“P-Valley” is becoming a cultural phenomenon as season two gets off to an unprecedented start. The new season is not only breaking records on Starz, it’s also shattering barriers where queer representation onscreen is concerned. The complex love story between Uncle Clifford (portrayed by Nicco Annan) and Lil Murda (played by J. Alphonse Nicholson) is a rare storyline audiences don’t get to see on television, making the series historic in its own right.
As we celebrate Pride Month and all that the LGBTQIA+ community contributes to the culture, REVOLT took a few moments to catch up with Nicholson. In our exclusive interview, he spoke about Lil Murda exploring his sexuality this season, what he hopes the Queer community takes from watching his onscreen portrayal, and how he teaches his children about Pride.
“P-Valley” recently broke a record for Starz viewer growth with over 1000% audience increase. How does it feel to know your hard work continues to pay off?
1,018% to be exact (laughs). It’s surreal man but also a blessing to be a part of something that’s so large — it’s feels very intimate, small, and family-oriented as we’re creating it. We have this whole new world we created and once we share with you all, it becomes a much larger thing. It’s such a surreal feeling so it’s just a blessing to be a part of it — it’s nothing like breaking some records.
Fans are seeing the distance between Uncle Clifford and Lil Murda. As this storyline develops, what should viewers pay attention to?
I think fans should pay attention to the different things each of them are going through — Uncle Clifford and what she goes through as well as Lil Murda, and see if it will make them closer or push them apart. It’s going to be a lot of things going on this season that will give the audience an incredible front seat to see how complicated those relationships can be for some people. I think you’ll have to follow everything closely until we get to the final episode.
Without giving too much away, Lil Murda will find himself … exploring, if you will. How do you think showcasing him exploring his sexuality onscreen will help others who struggle with being open about their own?
Well, what my hope is, is that it just gives people that courage and faith to want to step out to be exactly who they are and to understand it’s probably going to come with a lot of hard times. That’s one thing I’ve learned from ‘P Valley’ — not actually being a part of the community but being an ally — with this character, I’ve just learned how difficult it can be to take that journey. I want people to feel free to be themselves, but I also don’t want people to feel like they have to jump out and come out and be made fun of or be judged if you’re not ready for what comes with the criticism. That’s what Lil Murda’s struggle is — he’s trying to figure out if he’s ready for what comes with the harsh reality of our society, the stigma they place on his community. I just want people to see themselves but at the same time be encouraged to or not to expose themselves to certain hatred and misunderstanding.
“P-Valley” is known for breaking taboos with every scene. What’s the biggest taboo you can’t wait for fans to see confronted this season?
I am excited for fans to see what a queer Black man looks like and how he moves through society. How and who he is attracted to as far as his skill set in his career and what he looks like for himself. I want to break the taboo of this rapper who wears grillz in his mouth, tattoos and a street motherf*cker is a part of the community. For me, as an artist, an actor — allowing people to see what type of ally you can be whether it’s through storytelling, everyday life, and how you carry yourself as a friend. I want people to see both sides.
Lil Murda is becoming a Queer icon. What do you hope the Queer community takes away from him?
Since ‘P-Valley’ started during Pride month, I’m glad to make my brothers, sisters, and everyone in between proud to be represented. It’s flattering that everyone loves Lil Murda. It’s one of those things where I didn’t know how large of a character — I just appreciate the love. I recognize that I’m able to stand on the shoulders of people who paved the way to make their voices heard, understanding it’s going to continue to elevate me as one of the people on the show that people take to.
What do you say to yourself when you see all of the positive feedback from the LGBTQ+ community? Is it overwhelming sometimes?
Sometimes it can be overwhelming because of all the love, period. I feel like just being open to the love and understanding this type of love is something that can push the universe forward. There’s a lot of hate out there so people come with that as well. The love always overwhelms the hate and I’m very open to it. Fans taking pictures and reaching out to me to let me know how the story impacted their lives. All of it is so touching — it means so much to me. I had a director tell me how his grandmother said if somebody wants your little raggedy autograph, you give it to them (laughs). That’s how I feel about it. The love doesn’t have to be shown, so I’ll take it while I’m still here.
How would you like to see other allies support the LGBTQ+ community more?
I would just like for people to start within their own circle and family — understanding the simple things like pronouns and knowing how to use them. Uncle Clifford is a non-binary gender nonconforming individual so Clifford goes by she on the show. It’s simple things like that. I think it’s something easy to learn and to start with. The deeper level to it is not [judging] who people are attracted to or people’s sex lives. You have to also look back and understand your cousin, auntie, or uncle is apart of this community that you love and cherish — why would you dismiss anybody in this community, especially Black people? ‘P-Valley’ does an amazing job with showing the colors of the Queer community as well as the colors of the African American community. Imagine if we all loved each other and came together how much stronger we would be. Mind the business that pays you.
How do you educate your children about Pride month?
Living in LA, when my son comes up to visit, as he lives in North Carolina, we drive West Hollywood and see flags. I feel like children have a different understanding of what the community is at this point in their lives because it’s shown and discussed a little bit more. My daughter goes to school and she has friends who are little young boys who wear dresses but still identify as boys who love wearing dresses. I think starting at an early age of having a complete understanding that people can choose to be exactly who they want to be and have every right to do so. You start there and the more intimate and sexual conversations come later. Teaching them that everyone is to be loved, accepted, and to treat people with the same respect you would want to be treated with no matter what — that’s how we handle it in my household. They go to school and they need to learn and have conversations amongst themselves and if they have questions, they will come back and we’re there to help them.
Is there a Queer artist or celebrity you would love to see join you and the cast at The Pynk?
There’s so many dope queer artists out there. I would like to educate myself more on other queer artists but obviously Lil Nas X would be a great choice. I would also say Saucy Santana is dope and just be spitting — it would be dope for Lil Murda and Santana to be on a record together. I think that would be a good mix and obviously the City Girls can hop on it, too.
How has playing Lil Murda made you a better actor? What have you learned from the character?
Playing Lil Murda has made me 10 times better as an actor. Being a series regular on ‘P-Valley’ has given me the opportunity to be in front of the camera hundreds and hundreds of times, getting these shots and episodes done. It’s a master class every episode, so inevitably you’re going to get better if you want to do better. I always want to grow. As far as what I’ve learned from Lil Murda — how to be more in tune with my emotions and feelings while being even more in tune with the person I want to be in terms of a father, provider, and a husband. I have these moments where I have to look in the mirror, like in the last episode, and he had to find himself for a second to see what it is that he wants. I would say constant reminder is what I took from him. Always know who you are and what you want.
Is there any other type of role you would like to play in the future?
So many roles and I’m blessed — I do have some more opportunities coming up this year that haven’t been announced yet. I can’t wait for y’all to find out what I’m doing next. I have this project with FX, and then I have a really great project coming out with Netflix called They Cloned Tyrone. I want to continue to show my range in any role that will give me a challenge. Also, obviously telling Black stories is very important so we’re sticking to that.