At the conclusion of the first season of P-Valley, Keyshawn, played by actress Shannon Thornton, had a decision to make. She could stay with her abusive boyfriend Derek or be with the club’s protective bouncer, Diamond. Sadly, she chose Derek. And with the onset of the pandemic shortly after, Keyshawn has had to live with the ramifications of her choices. Watching all of this unfold has been particularly interesting for Thornton who brings Keyshawn, aka Miss. Mississippi, to life on the Starz drama.
We had a chance to speak to Thornton about her character, the new season, and what she wishes audiences understood about victims of domestic violence. See what she had to say below.
Did you feel any pressure coming into the second season?
SHANNON THORNTON: I didn’t feel pressure. I was more excited than anything because we had waited for two years to see a script or anything so my imagination was running wild with the ideas of where this season would go. I think we were all thirsty for a script. So as soon as Katori threw us a little morsel, we just sopped it up. I’m really so, so excited for fans to see how this new season unravels.
A lot of people found refuge outside of their homes and the pandemic took that away from them. That was the case for your character Keyshawn. Can you speak to that concept?
THORNTON: Especially when you’re in an abusive relationship. Keyshawn’s refuge was on stage at The Pynk with her family. Because of the poor decision she made in addition to the pandemic that happened shortly thereafter, she is stuck in a very close space with her boyfriend, who is her abuser. You see all of us dealing with the pandemic in different ways. You see a lot of the characters at home. You see how they live. You do also see Keyshawn finding her opportunity to get out of that situation by means of the tour with Lil Murda.
I read that Katori said Keyshawn will be reckoning with the decision of choosing Derek over Diamond. What was it like playing that out?
THORNTON: It was tough. It was really tough. You wait two years to step into her shoes again and you see just a very real scenario play out. Of course, this wasn’t the smartest decision but it’s also very real. People protect their abusers all the time. With that, she absolutely has to deal with her consequences. This is not a fairytale. In episode one, you hope that Keyshawn and Diamond have this beautiful moment when they see each other again but he pushes her away. We see that her family at The Pynk does not want her there. She is no longer welcome there either. I’m glad Katori put a very real situation in the script.
Keyshawn’s relationship accurately depicts what it’s like to be involved in an abusive relationship. But in real life, we know abuse victims don’t always receive grace or the support from the community at large. How do fans respond to Keyshawn’s decisions? Do you ever feel like she’s being judged unfairly?
THORNTON: There was a lot of misogynoir. I think that people give more grace to Black men when they are being abused by white men than they give Black women who are being abused by white men. I got a lot of comments from fans saying Keyshawn should have been able to handle it. She should have been able to physically fight off her abuser because he was white. There’s this idea that white people are delicate and fragile and Black people–especially Black women–are strong enough to fight off a white man even though he is double her size.
I saw a lot of comments from people who thought it was funny that she was being abused because it was a white man. And that was a bit disappointing. This season we dive deeper into the abusive relationship and hopefully, especially midseason, the fans will give Keyshawn and people like Keyshawn grace as well.
What are you excited for fans to see this season?
THORNTON: I’m excited for fans to see this journey that the characters take them on. This season is epic. It’s absolutely insane. There are many shocking moments. I’m particularly excited for fans to see Keyshawn’s backstory. And I’m truly excited for them to see Keyshawn and Lil Murda on tour. I had the best time with my castmate J. Alphonse Nicholson.
What has Keyshawn taught you in the time you’ve played her?
THORNTON: Keyshawn has taught me to fight for whatever it is I want by any means necessary. Keyshawn is a fighter. You’ll see that this season. She wants happiness and you see her actively for fighting for freedom and to get what it is that she feels she deserves out of life. And that is the best of the best. That is what I’ve learned from her.