Last year, a clip of Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall sitting across from Piers Morgan went viral. In the most heavily circulated snippet of the interview, the 61-year-old actress tells Morgan about the intra-cast turmoil that influenced her choice to not reprise her role in the SATC franchise:
We’ve never been friends. We’ve been colleagues, and in some ways it’s a very healthy place to be, because then you have a clear line between your professional life and relationship and your personal. To get any kind of negative press about something that I’ve been saying for almost a year of “no,” that I’m demanding or a diva. And this is really where I take to task the people from Sex and the City and specifically Sarah Jessica Parker, is that I think she could have been nicer. I really think she could have been nicer. I don’t know what her issue is.
Moments beforehand, Cattrall had spoken with passion about the joy she derived from playing her character, the sexed-up bombshell publicist Samantha Jones. The decision to leave the role behind, which she says she made in 2016, at the age of 60, was a choice to conclude one long chapter of her life. To Cattrall, her departure also marked an opportunity for the series to expand beyond the provincial territory it explored during its original run—and correct prior wrongs in the process:
It’s a great part! I played it past the finish line and then some, and I loved it. And another actress should play it. Maybe they could make it an African American Samantha Jones! Or a Hispanic Samantha Jones!
Throughout the interview, and the ensuing press whirlwind, Cattrall spoke clearly about putting her own needs above that of the franchise and its fans. At 60, the actress simply had less time to devote to the resuscitation of a character who had already lived through six seasons and two full-length films. It was a refreshing admission, a candid reflection on how actors’ lives are changed by the demands of fandom. In a reboot-happy entertainment landscape, Cattrall’s commitment to her personal growth was striking (if also controversial).
That same self-determination is what set Cattrall’s Samantha Jones, the hypersexual entrepreneur, apart from the rest of Sex and the City’s iconic foursome. The Darren Star–created HBO series, which premiered 20 years ago today, drummed up new avatars of womanhood through its four leading women: Sarah Jessica Parker played Carrie Bradshaw, the protagonist and neurotic sex columnist based on the author Candace Bushnell; Kristin Davis played Charlotte York, the uptight art dealer obsessed with marriage and traditional values; current New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon played Miranda Hobbes, the no-nonsense careerist lawyer turned working mother. Of the four, it was always Samantha who prioritized herself above the needs of anyone else—especially any men.