There’s one big reason rookie showrunner Katori Hall chose the world of strip clubs for “P-Valley,” her new Starz series premiering Sunday at 8 p.m.
“It’s a space that has been done wrong in so many different ways,” Hall, 39, tells The Post. “I think about the strip club in ‘The Sopranos’. Oftentimes you had Tony sitting in the front, and women are in the back. All you see is their body or their legs and you don’t even see their faces.
“So, because we are always entering our story from the perspective of the women, we really were walking in a woman’s high-heeled platform shoes though this world.”
“P-Valley” is an ensemble drama set at Pynk, a strip club in the fictional town of Chucalissa, Miss. The various clashing personalities there include new girl Autumn (Elarica Johnson, “A Discovery of Witches”), who’s fleeing from a mysterious past; veteran Mercedes (Brandee Evans, “Lethal Weapon”), the club’s star who’s preparing to leave; flamboyant Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan, “This is Us”), who runs the show; and Miss Mississippi (Shannon Thornton, “Dynasty”), who’s fleeing domestic abuse.
“The dancing that arose out of these spaces has been appropriated by mainstream culture — that’s why we have J-Lo on a pole during the Superbowl,” says Hall. “Our show is in conversation with a new line of stories that have been helmed by women, written by women [and] that show a complicated version of what strip club culture is like — [and] laying down the different types of people who participate in this sometimes very exploitative world.”
Katori HallGetty Images
It’s also part of an initiative from Starz to focus on women’s stories in front of and behind the camera that’s resulted in 11 of its 16 current showrunners being women. Much like HBO’s “The Deuce,” which was set in the porn industry, “P-Valley” is both a portrait of its various characters — their struggles and home lives both in and out of the club — and a look at an oft-misunderstood setting.
The series began its life as a play, written by Hall, that opened in Minneapolis in 2015. Hall’s credits as a veteran playwright include Broadway’s “The Mountaintop,” which co-starred Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett in 2011, but It soon became clear to her that “P-Valley” should be her first jump from the stage to the small screen.
“I grew up down South,” says the Memphis-born Hall, who currently lives in New York. “And I actually visited strip clubs all the time. I would say it’s part of your coming-of-age experience as a black woman now, where you go to birthday parties at strip clubs or you want to hang out with friends, bachelorette parties, bachelor parties. The women [in the clubs] are like heroes — fierce, flexible.
“You grow up appreciating the women not always for how they look, but also for what their bodies can do,”she says. “I started researching the craft of pole dancing and started talking to a lot of women who dance at clubs from New York City to Atlanta to LA. And all of that research culminated in a play…When I saw it up on the stage, I was like, ‘This three-hour-long sprawling, 25-lead play is actually a TV show!’”
Unlike other shows and movies that feature similar settings, almost everyone behind the camera in “P-Valley” is a woman. All eight episodes of the hour-long drama have female directors.
“I was really interested in interpreters who understood the female gaze. I gravitated towards artists who understood the historical representation of the female body in media,” Hall says. “We felt as though we were creating a new space and carving out new real estate.
“There aren’t a lot of black female showrunners out there — particularly in the premium cable space,” she says. “So I count myself really blessed to have been given that opportunity and I hope I can keep on doing it.”