EXCLUSIVE: Karrueche Tran Talks ‘Claws,’ Becoming Virginia & Bonding With Niecy Nash
TNT’s female-driven dramedy is about to take the television world by storm. Claws follows five manicurists at the Nail Artisan Salon in Manatee County, Fla., as they enter the traditionally male world of organized crime when they begin laundering money for a neighboring pain clinic. On the series, the vivacious Karrueche Tran stars as Virgina, a 20-something nail tech who is completely unapologetic about being exactly who she is.
With Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston, Jenn Lyon and Judy Reyes aboard as her co-stars and showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois at the helm, Claws is going to be full of shocks, surprises and a whole lot of fun.
EBONY.com recently caught up with Tran to talk about Claws, the best advice Nash has ever given her and why she adores Virgina.
JET: Hi, Karrueche. Thank you so much for speaking with me about Claws today.
Karrueche Tran: Yeah, thanks so much for having me.
JET: Of course. I just saw the first episode, which I absolutely adored, and I think it’s beautifully done.
KT: Thank you.
JET: Of course! So how did you snag your role as Virginia? How did you learn about the series?
KT: For me, it was just another audition that came in through my agency. I was actually supposed to self-tape for it, which is when you’re not in town, to go in person. You kind of record yourself on video and send it in. At the time, I was in Mykonos. I don’t know, I’ve never done this before, but something told me to ask to come in to do this instead of putting myself on tape. I always find that auditioning in person is much better. But then I asked my management to see if I could switch it. Luckily, I was able to do it when I got back to town. I auditioned for it, just like a regular audition. Then I got a network callback and then a studio callback. By the grace of God, I booked a job. Down the line, I found out that Niecy Nash, who I’ve met previously before, we weren’t super close or anything, but we met a few times. We’d seen each other at a party. She had actually referred me and threw my name in there.
JET: Oh wow.
KT: They had auditioned like 50 girls before me, and they were kind of still seeing who they liked. I guess they had time. They hadn’t really found the one yet. I found out that [Niecy Nash] was the one who put my name in; then they contacted my agency. It’s all a blessing how it happened, and I’m so happy to be a part of Claws. For me, Virginia as a character is so interesting. I’m still growing my acting career. I’ve played the girlfriend. I’ve played the wife, the girl next door, those types of roles. I was really interested in digging deep and creating and really having fun with this character.
JET: Definitely. Virginia is so her own person, which is what I love about her. I also love that she’s so unbothered, and just boss, and bored all the time. Are you channeling anyone specifically to play Virginia? Where did you get your inspiration to play her from?
KT: I don’t know; [I] created this girl in my head. Once we started doing fittings, and I wear a blond wig. Once I had the hair on, and the nails done, and the outfit, it made me more connected to the character.
KT: And my choices, the way I talk, the way I move my hands, all of that came into place. I also, right before we started shooting, I spent about a week in Atlanta at the strip clubs.
JET: Oh wow.
KT: Yeah. Virginia comes from the strip clubs. I’ve been to strip clubs before to have fun. It was more the setting and just watching these girls; the way they move, the way they look and talk to guys, and their choices and all that. So I kept all that in mind.
JET: Looking at your Instagram, you and Niecy Nash have gotten to be so close, and she’s such a sweetheart. You’re working with these powerhouses from Janine to Niecy, and all these different women on this show. What is the best advice that Niecy Nash has given you as an up-and-coming actress at this point?
KT: Yeah. One thing Niecy always says is to trust your gift. We’ve had conversations about me being a new actress. And you know, being nervous or getting anxiety being on set and being alongside her and Carrie Preston and Judy Reyes and Jenn Lyon, who are all seasoned, great actors. They’ve done so well, and sometimes it’s nerve-racking. It’s a lot for me because I’m rolling with the big dogs. I can’t look like the weak one. I have to stay right up there with them. So she’s always told me to trust my gift, my talent and my instruments, and whatever is within me to let my guard down, or my nerves down. And just let God do his work, and just let it come out of you.
JET: Wonderful. So let’s talk about the actual nails themselves because the nails in this series are gorgeous. Do you all get different nails for each episode? How does that work? I know that must be a lot of maintenance to keep up with just on the costuming side of things? How does that work? Are they press-ons? Do you guys have manicurists on set?
KT: Yeah, we have a manicurist on set because we have so much that we’re shooting… . You know, we are shooting 10 episodes in five-six months, which is a lot.
JET: Oh wow.
KT: Yeah, we have so many nail switches. We use press-on nails on set that they tape on. So we are able to change for different scenes. Our nails … we don’t necessarily choose. If it’s something that we totally hate, then we’ll switch it up.
JET: Got it.
KT: They have a head manicurist, head nail tech on set; she creates a lot. They actually have a few other nail technicians that they work with. There’s different girls that paint them, which gives it a lot of flavor for this show. They always make sure to take care of our characters. Virginia always has long, loud chains and rings on her nails. Niecy always has a nice, sharp stiletto, finely polished with some jewels. It’s a lot of fun. Again, it helps me get more into character when I have my nails on.
JET: Another thing that I love about Claws is that it’s a female-led dramedy, which is so intriguing because you never see anything like that on TV. Is that another reason you really wanted to be involved with this show?
KT: Yeah! Most shows or series, when it comes to crime and drugs, are mostly male-driven or male-based. It’s the men that are running it and the men that are doing all these things. Opposed to this show, it’s like these women are just as badass, you know? Not only are they badass, but they’re also human. Each woman is so uniquely different. They each have a story to tell, and they’re all relatable. That’s what I love the most is that they’re human, they have emotions, and the audience and the viewers will be able to relate. You know when you watch Orange Is the New Black or Sex and the City, you have the girl that’s like you and that you like. It’s kinda like the same thing; you’ll have your girl that you’ll be attached to, that you’ll want to win.
JET: Wonderful. Well speaking of television, there are so many amazing things out right now. I don’t even know if you have time to watch TV but is there anything that you’re obsessed with right now?
KT: Right now, to be honest, I don’t watch too much TV. And I should be, but with just scheduling and traveling and working, I never have the time to really sit down and follow a TV show. I actually started to watch Star, which I had never watched before.
JET: Oh yeah, Lee Daniels’ series.
KT: Yeah, and I actually really liked it.
JET: Wonderful. So I know that you started your career as a stylist. You always look so fashionable and so put together. Since summer’s coming, are there any go-to products or must-haves that you love and never leave home without when you’re traveling, when you’re on set?
KT: As far as clothes, I’m not too sure. When it comes to traveling and going to set, I always have my face products. I have a refreshing facial mist spray. I keep deodorant. I keep baby wipes.
JET: All the important stuff.
KT: Moisturizer. Yeah, just in case you have a sweaty day or you need to change your clothes. You never know what’s gonna happen. I always make sure I keep my essentials—a toothbrush, all that stuff with me. I like to be a clean girl.
JET: Definitely. Thank you so much, Karrueche, for taking the time to speak with me. I’m really excited for you, and I’m so excited for Claws. It’s amazing, and it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity to keep soaring.
KT: Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Claws debuts Sunday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.
Photo Credit: Getty/Emma McIntyre