Our favourite New York posse returns—albeit without the physical appearance of one iconic Samantha Jones. Since their last movie in 2010, And Just Like That… takes off eleven years after their Abu Dhabi fiasco.
Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte York Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis), and Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) are now in their mid-50s. Just like many other TV shows airing post-COVID-19, the first few lines acknowledge the pandemic and the roller coaster of lockdowns that these New Yorkers have had to endure. Another obvious gap to this ensemble is, of course, the fact that Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) is missing in action. She instead “appears” via telegraph and texts over the course of the series.
However, several episodes over, we see that Cattrall’s apprehension to rejoin the cast has given the showrunner an opportunity to (quite literally) add some colour to the show. Sarita Choudhury joins the main cast as Seema Patel, realtor-turned-friend to Carrie, who introduced not only Bradshaw, but the show’s audience to some Indian culture through the episode titled “Diwali”. In another bid to perhaps modernise this classic, now that Samantha is no longer Carrie’s publicist, Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), a non-binary podcaster enters the fray as Carrie’s boss at her latest gig.
And indeed, the show needed to hit this refresh button. Inclusivity and diversity are already the name of the game for major TV shows and films, and to not go down this road would have most probably resulted in backlash—one that goes even beyond the Chris Noth sex scandal.
But back to the ladies. As they return to the episodic structure, we are getting the full meal deal. It Girl Carrie, on top of having lost her friend to London, also has to process another loss: Big. Charlotte, on the other hand, struggles to keep up with Joneses, as well as her daughter’s evolving gender identity. Finally, perhaps the most controversial of all, is Miranda’s midlife sexual awakening that has some viewers picking up their digital pitchforks.
As of writing this article, the latest available episode is Episode 7: “Sex and the Widow”. With three more to go, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, and Michael Patrick King (director, writer, and executive producer) speak of what it’s like to return to The City.
On returning to their roles
Cynthia Nixon (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 of 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.
Kristin Davis (KD): It feels good. But it’s a lot. It’s interesting because no other job that you ever do is like this particular job. The feelings that people have about these characters and the energy that it generates is amazing. So, I did lose my voice at a certain point in all of it! But it’s fun. It’s just a lot. There’s really no other way to put it. People have such deep feelings about it, and you kind of forget, because we’ve been in the bubble, working for quite some time. Then you come back out and you’re like, wow, I forgot about the intensity. But it’s of course amazing and wonderful that there is this intensity.
On where Miranda and Charlotte are in the 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, 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.
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.
KD: Charlotte is where we left her in terms of the fact that she is still happily married to Harry and she has her two children, and they have all grown older. The main issues that Charlotte will be dealing with have to do with being in this world right now, in this moment of cultural change, and how is she going to roll with that? How is she going to handle that? And then also parenting because you never know what your children are going to bring: what they’re going to deal with as themselves and bring to you to deal with. That is true for everyone, and definitely is going to be true for Charlotte.
On what the show represents
Michael Patrick King (MPK): When the characters were 35 and single, the great villain in the show was society, telling them they’re not enough. They’re wrong. They’re lepers. They need to do what society says. There’s something wrong with them if they’re not married yet. So that great struggle, that anarchy and that fight, all those four characters fought that. And it was why I think the audience initially felt connected to these characters because they were feeling the same thing. Get married. Don’t wear that: it’s too sexual. Don’t say that. Society, society, society. So now they’re 55, and it’s the same thing. Society is saying: calm down. Be quiet. You’re not married? Uh-oh. Get married. Just… don’t be 55. On television, just look at the messaging. If you’re 35, you’re in Manolos having a cocktail. If you’re 55, you’re supposed to be in a kaftan, retired in Miami. There’s a window here where we can show how real people are at 55. The show has always been called aspirational. Yeah, it’s aspirational. You can still be an individual at 55. You can still be you, if you’ve aged, if you’re changing. It’s all about evolution. How we change as people, how relationships change, how marriages and friendships change. It’s always been about change. And because I had Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte, I knew that the audience, in a very rare moment, would be rooting for them because they’re their friends. And they’ve been with them for 20 years. It’s crazy that this exists. No one plays a character for 20 years. Even in The Crown: Goodbye! New Elizabeth! These actresses get to play these characters from 35 to 55. And the other shocking thing about the show is that Charlotte, in the first scene, says ‘I’m 55’. No actress says their age in shows now, they don’t do that. These ladies are game for telling a good story. And for being fearless. We’ve always been fearless within the realm of fiction. We’re doing it again. We’re doing a different kind of fearless.
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.
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.
KD: The show is broader now, in terms of subject matter. And that reflects life as well. We’re in our 50s now, rather than our 30s, and life is complicated when you’re older. You’re responsible for people and families and multitudes of things. And we’re living in an interesting time of change, and we wanted to reflect that in the show. And I think we do. In terms of the scripts, and our writers, and the things that we chose to put in. We tried to put in a lot of the cultural issues that everyone is dealing with and try to see how our characters deal with it.
On balancing the tragedy and the comedy
MPK: My favourite type of storytelling is when something is dark, and then suddenly light. Or something is light and then suddenly dark. That’s really where the world is. And even Sex and the City was incredibly dark. In the revisionist history of our series, they drank cosmos and ran around in shoes. In the reality of our series, Carrie had a terrible affair with a man, destroyed his marriage. Samantha had cancer, Miranda almost had an abortion, and Charlotte married somebody who was the wrong person for her, and it tortured her for two seasons. That’s always been there. The lightness comes out of the ability to make a joke of it, or have a slightly different overview. And, the friendships make people laugh. Your friends pull you out of stuff. So, this darkness is inherent in the old DNA too. It was never a romcom. It was romance and tragedy and comic humiliation, and that’s why people related to it. It was a mess of everything that you feel in your 30s. The point is, if you can make a joke in the darkness, then you’ll have them forever. Who needs darkness unless there’s a way out? And we reflect this in the show. We have no interest in leading the audience into a dark forest. and leaving them there. And when you have characters like this, you already have a sense of humour. And the new characters are incredibly interesting and funny too.
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.
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.
KD: It’s not easy. As you can tell from some people’s reactions! I do understand, obviously, that people are going to have a lot of feelings. But I also feel like we did, in the past, deal with some very serious stuff. And people forget that. It’s interesting to see what they remember from the past show. With us being older, we have all personally – meaning the writers and the actors and Michael and everybody – we have all been through life. Life is happening around us, right? And the world has been through a pandemic. There are a lot of things that have happened that are serious, and it’s important to be able to reflect that in what we’re making. And to also hopefully be able to have a way to talk about it, and maybe laugh about it. It doesn’t always have to be funny. But I know for myself, that’s how I feel when I watch it. Especially when I’m watching the other characters’ storylines. It’s amazing – I always feel that about them.
Each episode airs at the same time as the U.S., only on HBO GO. Season finale airs on 3 February 2022.