Tuesday, August 16, 2022

‘Menopause Is The Punchline To A Lot Of Jokes… But It’s An Incredible Time.’ Cynthia Nixon On Returning To The World Of Sex And The City

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Let’s face it, Miranda is the character we all wanted to relate to the most. In this chat, Cynthia Nixon – an executive producer of the new series And Just Like That, talks about returning the world of Sex and the City… and what changed her mind about playing Miranda again.

Note: This interview was done before the devastating allegations of sexual assault were brought against actor Chris Noth, who stars in the series. Cynthia, along with her co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristen Davis, have since released the following statement:  “We are deeply saddened to hear the allegations against Chris Noth. We support the women who have come forward and shared their painful experiences. We know it must be a very difficult thing to do and we commend them for it.”

Q: How hard was the decision to come back and be Miranda again?
CN: It was a very hard decision. I really didn’t think I was going to do it. Being Miranda has opened up so many amazing roles for me over the years, but the further I get away from Miranda, the better they get, because people stop thinking of me as just that one character.

So, I was reluctant to go back. I also thought, well, what are we going to do? We can’t just do the same thing. That was one of the great things about our show is we didn’t repeat ourselves. We always let these characters evolve and never just pulled out some gimmick that had worked three years earlier and dress it up and repeat it.

But the more I talked to Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin Davis, about the things that I couldn’t go back without… a real sea change in terms of the lack of diversity in the original series. I was floored by how hard everybody listened, and how collaboratively we worked together to, not just redecorate the house, but to build a whole new house – that had us in it but had all these new characters too.

Photo credits: @2021 WarnerMedia Direct, LLC. All Rights Reserved. HBO Max is used under license

Q: How do you feel now when you look back at the old show?
CN: Very proud of it. I rewatched the whole thing in preparation for doing this series. And, except for some tone deaf stuff when it comes to race and gender, it stands up wonderfully well. And it’s still so engaging and fresh. Even though it’s been a really long time now, it’s almost a quarter of a century.

Q: What can you tell us about Miranda in the new series?
CN: There were a lot of changes coming for all of the characters. But Miranda is the one whose change already started off screen. It’s a combination of the Trump years, and the Black Lives Matter movement and the George Floyd protests that really made her look at her life, and particularly her career as a corporate lawyer and saying, ‘What am I doing? I’ve spent 30 years doing this. I don’t want to be carried off to the grave and have: Here lies Miranda. She was a corporate lawyer.’

And that is the thing about this age. You’re old enough to know that you don’t have all the time in the world left, but you’re young enough to actually do big bold things and make big bold changes. And that’s really what she’s looking for: to change.

And that is the thing about this age. You’re old enough to know that you don’t have all the time in the world left, but you’re young enough to actually do big bold things and make big bold changes. And that’s really what she’s looking for: to change.

Che has such a wonderful line about it. I can’t remember it exactly but it’s something about how it’s better to be unsure than sure. Because if you’re sure, then all your pores are closed. Nothing is penetrating. If you’re unsure, you’re open and you’re listening.

Q: What do you feel the show is saying to women now compared to the original?
CN: In the new series, the characters are like 55. And so, they’re in menopause. And menopause is the punchline of a lot of jokes and certainly has its unpleasant aspects. But it’s an incredible time. And oxymoronically, it’s a very fruitful time.

I think of it as a second adolescence. When you’re an adolescent, you’re breaking away from your parents and your family and you’re becoming your own person. It’s a very narcissistic time because you’re thinking about: who am I? What do I want? What do I need? Who am I going to be, and what could I be?

And menopause is like that too. If you’ve been a working person, you’ve maybe reached a level in your career of stability or achievement. Maybe you’re like Miranda and you have gotten somewhere but you want to go somewhere else. And certainly if you’ve been involved in child rearing, that is probably nearing the end. And so, you’ve had decades perhaps, of thinking about everybody else and taking care of everybody else and putting your needs last.

Just because you’re a grown up, it doesn’t mean you’re finished, and life is just going to remain along this flat plain. It’s a very rich time.

And it’s a moment when things quieten down a little bit and you can, in a narcissistic way but actually in a very important way, begin to focus on yourself again. And say: who am I? And what do I want to be? And what can I be? Just because you’re a grown up, it doesn’t mean you’re finished, and life is just going to remain along this flat plain.

