By Cherie Saunders
The hype is now over.
After a summer full of reservations from TV critics over its misogynistic vibe, from parents groups over the sexual content implied by its title, from an NBC affiliate in Utah who refuses to even air the program, and from women’s rights icon Gloria Steinem who called for a boycott of the show, “The Playboy Club” will at last have its series premiere on Monday (Sept. 19) at 10 p.m.
Cast member Naturi Naughton, who plays the club’s first black Bunny, says she’s ready for viewers to finally see the show for themselves and reach their own conclusions.
“The thing that all [protesting] organizations should know is that our show really is following the standards of the network,” Naughton tells EURweb. “It’s not like NBC is breaking some mold and putting on some nudity or anything disparaging or extremely risqué.
“Hopefully everyone who’s making opinionated comments will be informed and know that our show, if anything, is mild and very much about these women and character-driven.”
Set in 1963, “The Playboy Club” follows the interaction between workers and customers of Hugh Hefner’s historic venue in Chicago, known as much for its defiant racial integration as it was for the scantily-clad, bushy-tailed bunnies who served the clientele.
Naughton’s character, Bunny Brenda, wants to become a real estate entrepreneur and saves her tips to someday buy a building. But as an African-American working at a time when the civil rights and women’s rights movements were in its beginning stages, Brenda will be shown facing tremendous odds in reaching her dream. Resistance also comes from her religious family members, who can’t stand that she’s a bunny.
Naughton’s own family, on the other hand, couldn’t be more supportive of her role – the latest in a long journey for the 27-year-old who started as a singer with 3LW before moving into acting, including a role as Lil Kim in “Notorious” and a three-year stint in Broadway’s “Hairspray,” also set in the 60s.
Naturi became one of a handful of black actors – and by handful, we mean three people – to have scored a speaking role on AMC’s critically-acclaimed drama “Mad Men,” where she ironically portrayed a Playboy Bunny working at Hefner’s New York club in the 60s.