Kim Cattrall Found Power in Saying No

Samantha Jones seemed to have it all — except a happy ending.

For six seasons and two movies, Kim Cattrall put the “sex” in “Sex and the City,” while adding a dose of glamour and surprising relatability to boot. Samantha came complete with her own company, trendy apartment, runway wardrobe and movie-star boyfriend, but it was Cattrall who gave the character desire and soul. That’s why some fans were so disappointed to see her vanish from the franchise after being ill-used in 2010’s “Sex and the City 2.” After exiting the series of her own accord, Cattrall says she had no advance warning before news broke in late 2020 that Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) had decided to reunite for HBO Max’s “And Just Like That …” The streaming reboot premiered in December 2021 — and set Twitter afire — without Samantha.

Of course, Cattrall had made it abundantly clear in interviews that she was done playing Samantha, and in 2017 she turned down a script for the third “Sex and the City” movie. Chunks of that story — which centered on Mr. Big’s sudden death and Carrie’s grieving process — provided the seeds of inspiration for “And Just Like That …” But not everything made it into the show: In the film that didn’t happen, Samantha’s storyline reportedly revolved around her receiving unwanted “dick pics” from Brady, Miranda’s 14-year-old son.

And so, after a public breakup, the infamous quartet of “Sex and the City” became a triumvirate, with some new friends. To deal with the past, a Cattrall-less “And Just Like That …” invented a subplot that depicted the dissolution of Carrie and Samantha’s friendship off screen, and Samantha — who’d apparently abandoned New York for London — was reincarnated in the form of text messages to Carrie, written in her character’s voice.

At least, that’s one side of the story. Since the premiere of “And Just Like That …,” Cattrall hasn’t talked about “Sex and the City” in public, not even to respond to rumors that she could return as Samantha.

To start: That’s not happening. In a wide-ranging interview for Variety’s Power of Women issue, the 65-year-old actor, who says she hasn’t watched “And Just Like That …,” shared her thoughts on why exactly she walked away from one of TV’s biggest phenomena. “It’s a great wisdom to know when enough is enough,” Cattrall says. “I also didn’t want to compromise what the show was to me. The way forward seemed clear.”

This year, Cattrall’s happily moved on with two new TV projects. On Hulu’s “How I Met Your Father,” she’s the future Sophie (played by Hilary Duff in flashbacks), who sips a glass of wine as she narrates the story of meeting her great love. And on Peacock’s “Queer as Folk,” a reboot of the groundbreaking 1999 U.K. series (which had its own 2000 American offshoot), she’s Brenda, an affluent New Orleans grandmother. On the big screen, she’s starring with Robert De Niro in the Lionsgate comedy “About My Father.” But she says that she still feels Samantha’s presence, and she’s appreciative that fans miss the character and mourn her absence.

Back when “Sex and the City” premiered on HBO in 1998, Samantha was something that TV hadn’t seen before: a financially empowered heroine who proudly refused to strive for marriage or children and relished sex as a man would. “I think the one thing I could have never guessed going into the role of Samantha in ‘Sex and the City’ was just how funny Kim could be,” says Darren Star, who created the show and offered the part to Cattrall. Coming from a career in movies (“Mannequin,” “Police Academy”), she turned it down three times before finally accepting. “She wasn’t interested in a TV series,” Star says. “Now it’s impossible to imagine the show without her.”

Not only did Cattrall own the character, but she changed culture, making Samantha a sex-positive aspirational figure for a generation of women. And then there’s this: “When she would shoot sex scenes, I would always tell her, ‘Wear your high heels, so when your legs went up in the air, we see the shoes,’” says Patricia Field, the show’s costume designer.

In person, Cattrall — who was born in Liverpool, England, and grew up in British Columbia — doesn’t sound or move like Samantha. A self-described serial monogamist, she recently celebrated her six-year anniversary with her partner Russell Thomas. She speaks in a graceful timbre, evocative of old-glamour Hollywood, as she recalls some of her favorite stage performances, including Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra.” She reveals that she became a U.S. citizen in 2020, and she lost her health insurance from SAG-AFTRA during the pandemic after not working for a stretch of time.

As a result, Cattrall has decided to honor The Actors Fund, the nonprofit that offers financial and health assistance to performers and behind-the-scenes crew, during Variety’s Power of Women dinner on May 5. “It’s so filled with shame if you’re not working or you’re not wanted,” she says. “Thank God I turned 65 and went on Medicare and I have a nest egg. But that’s scary, how vulnerable you could be.”

You’ve had a big year, with two TV shows coming out within a few months of each other. I just saw the first four episodes of “Queer as Folk.”

I met Stephen Dunn, the showrunner, in London. His film “Closet Monster” — have you seen it? Oh, you have to see it. And then he sent me this beautiful letter asking me to be part of “Queer as Folk.” And I thought, “What is this going to be like?” Because I didn’t see the American version. I only saw the British version, which was so hard-hitting at the time.

It’s easy to forget now, but there was almost no representation of gay characters in TV or movies in the ’90s and earlier.

Rarely in cinema. And even then, it was so cloaked. I’m so proud to be part of it, because it is daring. There’s eight episodes in all.

Do we see more of Brenda?

Oh, my God, she goes crazy. I had my first nonbinary love scene. And for the first time in my career, I was introduced to someone who had the position on a set that I had no idea what they did — her heading was “intimacy coach.” I thought, “Excuse me?!?” I never had an intimacy coach. It was fantastic. Instead of someone from the wardrobe department holding a housecoat for you when they said cut or putting a towel over you, they had this person there who’d say: “OK, stop! We need this protected there.” It was like a fairy godmother.

On “Sex and the City,” the most I ever got was for Pat Field to make this — she called it a “K.C. Cup” that would cover, like a jockstrap, both actors if the scene required it.

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