P-Valley star Shannon Thornton takes us inside Keyshawn's origin episode

·7 min read

Warning: This article contains spoilers for P-Valley season 2 episode 5, "White Knights."

Tonight, P-Valley viewers got to know Keyshawn (Shannon Thornton) much better.

While in the present, Keyshawn is in Atlanta doing a show of her own during the tour with Lil Murda (J. Alphonse Nicholson), the latest episode is full of flashbacks that tell the rising star's origin story. We learn that she met Derrick (Jordan M. Cox) in high school and see her fraught relationship with her stepmother. As we know, her romance with Derrick resulted in a child, and it was the decision to have that baby that led them both to be cut off from their well-off families and need to build a new life for their family. We also see when the abuse in their relationship began.

In the episode, Keyshawn is riding high until Rome (Blue Kimble) brings this crashing down. After a standout show, where she was introduced by Joseline Hernandez herself, Keyshawn is getting ready to turn up in Joseline's hotel room when Rome tries to rape her. Reeling from the attack, she runs to Woddy (Bertram Williams Jr.), who comforts her and then gets revenge by killing Rome himself. Keyshawn, in turn, decides to end the tour right there and go home to Derrick, where she discovers that he has begun abusing their kids. That is the final straw for her, but before she can leave, he brutally attacks her.

P-Valley season 2
P-Valley season 2

Kyle Kaplan/Starz

EW spoke to Thornton about Keyshawn getting an origin episode, the violence of the episode, what's next, and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Miss Mississippi has been on the road with Lil Murda and her homie most of the season. What do you think about the arc your character has had so far?

SHANNON THORNTON: You're seeing a budding brother and sister relationship this season, and they have become each other's confidants while on tour and they are also each other's safe space. I'm really enjoying watching that play out, and also being able to act it out with J. Alphonse Nicholson, who plays Lil Murda.

I do miss filming in the locker rooms at the Pynk. I miss performing on the Pynk stage and doing scenes with Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan) and the girls. It's a lot of fun being able to go on tour and work with the guys this season. But yeah, I miss aspects of season 1 for sure.

What does it mean to you to get to learn about Miss Mississippi's back story? Was there anything about her past that surprised you?

When Katori [Hall, the show's creator] told me that Keyshawn would have her own episode, I was excited, but nervous to take on such a responsibility of carrying an entire episode. I love that the audience gets to see where Keyshawn comes from, how she got into this abusive relationship and why it's so difficult for her to leave. All those questions are answered in the episode. You get to see her in her younger years too, which is a lot of fun. I got to play a teenager; I haven't been to high school in a minute.

We see some other cast members pop in and you realize we're all linked. There's a fun moment during Derrick and Keyshawn's first date where you see Pastor Woodbine (Harriett D. Foy), so you get a bit of her backstory as well. She's a waitress at the local diner. You also see Keyshawn meet Gidget (Skyler Joy) in high school when she tries out for the cheerleading squad. I though that was really fun.

I was very surprised to learn that Keyshawn comes from an upper middle class family. So when we pulled up to Keyshawn's house and pulled up to this massive house with huge arches and pillars, I did not realize this is where she had come from. And her choice to stay with Derrick, they both lost everything and had to start from scratch. That was very surprising for me.

What was it like to work with Joseline?

So much fun! She was very playful, but also took her role seriously. I remember her telling me she wanted to do a really good job and she did. They gave her a big chunk of dialogue and she killed it.

We don't know much about Keyshawn's family before this. What role does her relationship with her stepmother and stepsister play in who she is in the present?

Her relationship with her stepmother specifically has definitely affected who she is as a person today. She was brought up in a household where she wasn't pretty enough, where lighter-skinned women were put on a pedestal. Her stepmother subconsciously put her against her lighter-skinned sisters. That did affect her, and so did the bullying she got in school from some of the athletes who commented on her darker complexion.

You'll see them again. They'll pop in towards the end [of the season].

What was it like to see the start of Keyshawn's relationship with Derrick? What do you think learning about their past adds to what we know about their relationship?

I think people will sympathize with Keyshawn a bit more and it gives the audience a bit more understanding and context about abusive relationships and complicated relationships in general. There's a lot of history there with Keyshawn and Derrick. They've known each other since they were teenagers. He's not just one thing. There are many things that make you fall in love.

Some of Keyshawn's toughest scenes on the series have been those with Derrick. What has been the reception from viewers about those scenes? 

One thing I think is a bit disappointing to learn is that there are fans who find this abusive relationship with Keyshawn to be funny because it is an interracial relationship. Because Derrick is white, they feel that Keyshawn being a strong Black woman should be able to physically overpower a man simply because he's white.

P-Valley season 2
P-Valley season 2

Kyle Kaplan/Starz

How will Rome's attack impact Keyshawn moving forward?

With Rome, Keyshawn saw him as a brother and someone that she could trust. And when he tried to rape her, she finally realized that none of it was real. This is someone who was actually preying on her. He completely betrayed her trust, so that is something that's going to stay with her for a while and make her more cautious and careful with the people she allows in her life.

We don't see Woddy and Keyshawn interact much before this episode, but they have that nice conversation in her hotel room when she goes to him after Rome tries to rape her. Is there more to them coming? He could be a great choice for a manager. 

All of these people are brothers to Keyshawn, so it was really nice and sweet to see the way Keyshawn and Woddy interact. Him being honest with her and telling her he doesn't like her hair [in a wig] and that he likes the hair that grows out of her head. Her running to his hotel room after Rome tried to rape her and him comforting her in that moment, and ultimately killing Rome for Keyshawn.

Ultimately, Woddy is Lil Murda's manager, so mostly for the rest of the season [we] see a lot between Woddy and Lil Murda, and the fallout from the tour and Rome's death.

Keyshawn seeing Derrick hurt her child changed things and results in a vicious attack from Derrick. Will this incident be a turning point for her?

Yeah, absolutely. Throughout the season you will see Keyshawn make several attempts to leave Derrick. This instance with her child, her realizing that her son is now being abused by Derrick, really woke her up. That was absolutely the final straw for her. It gives her a sense of urgency. She was carefully planning how to leave and now she's like, "I have to leave now."

Keyshawn ends the tour early. What can you tease about what's next for her professionally?

Keyshawn is resourceful and she's a go-getter, so she will figure something out. You'll see her do just that. Towards the end of the season, she calls on some old friends.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

P-Valley airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Starz.

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