.

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“The first real hardcore lesbian I remember working with was at my first job as a cashier in a 99 cent store when I was growing up,” Reyes said. “She was the right-hand to the owners and all of 100 pounds, but she was the toughest, cutest little fucking thing. She was adorable and I remember her vividly.” That description could just as easily be one of Ann on screen and that realness was significant, particularly as some may believe the role of a queer Latina character should go to a queer Latina. But Reyes hasn’t received negative feedback thus far.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s such a fucking relief,” she said. “It’s so great that it’s been positive because you don’t want to take roles away from queer people. I don’t want white people to be portraying latinos. For it to be well received meant that I went in there well prepared.

Claws has been renewed for a second season to air in 2018.

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