The most popular club on the planet right now is The Pynk, a fictional strip joint that is the talk and central focus of Chucalissa, Mississippi on STARZ’s break out series P-Valley. The series has amassed a loyal fan base throughout its current seven episodes, with the eighth and final of the inaugural season set to make for an explosive scene inside The Pynk.
The events of the last episode will surely cross your timelines this weekend as fans are excited to head to The Pynk one more time and even vowing to save the club, which in the storyline is set for foreclosure. The Pynk is driven by some of the most unique characters to have graced television in years, which have landed in the hearts of viewers. One of those is Keyshawn a.k.a. Ms. Mississippi, masterfully portrayed by rising star Shannon Thornton.
Ms. Mississippi’s rise to the top has been chronicled through the season and her ascension was stamped when she bodied a performance in the premiere dancing spot on one of the club’s biggest nights. Her trademark arrival call of spelling out her name has echoed through the club over the hardest of southern rap singles and social media timelines ever since.
Ahead of the season-closing night at The Pynk, Ms. Thornton reflected on the two-year road to the airing of P-Valley, her role as Keyshawn/Ms. Mississippi, her hopes for the character in the future, and more.
This interview is available in text and video below
The SOURCE: A lot of us were introduced to you as Quinn Phillips on Power, now Keyshawn is here and becoming a fan favorite. There are so many characters to love on this show. Did you expect the star of miss Mississippi to take off as it has?
Shannon Thornton: When I read this script, I definitely thought people are going to love this show. And this is something unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. I knew that people were really going to love it, but I didn’t know how much and how big this would be. People are sending me DMS with like pictures of me and pictures of them, like side by side, doing their makeup like Ms. Mississippi’s and their hair. And it’s just really, really cool. People have been sending me videos dancing. You know, it’s crazy. But you just, you can’t really anticipate something, this huge.
Power and P-Valley are on the same network. Was that, was that the link that introduced you to this opportunity?
I don’t think so. I think maybe, um, as an actor, you know, every booking kind of leads to the next one and it makes it a little easier for you to get into certain rooms. You’re more visible. I think the Power job was definitely a coincidence and in the audition, Katori [Hall, P-Valley creator] did ask me to give her some tea on Power. She was like, “So what happens next?!” But I love, I actually love Starz. I was a huge power fan before I even got the audition. So it’s just really cool that it worked out this way.
You mentioned that relationship with Katori and you also mentioned reading the script. What was it like meeting her, but also seeing this product of her mind?
Katori is so just genius. And for me, I compare her work to that of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, but just really brilliant American playwrights. So when you get to meet someone, I didn’t get a chance to meet like James Baldwin so when you get to meet Katori Hall you just don’t expect her personality to be super bright and bubbly. And I remember she really put me at ease during the audition, and I remember she wanted to do it again, another take and she’s like, “yeah, we gon do that one mo gin” like another time I was kinda nervous. So I didn’t understand. I’m like, Oh, my bad. She just said was really, really cool.
This show is becoming one of those cultural moments where everybody’s gravitating around it. People are sending out tweets talking about we going to The Pynk tonight and like you are saying, you get a DMS about everything just on a personal level. What does this moment feel like? Just to be that show that’s taking over the world at the moment.
It’s really surreal. And at times it can be overwhelming. We, the cast, we have a group chat. So I remember finding out that Toni Braxton watches P-Valley, and the first time I freaked out. Cause there are other celebrities who will like to post something or tag me or say something about P-Valley. And I was like, oh, that’s really cool. But Toni Braxton did and a few people in the cast who were like freaking out about that, but it’s just nice that we have each other because these people have, we’ve all been through it together for about two years, the process. So I’m glad that we have each other in those moments to kind of keep each other grounded, to reassure each other. Like this is actually real. This is happening.
In your character, there’s a ton of complexities. At one point Keyshawn is a hell of an onstage performer. Then another moment she’s shy and trying to figure out what’s going on. And then another moment she’s a little vulnerable and scared because of her at home situation. How do you prepare to evoke all of those emotions in one person?
Keystone is not shy. Like if you see if you really see her on go, she’s not, you can’t go from shy to – no, because she’s the company. And also all of that, that stuff that she does on Instagram, she really loves the spotlight. But we’re all complex. We’re all not one dimensional as human beings. And I felt that one of her when she’s, she’s in an abusive relationship and she kind of just, you know, recoils, that’s just as important as her when the spotlight is on her. And she is this big right star and nobody can stop her. Those two things are just as important. And it was important for me as an artist to really display how complex this woman is, how resilient she is. I think people confuse her self doubt and her uncertainty of whether or not she’s worthy of success and of having something good in her life with being shy. And I really just think it’s also a result of the abuse and the manipulation. I think her boyfriend’s definitely gotten control of her mind but you definitely see this sparkle in her eye and this little glimmer of hope that she can really just take off if she gets out of her own way.
