Playboy Magazine featured its first black playmate in 1965. Getting included pages of the iconic magazine was no easy task.
Actress Naturi Naughton explores those struggles in a new and hot series—The Playboy Club, a period drama modeled on the success of show’s like Mad Men, that takes a look at the iconic gentleman’s clubs that popped up in Chicago in the 1960s.
In the pilot episode, set in 1963, Naughton plays Brenda, a woman aspiring to become the first black centerfold.
Naughton, a former member of the female hip-hop group 3LW, was drawn to the part before she even auditioned.
“Brenda knows the kind of world she lives in as a black person in the ‘60s,” she said, “She’s not naïve to it, but at the same time, she knows that it can’t overtake her. She’s not going to let it bring her down and it’s not going to kill her mood.”
Naughton understands some people, especially feminists, could view the content skeptically – the same way Mad Men has its critics. But the young actress wants viewers to understand that there is a strong social message behind the show.
“Even though people or feminists might think oh well, it’s just women in sexy Playboy bunny outfits--it’s so much more than that,” she said.
Naughton, whose mother’s name is Brenda, admitted the character reminded her of herself in some ways.
“I feel like Brenda is definitely similar to me in some ways because she is outspoken like me, she is ambitious; that’s a key thing for Brenda. She’s extremely ambitious,” she said.
The actress, who’s played roles in Fame, Lottery Ticket and Notorious (as Lil’ Kim) is confident that once people watch the show, they will see and fully understand what it represents.
“I think the Playboy Club is going to make people see what was really behind this whole Play Boy bunny thing--it’s not just about the body; it’s not just about a pretty face. These girls are smart, they’re intelligent, and they have dreams,” she stressed.