Evan Daigle ‘Claws’ his way into the big time with his first TV role

Evan Daigle stars in “Claws,” the TNT show based on a Manatee County nail salon.
Evan Daigle stars in “Claws,” the TNT show based on a Manatee County nail salon. Publicity photo

The way Evan Daigle figured it, once he left college he’d audition for everything he could, land some theater and indie film roles here and there, and after about five years maybe he could start making a living as an actor.

That’s not the way it worked out.

Daigle had never acted at all until he took an acting class at Loyola University a little over three years ago. He got a small film role, then auditioned for a character named Toby in the pilot of a series called “Claws.”

“It was supposed to be a one-time co-starring role,” Daigle said in an interview with the Bradenton Herald. “But the producers and the writers and the show-runners decided to make it a regular character, and now I’m in nine of the 10 episodes of the first season.”

Unless you’re paying especially close attention to “Claws,” the comedy-drama series that is set mostly in Manatee and Sarasota counties, you may not know who Toby is. It’s been a small part so far. Toby is the boyfriend of Dean Norris’ character, Uncle Daddy. Daigle can’t say too much, but he allows that very soon Toby will assume a much more central role in the story arc.

(Claws airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on TNT.)

He was talking from his home in Louisiana, where he has lived his whole life and where “Claws” is primarily filmed. It was Tuesday, his day off, and a tropical storm was taking aim at the New Orleans area.

“It’s not too bad now, just a lot of rain,” he said. “But it caused some problems for the production. We had a lot of outside scenes to shoot this week.”

The problems won’t be evident to viewers, he said. It just meant a lot of people’s schedules had to be adjusted.

Toby is not the only relatively minor character who will see more action in the coming weeks, Daigle said. Polly (Carrie Preston) and Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes) haven’t had too much to do so far, but they’ll soon be more integrated into the story, he said. So will Dean (Harold Perrineau), the autistic brother of lead character Desna.

“The writers have found a way to bring these characters into the story arc that’s quite brilliant,” he said.

Before he was cast in “Claws,” Daigle said, he thought he had a pretty good idea of what acting in a TV series would be like. One of his mentors was Ann Mahoney, who played Olivia on “The Walking Dead.”

“She was really open about what it was like working on a series,” Daigle said.

But there have been some surprises. For one thing, he said, the quality of the ensemble cast (which also includes Niecy Nash, Karrueche Tran and Jenn Lyon) has made his job easier. Being surrounded by some of the best pros in the business lets him be more relaxed and natural in his role, which makes his performance better.

So far, “Claws” looks to be a hit. Each of the first two episodes that have aired so far have drawn about 1.2 million viewers. That’s a healthy number for a cable TV series, and it’s significant that the number of viewers didn’t drop from week one to week two. People who watched the show seem to be sticking with it.

The show’s producers recently filed paperwork in Louisiana to film a second season there. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a second season is a sure thing, Daigle said.

“From what I understand, producers will sometimes file the paperwork so that they can get the tax write-off,” he said. “So there’s no official word yet, but all signs are good.”

Although a second season isn’t for sure yet, people involved with the show are talking about it, and Daigle said he’s heard they might be filming more extensively in Manatee County next season. (Although the show is primarily set here, tax incentives in Louisiana, and the dearth of such incentives here, led producers to film in the New Orleans area.)

For the remainder of the first season, Daigle said, the story and writing will just keep getting better as the show finds its groove. So although nothing is certain in show biz, he’s reasonably confident that the show’s sizable fan base will remain with the show.

“I think as the season goes on, we really hit our tone,” he said. “And I think audiences will be more than willing to come along with us on this wild ride.”

Marty Clear: 941-708-7919, @martinclear