It’s a very rich time. A time when a lot of women actually make a big change. If you think about the Middle Ages, women would retreat from the world and enter nunneries and write, or paint, and really focus on themselves and figure out who they are.

For Charlotte’s character, it’s a time when your children are not just these cute little malleable beings, but actually formidable grown people with their own opinions and their own strengths and defiance. And, for somebody who’s put so many of their eggs in the mother basket, it can be a really terrifying moment when you’re not pulling the strings anymore. You’re not setting the agenda. They’re actually telling you how it’s going to be, you’re not telling them.

And obviously for Carrie, to have this cornerstone of your life – your true love – to just be gone in a moment. And to have this unlooked-for, and desperately feared thing happen. You would do anything you could to reverse it and to take it away. But when it does happen, what does that do for you? And what are you now? You can’t just go through the motions anymore, you actually have to reinvent your life and how you’re living it, and what your life is about. And it opens up – unhappily perhaps – but it opens up new pathways that you never would have taken had this tragic event not occurred.

Photo credits: @2021 WarnerMedia Direct, LLC. All Rights Reserved. HBO Max is used under license

Q: The show has always tackled those big issues with a lightness of touch. How does it pull off being a comedy, but also tackling these issues?
CN: Well, certainly the actors are wonderful. But it’s really Michael Patrick King and the writers because they always remember it’s a comedy. We’re looking for the laughs. But Michael Patrick King is also always looking for the gut-punch moment. The moment that makes you gasp and brings tears to your eyes, either by the pain of it or by the beauty of it or both.

“That that’s why we’ve come back together, and that’s why we’re doing this, we’re leading with our heart.”

Michael Patrick King, when we started up production, he had these buttons [badges] made with a hand-drawn big red heart on them. When I was directing my episode, he gave it to me to wear. He said: ‘You don’t have to wear it out, you can tuck it inside your jacket or whatever, but you know it’s there. And it just to remind you, that that’s why we’ve come back together, and that’s why we’re doing this, we’re leading with our heart.’

And if you remember it’s a comedy, and you lead with your heart, and you are brave enough to let the characters chart new territory, and take us and take the audience where we haven’t gone before. That’s how you get to where we are.

Q: You directed episode six of the series, Diwali. How was that experience?
CN: It was great. It was amazing. I was very nervous about it before it happened. It’s hard to know exactly how to prepare. And I will know much better next time what to worry about, what I should worry about, and what I shouldn’t bother worrying about. But it was great. They took such care of me, helping in all the preparation, leading up to actual filming.

We even filmed scenes that were pretend, that weren’t happening in the series, to try and throw people off track. It was very extreme.

I cannot imagine a better way to do it: a world that I know so well, performers that I know so well, and a crew that I had been working with for months. I’m not saying it wasn’t challenging. It was very challenging and ambitious and all that stuff. But it was the warmest possible bath of directing on film for the first time.

Q: The storylines have been kept so quiet. Was it hard to keep it so under wraps?
CN: Very hard. It was very hard. There was so much secrecy about all of the scripts, and they were never printed out. We just had the little daily pages and we had to be really careful to guard those from paparazzi, because people would really try and photograph our lines.

We even filmed scenes that were pretend, that weren’t happening in the series, to try and throw people off track. It was very extreme. I’d go on these talk shows to promote it, and they would be like, ‘There are no clips! We usually get screeners to see the episode before we interview you and we have nothing!’ It was extreme but it paid off because the majority of the audience got to experience Mr Big’s death as a surprise, not as having already read the Cliff Notes.

Q: Let’s talk about the costumes, because they’re so important. How did it feel to be back in Miranda’s wardrobe?
CN: It felt great. Again, Miranda is at a point in her life when she’s trying to figure out what comes next. And her clothes reflect that. Her clothes are a little all over the place. Like, she knows she’s not in corporate law anymore, so she’s not wearing the dark suits. But she tries to dress up for her first day of school, and she looks very out of place. We’ll see her try a number of different looks depending on what’s happening in her life.

It’s really like her adolescence. She’s trying different styles in these 10 episodes, because she’s really searching for herself. She’s trying to find herself. She used to be in possession of herself and somewhere along the way, she lost herself. She’s trying to, not just get herself back, but she’s trying to find who the new Miranda is.

And Just Like That airs on Fridays on Neon and SkyGo. It will also air on Mondays at 9.30pm on SoHo.

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