Television actress Jenn Lyon calls New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter, home for half of the year (the other half, she spends at home in Brooklyn, New York.) Her locally filmed comedy-drama “Claws” on TNT follows the lives of five manicurists at the fictional Nail Artisan salon in central Florida, a role that Lyon embraces for its empowerment of women of all shapes and sizes. Lyon’s credits also include roles in the popular FX drama “Justified,” a Broadway hit show “Fish in the Dark” with Larry David, and many more stage and screen hits.
New Orleans Magazine caught up with Lyon as she wrapped up the third season of production, to find out what she loves about acting, writing and living in New Orleans.
Q: You have an extensive resumé of work in the theater, in films, and on TV. Do you prefer acting for the stage, screen or TV? They are so different. Stage is immediate and exciting but it doesn’t really pay a living wage. TV is longer and permanent but definitely pays more and you get a couple runs at it.
Q: What have been some of your favorite roles that you have played? Bille Dawn in “Born Yesterday.” Judy Holiday got a Tony and Oscar for the role and it was later played by Madeline Kahn-both idols of mine. Meg in “Crimes of the Heart” by Beth Henley, Jenn Husser in Claws. All complicated and not necessarily educated women, but they are so wily and smart.
Q: If you had to choose, do you prefer comedic or dramatic roles? Comedy contains drama and vice versa-the best comedy is truthfully falling up the steps which is also dramatic and painful, but hilarious.
Q: Dish. We have a crush on Timothy Olyphant from “Justified” and more. Who has been your favorite romantic co-star? Oh man, you couldn’t have a better crush- he is so thoughtful and talented and funny. It’s a shame he isn’t attractive… Kevin Rankin who plays my husband on Claws is also a doll (he played Devil on “Justified”)
Q: Claws has such a diverse cast of female characters? How has it been working with these talented actors and tackling interesting and unique scripts? We have such a good time and it’s a very collaborative process with the writers and hair, makeup, costumes [and] nails. I’ve never experienced getting to have that much input in television and crafting something in this way.
Q: You are also a writer and producer of an on-line sketch group, POYKPAC. How is acting, writing and producing for the internet different from a more traditional stage or film production? Poykpac got in on the very early stages of YouTube, and so it was a cowboy town without rules and we made a glut of content so cheaply and quickly. We could have an idea and since we were the writers, costumes, lights, camera, editing and actors, we could bring it to fruition without permission or consensus–or a lot of money. It was so liberating to create our own stuff rather than wait around to be cast or considered valuable.
Q: What was most surprising about life in New Orleans? The most surprising thing about New Orleans is how many different parts there are to it. I think visiting you might only see the French Quarter, and don’t necessarily get to see all the vibrant communities happening in all the other neighborhoods.
Q: Is it hard to have dual Brooklyn-New Orleans citizenship? I do miss Brooklyn when I’m here, but New Orleans has welcomed us and we have folded into it so now I miss NOLA when I go back to Brooklyn.
Q: Brooklyn is known for its pizza; Manhattan for culinary diversity…and those bagels. New Orleans is known for, well, everything delicious. You can tell us. Who has the better food? New York or New Orleans? Y’all are trying to get me in trouble now. Are you trying to get my dual citizenship revoked?!
Born/raised: North Carolina-lots of small towns
Education: BFA North Carolina School of the Arts
Favorite TV show: Dateline
Favorite Book: this is an impossible question -anything by Wolfe, Faulkner, Baldwin, Didion or Sagan
Favorite New Orleans restaurant: Also impossible! Surrey’s, Pêche, Morrow’s, Daily Beet, Horn’s, Mint Modern
Best place to experience live shows in New Orleans: Cafe Istanbul, Favela Chic, Kermit’s Mother in Law Lounge
Doughnuts or beignets? Beignets are funnel cake in disguise
Something people don’t know about me is that I play the musical saw and am very average at it!