Naturi Naughton Has Hollywood Hopping
1 year ago
Former 3LW singer returns onscreen as Bunny Brenda in The Playboy Club
It looks like things for Naturi Naughton, are taking off. But this singer and actress is no overnight success. R&B fans may recall her stint in the tween group, 3LW. Naughton stepped away from the spotlight after splitting with the group in 2002 but returned to the big screen as Lil Kim in 2009's Notorious. Her performance set it straight that she was no longer a little woman.
Now, the 27-year-old is on Hollywood's speed dial. Naughton’s latest role as Bunny Brenda in the NBC's highly anticipated The Playboy Club has her learning not only the tricks of the bunny trade but also getting back to her singing roots.
Loop21 caught up with Naughton, who was in Chicago where the drama is being filmed, to find out about her new role, her thoughts on posing for Playboy magazine and when fans can hear a solo album.
Loop21: What was the process of getting the role Brenda? How many auditions did it take to be a bunny?
Naturi Naughton: I went in for this role multiple times. I auditioned for Imagine TV. I screen tested for Fox, who is the producing it and I auditioned and screen tested for NBC, which is our network. It was a total of about four call backs and every time I was excited to go in and just prove that I could bring Bunny Brenda to life. I sang at my audition as well. I actually sang a Nat King Cole song, “When I Fall in Love” and I also did three scenes. I loved the process. I felt like I worked hard for it and at the end of the day it’s so much more rewarding when things don’t always come easy.
Were there any special preparations you did to prepare for the role?
Most of my preparation for this role was research, not so much physical preparation, but mentally preparing myself, you know, going back into time especially when doing a period piece like this, a show that takes place in 1961 and also being one of the first black bunnies. So I read a lot. I actually watched a documentary called The Bunny Years ...I read the book 50 Years of the Playboy Bunny, which was awesome. I researched Hugh Hefner and how much he was such a progressive, rebellious man at the time by integrating the Playboy Club.
I also spent time with an African-American Bunny from 1965, Pat Lacey who trained all of us and worked with me on things that are required of a Bunny. I actually went through bunny training with Pat Lacey.
Tell me about bunny training. What does that entail?
Bunny training is essentially where we learn things like the “Bunny dip,” which is how you serve a table when you’re a Bunny. A Bunny can’t just bend over in her costume with all the boobage that we have going on. We can't be indecent, so a Bunny has to dip backwards in a sense and bend her legs in order to serve a drink to make sure she doesn’t spill out in front of the guests. ...Also the “Bunny stance.” There’s a stance that a Bunny has and it’s very elegant where your knees are pulled together, your toes touch. It gives the shape of an hourglass and it makes your legs long. And also the “Bunny perch.” One of the things I realized is that a Bunny cannot sit down in that costume. It’s very rare that you’ll see a Bunny sitting; she always perches. It’s basically when you lean on let’s say the back of a chair with your butt, but you don’t really sit.
I also learned a lot about what the camaraderie was like between the women. We learned that this was a sisterhood and there was a Mother Bunny. I learned all the rules and there’s a Bunny manual. Bunnies aren’t allowed to give out their numbers. They’re not allowed to give out their last name. They’re not allowed to date key holders. They’re not allowed to do things that are inappropriate.
Your character Brenda wants to be the first African-American playmate. To prepare, did you meet Jennifer Jackson, the woman who met that goal in 1965?
No, I haven’t had the pleasure to meet her yet. I hope to one day. That would be awesome.