Just about everyone has had a classy aunt who loved to step into the night life, take cruises by herself and religiously get her nails done at the small-town salon where the manicurists and customers can really dish the dirt.
For Eliot Laurence, who wrote the script for the hour-long dramatic comedy series, “Claws,” set in a Palmetto nail salon and scheduled to debut on TNT this summer, the classy aunt who inspired “Claws” was his very own Aunt Victoria Hall of New York, who passed away last year.
“She taught me everything I know about humor,” Laurence said of Aunt Vicky, for whom the show featuring five diverse and treacherous Palmetto manicurists, is dedicated. “Vicky loved getting her nails done, and she would love this show. She would absolutely love this show.”
On Monday afternoon, Laurence, who was born in Detroit, grew up in Virginia and now shuttles between Los Angeles and New York, found himself on a section of Lido Beach in Sarasota, almost directly west of St. Armand’s Circle.
He was there to help a TNT crew, which has already shot for the pilot and the first two episodes of “Claws,” make sure the tone of the show stays consistent.
The crew, which does the bulk of the shooting for the series in New Orleans, had set up under a black tent Monday for a beach shot.
“Right now, we are doing a scene from Episode 3 where the main characters are doing a little workout at the beach and one of them gets upset and goes off on his own,” Laurence said as a half-dozen extras and stars worked together on the beach. “They have to go find him, and they find him at a turtle nesting area.”
Laurence and the crew will be in the Sarasota and Manatee area shooting for about 10 days on this trip and may come back again, Laurence said.
Powerful, funny, intense and emotional
If Aunt Vicky is anything like the women in “Claws,” she was powerful and funny, but also very intense and emotional.
“It’s about a group of women who run a nail salon in Palmetto,” Laurence said when asked to describe the basic plot.
“They launder money for a barely legal pill mill that’s just raking in so much money,” Laurence added. “They are at the same mall as the pill mill. The guys who run the pill mill have asked the ladies to launder some of the profits. Nail salons and strip clubs and laundromats are very handy for laundering money because it’s usually a cash business, so the ladies are taking care of the money for these guys and, without giving too much of the story away, they are sort of going to band together and take power for themselves.
“It’s a female empowerment piece but very dark and funny, too,” Laurence added.
The show has at least one more local connection besides being shot in Sarasota.
Manatee County’s Ryland Jones, 29, who graduated from Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto in 2005, is the dailies supervisor for Picture Shop, which is doing TNT’s post production work on “Claws.”
“It’s definitely cool to see a show based in your hometown,” Jones said Monday from Los Angeles, where he is synching the audio from “Claws” and getting the digital footage into editing software. “When my company got this and I found out it was the story of a nail salon in Palmetto, I wondered what prompted that setting.”
“I like the name Manatee and, honestly, I like manatees,” Laurence said when asked how he came up with Manatee County as the setting for “Claws.”
Laurence said the cast has made his job easy.
“They’re incredible,” Laurence said. “Niecy Nash (“Clean House” “Reno 911!”) is the star with Carrie Preston (“True Blood” and “The Good Wife”), Judy Reyes (“Devious Maids”) and Karrueche Tran (“The Bay”), Jennifer Lyon and the supporting cast is incredible, too.”