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EXCLUSIVE! Claws star Jenn Lyon opens up about her eating disorder battle: ‘It robbed me of my joy’

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If you haven’t started watching Claws, you’ve been missing out on the best new show to grace our screens this year so far.

With an amazing cast that celebrates women of all shapes and ethnicities, and Rashida Jones as an executive producer, the TNT series is already building up a huge fan base, and it’s not hard to see why.

Jenn Lyon, who plays the “ride or die” best friend of central character Desna (Niecy Nash), chatted to LAGoss.com about the brilliant show and how she found the courage to fight against Hollywood’s “unattainable” standards after years of battling eating disorders.

“One of the things that’s so cool about Claws is letting women be the size that they are and exist in a world where that’s OK,” the actress told us. “You don’t have to take up less space to be on TV right now and to be in this world, and I think that is invaluable for women.

“For too long, we’ve been held to some industry standard, even girls that aren’t in the industry, of this unattainable body and lifestyle and it’s destined to fail. It will only cause you heartbreak. I hope that we’re going to get off this ride and I hope Claws shows women that they can be of any size and just be badass. I hope we can be an example.”

The show also stars Carrie Preston, Judy Reyes, Karrueche Tran, Dean Norris and Harold Perrineau – “Get the f*** out of here!” was Jenn’s reaction to working with the latter – and is being praised for the diversity of its cast and the strength of its characters.

Hit show: LAGoss.com chatted to Claws star Jenn Lyon (seen with co-stars Karrueche Tran, Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston and Judy Reyes) | TNT

Jenn was working in a pizza restaurant when she landed the audition, but says her attraction to the show was far more than just unemployment.

“I’ve got to go in for this immediately,” she recalled thinking after reading the script. “This is something that I would give my nuts, or your nuts, to be a part of. The fact that it’s so much female badassery, and the women aren’t just accessories to a man that’s doing things. They are kicking ass and taking names, and I thought if I could be a part of this that would be a miracle.”

For Jenn, it was also an opportunity to break the dangerous cycle of trying to live up to Hollywood’s unrealistic standards, and to show women watching that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

“With TV auditions they would always test somebody smaller, thinner, until in my head I was like, ‘Let me see how small I have to get to be on TV.’ And I got incredibly small, and I was incredibly sick,” she told us. “For six or seven years I was this industry ideal. And it just robbed me of my joy. I finally got to do film and TV, but I was so obsessed with food and not eating food, and just being worried about those types of issues, that it all seems like a blur.

“I had to go to eating disorder rehab and it saved my life. It changed my life. And so now to be in the position where I can be really present, eat food in front of people, take up space, I just never thought it would happen.”

Now Jenn has some wise words of advice for her younger self and other young actresses – although she admits getting older helps with the confidence required.

If you go into an audition, you do what your answer to the equation is,” she said. “Don’t try to guess what they want. You go in there and you take bold swings, and do what you want to see. But I don’t know if that sort of courageousness exists until you’re older. Hell, I didn’t have it.”

“Unattainable”: The actress opened up about her battle with eating disorders and Hollywood’s unrealistic standards | TNT

Jenn added: “It makes you feel like you’re an absolute failure. And not only a failure in this industry but in your everyday life. Every woman I talk to is on some kind of diet or cycle of rewards or punishment when it comes to food and exercise. I really feel like it’s an epidemic, and we’ve got to reach out to each other and talk about it, and change it for ourselves.”

For the actress – who is also known for her roles on Justified and Saint George – landing the part of Jennifer on Claws was a chance to break that cycle herself.

“It makes me want to be more authentic. When I found out I got the role, I immediately was like, OK, I’m going to lose 20lbs. I’m going to run for two hours every day. That eating disorder negative loop started to kick in in my brain,” she explained.

“Luckily enough I was still an outpatient with the Renfrew Centre in New York, I had a therapist, and I had a boyfriend that was like, ‘Babe, this is your chance to not do this cycle and see what happens.’ I had this fear that I was going to show up, be too big and get fired. It was all tied into my self-worth. And so when I think about young girls or middle aged women seeing it, it gives me the courage to be brave enough to be Dumbo. Like, f*** it, man.”

Jenn fell in love with her “loyal, complicated, tenuously sober, rough around the edges” character after reading the script because she felt that she “knew her and grew up with her”, and fans have had the same reaction to Jennifer.

Runaway success: The series is already building up an impressive fan base and on its way to becoming a huge hit | TNT

As the season goes on, the star promises us that “her loyalties will be tested” when it comes to her relationship with her friends at the nail salon, but in real life there’s no such drama on the set.

There’s a lot of it that’s like The Revenant because the conditions are awful and nothing ever goes right,” Jenn joked. “But the truth is we’re just crazy about each other. We’re really tight, we laugh all the time, we cry with each other.”

“We just genuinely care about each other – the whole cast and crew. It’s kind of this little special utopia. I can’t believe it all came together in some ways, because usually there’s at least one a**hole. But we don’t have anything like that. It’s just an amazing group.”

And working with Rashida Jones is just as “super cool” as you would expect, Jenn promises.

“Who’s cooler? I don’t even know what to say,” she shared. “She’s not only super funny, super smart, receptive, and all the things you want a cool girlfriend to be, but she is incredibly intuitive and brave when it comes to telling these stories and pushing boundaries.”

The cast and crew are now crossing their fingers for a second season, but judging by the huge popularity of the show from the first two episodes alone, they don’t have anything to worry about.

“We say silent prayers, we pour out a little of our forties, we do whatever we can,” Jenn joked. “It’s up to the numbers, but we all really stand behind it and TNT has really stood behind it, so I just hope we get to do it some more.”

Claws airs Sundays on TNT at 9pm.