Fresh in from filming the STARZ series ‘P-Valley’, a vibrant Skyler Joy, joins us to speak on her latest project created by award-winning playwright Katori Hall. Set in the Mississippi Delta, ‘P-Valley’ follows a group of women working in a strip club; the hopeful, the lost, the broken, the ballers, the beautiful and the damned. Skyler steals the screen as Gidget, a quirky second-generation pole dancer, who’s philosophical at heart. Gidget doesn’t just view stripping as an art- she considers it an Olympic worthy sport. Lucky for us, this series just became available on STARZ.com, but first, here’s a trailer.
1. ‘P-Valley’ is set in the exotic world of dancing, what will surprise people about this polarizing new series?
SJ: I think people who glance from the outside might pre-judge this show. But those who take a chance, sit down and watched the series might be shocked to see it’s not just about glamorous stripping-yes that’s part of it. But it’s really about these characters’ lives, struggles, the horrible ugly side of the industry, and why they make their life choices. I think viewers will be surprised at how much depth these characters have and how authentic it is to Mississippi and living in the South.
2. What was the most rewarding aspect of filming P-Valley?
SJ: I formed a family out of P-Valley- an amazing family. All of us who became regulars on the show were becoming series regulars for the first time in our careers. So, we were on this journey together and experiencing things for the first time as a group. That is so powerful; those relationships are powerful. I can even call on that family now. I can talk to them about anything. They are all just genuinely good people.
3. This seems like such a physically demanding role, tell us about your training and what it takes to make a convincing exotic dancer?
SJ: When I got the part on P-Valley, we had 4-5 hour dance rehearsals daily, just trying to get these moves down. It’s not something you do for a few hours and master; sometimes it takes weeks because it’s more about building arm strength. There were times I was working on tricks for five months. There was one trick I was trying to work on where you just climb up a pole and it looked so easy, but it was so hard. After four months of filming, something just clicked, and then all of a sudden, my muscles grasped it.
4. Did you study dance growing up or are you just naturally gifted?
SJ: I was a dancer when I was a kid, I started in ballet, and was on the dance team in high school. I did hip-hop and always had some dance flow muscle memory. But when I got older, I started taking a pole fitness class with my friends on the weekends for fun. I loved it, and that was before I even booked the role.
5. Do you share any similarities with the character you played on P-Valley?
SJ: I could always relate to Gidget having huge dreams. I have massive dreams, and I know what it’s like to hustle and strive for them. I felt, being able to play Gidget was such an incredible opportunity. It was completely different from anything I’ve ever done. It’s one of those roles where you have to let go completely, especially when your dancing. You have to trust yourself in that environment and put yourself in the headspace of your character—the series films in Tyler Perry’s studio in Atlanta. The set is incredible; the team does a fantastic job; it feels like you’re in a real club.
6. What was challenging about taking on such an emotionally charged role?
SJ: I had a little bit of trouble with letting go of the character when I left the set each day. I have heard actors say that, but I had never experienced it. So I talked to the wardrobe department, and we came up with an idea to use a necklace, to mentally associate with the character. So in P-Valley, you will notice Gidget always has on a plastic choker. Every day when I arrive on set, I would walk in the trailer, put the necklace on, and even say out loud, okay, I am Gidget now. And when I would leave, I would take it off and say I’m leaving Gidget here. This ritual helped me to mentally and emotionally separate from the character.
7. Tell me about yourself, how was growing up in Alaska and your transition to Atlanta?
SJ: I always knew I wanted to be an actress. There was no question in my mind that was my purpose. So I did what I could while growing up in my small town of Ketchikan, Alaska. We didn’t have any film or T.V., but we had theater so I started there and did every production I could. Then as soon as I turned 18, I moved to Atlanta for their large film industry. I got myself an agent and went to work, building credits.
8. How did you know it was time to move to L.A.?
SJ: I started to notice all the significant roles were cast in NYC and L.A. So I felt it might be time to move. I prayed on it, asking for a clear sign to guide me. That same night I came home to find my house in Atlanta broken into, trashed with all my valuables stolen. I took that as the sign to make a move. What’s funny is once I moved to L.A., I landed the role of Gidget and got to fly back to Atlanta to film it. It was like everything was coming full circle.
9. What projects are you excited to explore next?
SJ: During COVID-19, I am just grateful for my dreams coming true, and I am enjoying watching the show. But I am excited about this pandemic to be over so I can start working on my path to one day winning an academy award. I won’t stop until I get there!
10. If you could work with anyone in the industry, who would it be?
SJ: I always loved George Clooney. When I was a kid, I wanted to marry him, which is kind of weird haha. I also love Sam Levinson’s work. He wrote Euphoria and directs all the episodes. I love how he’s able to create these worlds that are so real and fun to watch. Finally, i’d love to work with my acting coach Sarah from Atlanta. I always tell her she needs to become a director because she is so amazing at what she does. I think it would be cool to collaborate with her-somebody who has been with me on this journey from the start.
11. What’s one message you would like to share with your fans?
SJ: Always be yourself, that’s something I struggled with, within this industry. But the moment I realized I am my unique and beautiful self, and this is my real body and I am not going to alter it, harm it, or lose weight. That’s when it started coming together for me. People should genuinely love themselves and chase their dreams. Whatever your vision is, you will get there just by being yourself!
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