Jenifer Lewis as Pearl in NBC's "The Playboy Club"

*When the cast of NBC’s “The Playboy Club” faced a room full of TV critics in Beverly Hills last month, cast member Jenifer Lewis took the lead in defending the series against allegations that the show – set in 1963 – glorifies the exploitation of women.

One of the clear talking points the cast used to defend the show was that the bunnies are not exploited, but rather “empowered.”

“Listen very carefully,” Lewis snapped at critics. “You take my character Pearl. Pearl is the seamstress in The Playboy Club. She’s the mother hen to these girls. They come to me with their problems. And Pearl herself is representing many African-American women at the time who were coming off welfare, who were coming out of the domestic word into empowering themselves, and educating themselves, and getting jobs. So, yes, the sex will be there, as it is everywhere, in every show. But it is about these women. It’s character-driven.  So I just think that it’s going to be fun. And I think that I’m going to be fabulous in it.”

When EURweb caught up with Lewis later for more details about Pearl, the veteran Broadway and film actress told us just how seriously she takes this role.

“You do as much research as you can, everything from the hair, to the makeup, to the wardrobe,” she said. “I’ve been looking in Ebony magazines for the look and the style and how they were interviewed in those days and what they had to say. And of course, what was going on historically in the country, that all impacts how you deliver a line.”

(Top L-R) Actors David Krumholtz, Leah Renee, Naturi Naughton, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Wes Ramsey and Jenifer Lewis (Bottom L-R) Executive Producer Chad Hodge, actors Eddie Cibrian and Amber Heard and Executive Producers Ian Biederman and Francie Calfo speak during 'The Playboy Club ' panel during the NBC Universal portion of the 2011 Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 1, 2011 in Beverly Hills

Watch Jenifer Lewis and co-star Naturi Naughton in the season premiere of “The Playboy Club” at 10 p.m. Monday (Sept. 19) on NBC.

In the bonus audio below, Lewis tells us how her outspoken character deals with the limits of African American women at the dawn of the civil rights movement, and whether the outside world of racial discrimination ever impacted Pearl’s willingness to speak her mind inside of the Playboy Club.

The Playboy Club’s Jenifer Lewis on playing Pearl at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement by CherieNic