For sure, you said that you were working on this for two years before we got to this moment, how did you prepare physically for this? Like, I’m not sure how extensive your background is with any type of dance in choreography or anything. So how did you prepare on that side?
As soon as we found out that we were getting picked up to series, we had been sent to what I call stripper boot camp. So, I want to say five months, we had trainers, we had trained with actual pole dancers who were doing pole work for that long. And then once we flew out to Atlanta to film for another five months, we were training throughout. So for almost a year were doing it. And it was almost every single day when we weren’t on set.
You mentioned this road of two years and everybody rising together, on-screen and off The Pynk is basically a family. I saw a clip before the show premiered and I think it was like your launch party or something. And everybody was just having a good time. How long did it take for that synergy to come together and gel?
That was instant that happened. And it was so crazy, like meeting everyone when we had shot…we shot the pilot two years ago in 2018, it was untitled. We didn’t get where it would go and we reshot it, maybe in September. I think November we got picked up, our future was kind of up in the air. We had no idea. We had a really strong feeling that it would get picked up, but we didn’t know. But as soon as we met everybody just jelled and we just want us to be around each other all the time. So when we weren’t filming, we were hanging out, we were eating, we’re going to strip clubs together. We were so close and we had a really beautiful moment that I will never forget. And I’m sure a few of my castmates will never forget on the rooftop of the hotel that we were staying at. Like just having a strong feeling that our lives are going to change forever.
During that run, did you run into a favorite strip club of yours?
Magic City, Atlanta.
Strip club capital of the world. On-screen lately, we’ve been getting a lot of Keyshawn and Lil Murda. From the knowledge of yourself and also of the actor who portrays Lil Murda, J. Alphonse Nicholson, how much of both characters are present within yourself?
You definitely see a lot for me. You see a lot of my humor that I have put into Keyshawn’s bail bondsmen scene when we’re like cursing them out at the end and like kind of trashing his place that was improvised. And that was me. I was like, I think it would be really funny if I just start typing on a calculator and I’ll shake out one paper clip and I’ll call him a couple bitches. But that, her sense of humor is definitely we share that in common for sure. Alphonse, I would have to think about that. I would really have to think about that for me, for sure. Now I have this love of pink. I used to hate pink. And with Keyshawn, you have to wear it all the time because that’s her color. And now I just, I love pink and ever since the show I have acrylics now.
When watching these episodes how do you take them in? I know for me, when I would be done with this interview, I will watch it back and see what I could have done better. How about you? Do you criticize yourself? Do you say, I want to do this better in the next season. Do you just enjoy it? How do you take it
All the time. That’s what I do. It’s really hard to sit and watch a show or a movie, anything it’s, it doesn’t even have to be your own work without like studying. It’s hard to just sit and watch as, as a normal viewer. Like I will sit there and be like, okay, I could have done that. Like, oh, I didn’t do that enough. I feel because sometimes as an actor you feel something and it feels really good. And then it doesn’t read on the camera. So yeah, I’m doing that all the time. So I have to watch it a few times. And maybe by like the third or fourth time, then I could probably enjoy it. But the first few times I’m just like, okay, I’m holding my breath.
So this, this interview will be out before the season finale comes. So I have to ask, we all want the father of your child to be stomped out, but we also want that moment between Keyshawn and Diamond. Without you spoiling anything, will we be happy with how that interaction blossoms going forward?
I can’t say. I will say though, the baby daddy situation, Diamond is going to be a lot more vocal about that. It’s just a lot going, it’s so much going on in the last episode that everybody’s just gonna be like, oh my, with different storylines, but something is going to happen. That is going to be huge.
This show is already huge and we’ll only go further. If there are any other places that will be happening to catch you right now?
I’m working on something but everything, like shut down. It was kind of hard. There was a project that I was actually going to start as soon as COVID shut everything down. So excited to get started on that. And you will find out about it very, very soon.
And then lastly, we already know that we will get a second season of P Valley. Is there anything specific you want to see out of Keyshawn to the next season?
I would love to see the backstory of Keyshawn and Derek. I would love to see their backstory and Katori actually teased that we will get that and see how they came to be. I’m looking forward expanding on the relationship between Keyshawn and Diamond as well and seeing where that goes.