Sunday, 9 p.m., TNT
The first thing you notice about Matilde Ruval on “Claws” is her hair, a comically full mass of loose gray and black curls that would intimidate any stylist. But the wig didn’t scare actress Sheryl Lee Ralph — not for long, anyway. “When I saw it, I said to myself, ‘That’s a whole lot of curls!’ ” says the 61-year-old performer, who joins Season 2 as the manipulative mother of Desna’s (Niecy Nash) love interest, Haitian mafia boss Gregory Ruval (Jimmy Jean-Louis). “It really shows what this island woman thinks is a French, wealthy, sophisticated look.” Her appearance also enhances Matilde’s intimidating presence as she and money-laundering manicurist Desna size each other up. Ralph is known for playing Ginger St. James on the 1980s comedy “It’s a Living,” as well as stepmother Dee Mitchell to Brandy Norwood’s title character on the 1996-2001 sitcom “Moesha.” She also originated the Diana Ross-esque role of Deena Jones in the 1981 Broadway musical “Dreamgirls.”
Ralph recently spoke with The Post by phone from New Orleans, where “Claws” is filmed.
Before you joined the show, were you already a fan?
Oh, absolutely! It’s like a very, very guilty pleasure. If you don’t watch daytime soaps, it’s the best nighttime soap on steroids, baby. Whatever you thought you wanted in a nighttime soap opera, they give you more — and then a little bit more.
How would you describe Matilde?
I’ve played a lot of characters in my career and this is the first character who I loved playing, but I sure did not like her. She’s a janky chick, I’m tellin’ you.
Has Desna met her match?
Oh, you’re gonna have to wait and see that. It’s so interesting: this whole season, nothing is what you think you’re looking at.
How did you nail the Haitian accent?
I really had a great coach. Usually with language you can figure out the one thing that makes their language theirs. Like when you’re doing a British accent, you just have to make sure your tongue is flat. Then I found out [starts talking in a Haitian accent] wid doing de Haitian accent de “T” is “D.” That’s what got me into it. “Dere” is “there.” “Dat” is “that.”
In Sunday’s episode, Matilde’s son Gregory feeds her a strawberry in a really awkward, creepy way. How many takes did you do?
I gotta tell you, this show is a one-take wonder. We did that in one take. The director gave me a direction and I was like, “Oh, no — really?” And he was like, “Oh, yes — just try it!” And we just went for it and that was that.
You also play a bounty hunter on “MacGyver.” How do you explain the breadth in all of your roles?
At Rutgers University I had a professor named John Bettenbender. For whatever reason, he believed that I would do great things as an actor. He always, always encouraged me to study, to sharpen my edge. This year, when I’m playing a woman on the spectrum in “One Mississippi,” when I get to play that bounty hunter on “MacGyver” … and then get the call to play Ruval, I’m like, my God, thank you, Dr. Bettenbender, and thank you to all those great teachers I had before who took the time to tell me, “Go on and be great, study and hone your craft.”
Because of “Dreamgirls,” it’s often reported that you and Diana Ross had a feud. Are you two okay now?
You know what? Diana Ross and I, personally, were never not okay. … That whole thing that happened between us — people always ask about it. I’m sure it probably makes her and [her daughter] Tracee cringe. I think it was her frustration with the show and I happened to be a part of the show and was so closely connected with her. But it’s all in the past.
It’s gay pride month and, related to that, you’re a longtime AIDS activist with your DIVA Foundation. Why is it still so important to you?
I’ll never, ever forget that time in my life when my friends died from a mysterious disease. I remember what it was like to watch people suffer and see people stand complicitly by, in silence. And I couldn’t be silent. I had to do something. Where is your voice? Find your voice and use it. People are still dying of AIDS. We can still do so much more and still do so much better.
— Eric Hegedüs
And here’s what else to watch this week:
Sunday, 9 p.m., HBO
Season finale. After last week’s bloodbath, who knows what to expect? It seems that the surviving characters make it to the The Door and The Valley Beyond. And if William (Ed Harris) is human, how will he react now that he’s murdered his daughter?
Monday, 9 p.m., CBS
Season premiere. The secret of the asteroid’s imminent approach becomes public following a nuclear incident. Darius (Santiago Cabrera) and Grace (Jennifer Finnigan) must adapt to new roles.
Sunday, 9 p.m., FX
Candy’s (Angelica Ross) insecurities are heightened; Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) and Ricky (Dyllon Burnside) have a medical scare that convinces Pray Tell (Billy Porter, below left, with Johnny Sibilly) that everyone needs to get tested for HIV.
Monday, 9 p.m. AMC
As she enters the final stage of The New Baptist Plan, Plum (Joy Nash) experiences the harsh reality of dating.
Season premiere. After directing an improvised title sequence at a local mall, Ruth (Alison Brie) butts heads with Sam Sylvia (Mark Maron). Debbie (Betty Gilpin) secretly amends her contract with the KDTV station owner. Also starring Shakira Barrera and Sydelle Noel.
Series premiere. Beneath the placid facade of Canberra, amidst rising tension between China and America, senior political journalist Harriet Dunkley (Anna Torv) uncovers an underground location of interlocked conspiracies.
Wednesday, 10 p.m., Paramount
As the dust settles from the shootout, the Duttons deal with the potential repercussions. John (Kevin Costner, below far right) calls in a favor and collects on some old debts.
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