Kim Cattrall is done talking about Sarah Jessica Parker. She has other stories to tell
Since Kim Cattrall laid “Sex and the City’s” sex-positive power publicist Samantha Jones to rest in 2010, her roles have largely flown under the radar.
The English-Canadian actress opted to return to her theatrical roots, performing in plays in London’s West End and on Broadway and choosing to work on TV series outside of the U.S. To Americans who thought she was synonymous with her “SATC” persona, it might have seemed as if Cattrall had been left behind by the industry.
She hadn’t, really — she had just become more intentional about what kind of acting gigs she pursued. “In America, I was being cast as a character of a certain likeness to Samantha,” says Cattrall. “In England the casting opened up to a lot of possibilities, which I was really happy to take on.”
But whether she likes it or not, Samantha has remained a defining part of her career. “I don’t think anybody really knew what it would become, or how it would be at that moment [part of the] zeitgeist — to open up doors … for women to express themselves in a very honest, forthright way about how they felt about sexuality, or how they even interacted with their girlfriends in a real way,” says Cattrall.
When “Sex and the City” arrived on HBO in June 1998, sopranos were still singers with high voices, Larry David was the guy who wrote “Seinfeld,” and “Six Feet Under,” “Deadwood” and “The Wire” were years away from being credited with starting a revolution of original cable series programming.
“Sex and the City,” however, has become a contentious topic in recent years. Cattrall is adamant that she won’t reprise her “Sex and the City” character again for a third movie, despite costar Sarah Jessica Parker trying to make it happen. And over the years, it has become apparent there was bad blood between the duo. After Cattrall’s brother died in 2018, Cattrall publicly slammed Parker for exploiting the tragedy. Cattrall declines to comment more on their feud.
“Everything is on Google, so I encourage you to Google it, about anything that I’ve said,” she says. “I feel that that was then, and when I look at what’s going on around me, I just don’t have any regrets.”
Despite not wanting to portray Samantha in the future, Cattrall still has affection for the character, even holding onto Jones’ day book planner. “It had all of her credit cards and bills that have her apartment on it, in the Meatpacking District,” she says.
But Cattrall, 64, is now far away from the New York City Samantha once called home. Since the height of the pandemic, she has retreated to Vancouver Island with her partner, Russell Thomas. There, she’s been writing, grieving the loss of a music producer friend who died from COVID-19 and worrying about her mother, who is in a senior care facility. Still, she’s tried to keep things in perspective. “We’re pretty lucky, actually. We’ve only lost one person,” she says.
The actress has other reasons to remain optimistic. Though COVID-19 has halted or postponed production on many TV shows and films, Cattrall is set to star in one of the few fall dramas that was fully filmed pre-pandemic — the soapy, Southern gothic “Filthy Rich,” which premieres Monday. The pilot for the Fox series was shot just after Mardi Gras in February 2019, and the cast didn’t finish filming until January. While it was set to debut in the spring, the show was moved to the fall 2020 lineup.
Created by Tate Taylor, “Filthy Rich” follows a wealthy evangelical family from Louisiana that ends up in a power struggle after the patriarch of the family, Eugene Monreaux (Gerald McRaney), suddenly dies in a plane crash. Cattrall plays his duplicitous wife, Margaret, who is left to run the family’s wildly popular Christian TV empire after his death. When it’s revealed that Eugene had fathered three illegitimate children who want their claim to the billion-dollar fortune, Margaret aims to protect the family’s money and reputation at any cost.
As the quintessential Southern woman with quirks, Margaret flaunts her mile-high hair, serves Hummingbird cake with a side of manipulation and sports a yellow rubber glove as she secretly indulges in cigarettes. For Cattrall, it will be her network TV debut — with a producer credit — and a return to high camp (something her “Sex and the City” fans will appreciate).
Cattrall was initially drawn to Margaret because she was looking to do something “fun.” “It’s almost like a personal interest as well as a great, flashy, fun role to play, with some really talented people to guide me,” she says.
In the years leading up to “Filthy Rich,” she had starred in the Canadian comedy “Sensitive Skin,” the Swedish psychological thriller “Modus” and the anthology series “Tell Me a Story.” “Filthy Rich,” which premieres on Monday, was the antithesis of any of these projects. “When Tate [Taylor] sent me the script, I gobbled it up,” recalls Cattrall. “It was really funny, and I love the characters, and I didn’t know that world at all.”
To master the role, Cattrall took inspiration from a few people she knew personally — and three biographies of Margaret Thatcher. “There was something about her leadership and always wanting to do the right thing and working so hard and being earnest that I felt was helpful,” Cattrall says. It was equally important for her to master her character’s Louisiana drawl. “Actors, when they usually do a Southern accent, it’s kind of all over the map,” says Cattrall. “But this is a very specific Louisiana sound. I really wanted that to be real and work for the show and work for the character.”
Admittedly, Cattrall says she got “off on the wrong foot” in terms of preparing for the show. She initially began preparing for it by watching documentaries and reading books about evangelicals. “The thing that I realized — and my friend Patricia Field, the costume designer in ‘Sex and the City,’ reminded me of — is that we were not making a documentary, we were making entertainment,” says Cattrall. She had to rethink her strategy. “Margaret is an entertainer, and she knows how to work an audience,” says Cattrall. “She’s a manipulator. I realized that our show needed that.”
From “This Is Us” to “The Bachelorette,” COVID-19 is reshaping the fall TV schedule — and hastening the end of a TV calendar that dates back decades.
Beyond the premise, there was a more earnest reason “Filthy Rich” appealed to Cattrall. She’s reached an age where she is exploring faith. “I’ve never been this old, and I’m starting to think about, ‘Well, is there a place for the hereafter in my thinking? Is there a God?’” Cattrall asks.
She became curious about prayer, which is the bedrock of the Monreaux family. “I think that I have been using my work for quite a while now to work out things that I’m experiencing or thoughts that I’m having,” says Cattrall. “To come to some answer or peace with whatever the questions are.” For her, “Sensitive Skin” was about approaching middle age, and “Sex and the City” was about women, sexuality and the effects of menopause thereafter. (Playing a supporting role as Britney Spears’ mother in “Crossroads” — a part she says was originally intended for Madonna — was a bit simpler: She was “very curious” to meet Spears.)
Cattrall hopes to tell more stories for her age group, “because if young women are lucky enough, they’ll get to be my age and older.” And, as publicist Samantha Jones and TV personality Margaret Monreaux would be all too aware, growing older comes with unique challenges for women in the public eye.
It’s “based on my curiosity about getting older and being this age,” Cattrall says of the subject matter that interests her, “in a business that has had a sell-by date from its inception.”
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Rating: TV-14-DLS (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language and sexual content)
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