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The Most Fabulous TV Character Ever? Meet Nicco Annan, P-Valley’s Groundbreaking Uncle Clifford

The Most Fabulous TV Character Ever? Meet Nicco Annan, P-Valley’s Groundbreaking Uncle Clifford

It was over 10 years ago that Nathaniel Nicco Annan, who goes by Nicco, first read early pages for the play Pussy Valley by Katori Hall, the 2015 debut of which he would go on to star in at the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis. But it was only two weeks ago that Annan’s character, Uncle Clifford, made her fabulous screen debut in the groundbreaking drama series P-Valley, the adaptation of Hall’s play currently airing on Starz

She’s throwing a handsy patron out of her Dirty Delta strip club—a “shake junt,” as she calls it. A cop car’s red and blue lights dance uneasily on her red leather jacket and gold lamé pants. Uncle Clifford slaps open a hand fan and starts refreshing herself, the slight breeze jostling her dangle earrings. She shifts in her heels and stares down the cop, taking command of the situation. 

As she steps out of the shadows, you see more of her long brown hair, cascading in perfect waves down past her shoulders. Chic layers frame her dark, black beard, sculpted more so than groomed into sharp, elegant angles that climb up her cheekbones. An aggressive amount of highlighter competes there for attention with inches of fake eyelashes, which flutter as punctuation to every side-eye, sass, and bon mot.  

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Uncle Clifford, who uses she/her pronouns, is the non-binary, gender-fluid owner of the Pynk and the no-nonsense matron to the girls who dance there. She presents both masculine and feminine in equal, unapologetic measure, swanning through her club in luxurious couture and a face “beat for the gawds” while rooting herself with a fearsome, respected presence in the local business community. By last week’s episode two, Uncle Clifford finds herself in the most unexpected of situations: the nascent stages of a romantic relationship with a hypermasculine rapper.

One of the best-reviewed new series of the summer, P-Valley is already remarkable based on the talent involved. 

Not only is Hall the rare Black female showrunner of an hour-long drama, but every episode is helmed by a female director, placing an unmistakable and unwavering female gaze on the stories of sex workers. It is a noir melodrama that centers Southern Black women, both their realities and their vernacular, and doesn’t ask for the approval of white audiences. It brings stories typically relegated to shadow margins to the center stage spotlight. 

Since P-Valley’s premiere, viewers have ignited social media with praise for Annan’s work as Uncle Clifford, a character unlike any most have seen on TV before. The most validating thing about that, however, may be how many of those viewers say they recognize the Uncle Cliffords of their own lives in the character, the genderfluid unofficial mayors of their communities whose flamboyance and eccentricities, if not always understood, were accepted. 

Speaking to The Daily Beast from his home in Los Angeles, where he recently returned from New York City—he was performing Hall’s new play Hot Wing King off-Broadway when the pandemic shut down theaters—Annan is ecstatic. “The baby is born!” he sings into the phone, laughing. “And she’s a girl!”

Back in 2009, Hall invited Annan, through a mutual friend, to an artist collective called Black Mondays, a salon of sorts to discuss works in progress. The playwright had early pages for what would become Pussy Valley, and then P-Valley, including the introduction of a character who is in touch with both the masculine and feminine parts of themselves in ways that weren’t warring, but harmonious. 

Annan would soon understand how essential Hall’s stage directions would be to the full portrait she was creating. In the P-Valley premiere, for example, there’s a scene that anyone who watched immediately raved about. 

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