When viewers of the Starz drama series “P-Valley” first meet protagonist Mercedes, she has been a central figure at the Pynk Strip Club for years and plans to retire.
To tackle the role, Brandee Evans not only had to play a talented, strong and authoritative performer, but she also had to have the attitude of the “OG”, explains choreographer Jamaica Craft.
“You floss and throw yourself around the pole, doing amazingly gymnastic moves, and you’re confident when your legs open up, you’re confident when you pull your head back, all of those things,” says -it. . “I wanted Brandee to have the power when she moved – that ‘I’m here’ personality. She is the main superhero of this club.
Evans entered the show with extensive dance experience, which was important for the level of discipline the performer representing Mercedes was expected to have, Craft says. But Evans notes that “dancing on tour for Katy Perry or Snoop Dogg is a whole different world” than what the fictional Pynk club of “P-Valley” demanded.
“When you play with an artist, you already have a well-defined routine. With Mercedes, you have to change if the fans or customers don’t feel it. So part of it was freestyle, and for me it was about finding that confidence, ”she says.
Evans thanks Craft for helping her get comfortable on set and with her routines, noting that the choreographer also brought in real exotic dancers to work with her so she could “feel their vibe” . This was important not only for getting used to pole dancing, but also for more simply “walking around and touching your back without feeling any kind of path,” says Craft.
The fact that the show was written by a woman (playwright Katori Hall) with the aim of understanding these characters as real human beings, rather than objects, contributed to its narrative authenticity, as well as to the design of the dances so that the audience “could feel what we are feeling,” says Craft.
Two weeks before the cameras rolled over for the first season, Craft and Evans began working together to prepare for the show. Evans just says being in Georgia has helped her get into the right headspace in some ways because “that Southern style is not here in LA”
Craft says less was more when it came to their rehearsals.
“I actually cut out the rehearsals so that she wanted to try hard,” she says. “She was doing things like sending me a video at 2 am after I was done; she would take the stage and show me that she had the thing. It’s the Mercedes in her: when no one else is at the club, she’s at the top of the post figuring out how she’s going to drop.
The fall of Mercedes takes center stage from the premiere of the series. It was designed to be like no one else and took place in an area with “very, very high” ceilings, says Craft. It required a lot of strength in the “performer’s thighs and arms for you to do that turn around so you didn’t fall”, but it also required another level of courage.
“She takes more and more height after each take; she gets more than one performance with each. The skills that she has show up and the spontaneity that she has, she enjoys this challenge, ”said Craft of her collaboration with Evans. “If you are scared, I am not setting you in the trap because this is where injuries can occur. But Brandee has daredevils all over her.