Arts News

Sex and the seedy

Kim Cattrall on her very un-Samantha role, love of gay men and Britney Spears

There’s not much city in Meet Monica Velour, but there’s sex — and a trailer park and a very haggard-looking Kim Cattrall. The Sex and the City actress plays the title role, a washed-up porn star, who meets a young fan when the boy travels to rural Indiana to see her at a strip club. After six seasons of glam in her iconic role as super-slut Samantha Jones on the hit TV series (and two movie spin-offs), Monica Velour is nothing like the femme fatale that Cattrall once played.

Recently, we caught up with Cattrall, who discussed how the part parallels her own career, why she shops at Kmart and whether she’d be up for another Sex and the City.

What about this role was so different for you?

I usually play characters who are very strong, forceful and successful dynamos, and this woman is someone who’s been marginalized and is very much an outcast. I thought, “What will it be like to inhabit that, and do I have that in me?”

In some ways it’s a story that’s not too far from what has happened in Hollywood for decades. And I thought, “I can relate to that. That’s a great handle for me to go on, because I’m in my 50s and suddenly you become, ‘You look good for your age,’ instead of, ‘You look good.’” It was a physical, emotional and intellectual challenge.

You really threw yourself into this part.

I had a tremendous amount of support, I really did. To be handed a role like this at any time in your career, but especially at this time, I said to Keith Bearden, the director: “You’ve written a feminist film. It’s really incredible that you cast a woman in her 50s who’s overweight, and that you wrote that role.” This is a guy who’s rewriting a Hollywood movie and what he’s done is make a wonderful American movie. And I don’t think we have a lot of those around anymore, sadly.

What kind of research went into this role? I heard some of it involved you going to strip clubs.

That was the least of it, really. I mean, that kind of reality is very easy to access on the Internet. For Keith and I, it was really an investigation on multiple levels. I decided to go with a deeper register in my voice. I felt that my voice as Kim was too hopeful, too lyrical, and I wanted to go deeper than that. Gaining the weight was, again, like looking at porn. It was something that was a dedication in the sense of continuously being aware of it and doing it and not exercising, which was a blessing, and not being on a diet, which was an even bigger blessing. (Laughs)

What did you eat?

Oh, god. Definitely pasta, butter, desserts, lots of pork. Anything and everything that was either salty or sweet. It was really a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, because my whole life I’ve been on a diet or on an exercise routine. But I do love to eat.

Before the shoot, you were spotted at Kmart.

Oh, yeah. I was there. I did a lot of the costumes myself, and every weekend I would go to Kmart because that’s where Monica would shop. That’s the kind of authenticity that was going on in the sense of this is real; it’s not Hollywood real, it’s real. No special lighting, no special treatment.

You mention Monica being an outcast, and early test screenings for the movie showed a strong interest among gay men. Do you think that has something to do with it?

Well, not being a gay man, I can’t really comment on that. But I can understand how it would … yes, definitely. Especially in Middle America.

Did you tend to buddy-up with the gay people on set?

Our scenic designer, who did a brilliant job, is gay and he absolutely loved working on this movie. He came in at the last minute, and he did a phenomenal job. That trailer park doesn’t exist. A lot of those places didn’t exist. We actually shot in the trailer, and with such detail. I remember saying to him, “This really feels real.” The bedroom felt real; the living room and everything in the kitchen, he built that all out and he did a phenomenal job.

Do you appreciate porn stars more now?

It gave me an appreciation for women of a certain age, which I am one of them. Whether you’re an actress or a teacher or a porn star, after a certain age you are marginalized — and then, in the case of a porn star, you’re an outcast. So where do these people go? And where do aging actresses go? I like to think that they go to the theater and they continue to be involved with great stories.

So there are a lot of women that I’ve surrounded myself with, like Janet Suzman, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep; they are really inspiring, but most people get so downtrodden, like this character — where do they go, what happens to them? So I have a real respect and appreciation for what that is and will continue to fight it with everything I have. (Laughs)

If you were a porn star, what would your porn star name be?

Mine would be Fluffy Dawn, because my cat was Fluffy, and I lived on Dawn Road.

What do you think Samantha would say about Monica? Would they be friends?

I don’t think they would be friends. I think they live in different universes. Samantha is a dynamo and in some ways she’s kind of stuck in her own way, meaning that she doesn’t want to change, she doesn’t want to age. A character like Monica Velour doesn’t have a choice.

Will there be a Sex and the City 3?

I have no idea. I really don’t know.

Would you be onboard?

To me, it always depends on the script, because I always felt the writing was so good on the show and I know that for the writers and producers — Sarah (Jessica Parker) being one of them — that would be a real priority. But I’ve heard nothing. I also haven’t been around too much. I’ve been busy working. You’ll probably know before I do.

What’s your relationship been like with the Sex and the City women? Do you stay in touch?

You know, we do in the sense of, “Hi, I’m over here,” and “Congratulations on that.” Two of the four us of have kids, so that’s a whole other world, and Kristin (Davis) travels extensively, as do I. But when we see each other, it’s so nice. It’s really lovely. But we all live in different universes.

How did you react when Cynthia Nixon came out?

I was very happy for her. I saw the pictures of her, and also just from being around her, and she just seemed so fulfilled. Christine (Marinoni) is just wonderful. They’re a terrific couple. And I’m very pleased about the baby.

What do you think when you go back and watch yourself in Star Trek VI or Mannequin?

I never do it. (Laughs) The most I see of that is from fans. But I look back at my career so fondly. I had so much fun and I worked with such terrific people. I’m still working, and I’m just very lucky. And I know I’ve worked hard for it, and continue to, but it has not been a hardship, it has been a real joy.

You played Britney Spears’ mom in Crossroads, and her life as changed so much since then. But did you ever feel maternal, like you wanted to protect her from all she’d gone through?

When I met Britney she was in top form, but what I really liked about her was that she had a real desire — acting in this film meant a lot to her. She had a coach on the set, and she took it very seriously.

I have a lot of empathy for her. The road that she’s chosen is a really tough one, and to be in the public eye is tough already — but to be at that level at such an early age, she handled it the best she knew how. My hat’s off to her that she has found her way through that really tough time, and I wish her the very best. I really do.

On your episode of Who Do You Think You Are, you found out that your grandfather was married to two women at the same time. How did discovering that affect you personally?

It’s affected my whole family. It was very wounding and hurtful to find out the truth, but ultimately it brought the family that I do have closer together. It also started to envelope other people who neither of us knew existed, and that has been a wonderful experience — to have a new family, and really respect and value the family you do have.

This may come as a shock to you, but you have a massive gay following.

Where would I be without gay men? I don’t know where I’d be. I love gay men.

I love gay men, too.

I know you do! (Laughs)

Do most gay men recognize you as Samantha?

Some do, and some know Mannequin and some know Big Trouble in Little China. Some know me just from my theater work. I have a couple of gentlemen who traveled all the way from New York to Liverpool to see me in Antony and Cleopatra over the fall, and that is just so incredible. I’m overwhelmed that someone cares enough to follow me where my career goes.

Did you realize how much gay men loved you before Sex and the City?

I didn’t. I really didn’t. But now I do!

Chris Azzopardi

As editor of Q Syndicate, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey, and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ, and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.

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