Naughton, 27, began her show business career more than 10 years ago as a singer in the girl group 3LW. After a high-profile split from the act, she moved to acting, working on Broadway as well as landing the part as Lil’ Kim in the movie “Notorious.” Then she played, coincidentally, a Playboy Bunny in a memorable episode of “Mad Men” last season. So it only seems logical her next step would somehow be a combination of her past experiences.
“It’s definitely no accident that I’m here,” Naughton told Zap2it when we spoke to her late-August en route to series rehearsal for a large-scale musical number. “Every character and every performance I do helps [me] get to a better place.”
Her character is much the same way: Everything she does leads her one step closer to her goals, which extend far beyond the glitz and glamor of the club.
“The Playboy Club” executive producer Chad Hodge explains Brenda’s plans further. “She wants to buy a building and become a real estate entrepreneur … she uses her tips to do that on the sly,” he says.
But making that kind of money at the club won’t be easy. As an African-American, Brenda faces resistance in a pre-Civil Rights and pre-Women’s Rights America, not to mention from her family, whom she defied to become a Bunny.
Naughton explains her character’s parents are religious and that Brenda is “definitely going against the grain.” She adds her character is “very ambitious (and) strong-willed” so we can her to ruffle a few feathers along the way.
Despite the message the show has been trumpeting about female empowerment, like in the case of Naugton’s character, the series has been mired in controversy for what is seen as exploitative and misogynistic. Former Playboy Bunny and Women’s rights advocate Gloria Steinem called for a boycott of the show. The NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City refuses to air it. And organizations from across the political spectrum are calling on stations to pull the show and advertisers to avoid the program.
Naughton is undeterred.
“At the end of the day [controversy] is going to be there because were doing a show about Playboy and about the Bunnies. That instantly means something to do with a sexual side,” she says. “So naturally it’s controversial, and I don’t think it hurts anything because we know that we have the goods.”
“The Playboy Club” premieres at 10 p.m. ET Monday (Sept. 19) on NBC.