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[This story contains spoilers for the finale of HBO Max’s And Just Like That.]
In the finale of And Just Like That, Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw deals with a light that won’t stop flickering. It’s been a year since Big’s death and, as the pressure around what to do with his ashes mounts, Carrie begins to feel him everywhere — including from a lamp.
“I always loved that tiny, metaphysical story that maybe the light is somebody trying to contact you, and how we use metaphysics to help us feel better and not feel so far away,” And Just Like That showrunner Michael Patrick King tells The Hollywood Reporter while discussing the finale. “It was really interesting for us to have that light come back on again.”
In the series, that light represents Carrie grappling with her grief and trying to hold on to something now gone. But it also serves as a metaphor for the show itself — whose fans were eager to reconnect to a story, a city and characters they, too, thought were gone —and the many faces who have flickered in and out of the sequel series.
Most notably, SATC lead Kim Cattrall passed on returning as fan-favorite Samantha Jones, but her presence has remained in the form of text messages with Carrie. There’s beloved star Willie Garson, who died early on in filming from cancer, but whose character, Stanford Blatch, has remained alive, moving to Tokyo to represent a teen TikTok star. And then there’s Big, whose death due to a heart attack at the start of the season helped set the tone for the next nine episodes.
Shortly after the episode aired and following a viral Peloton campaign, THR published allegations from two women against the actor who plays Big, Chris Noth, accusing him of sexual harassment and assault. More women have since come forward, including a former SATC stand-in. (Noth has denied all allegations.) As a result, a scene featuring Big was edited out of the finale.
If the show continues, there are some plans for these characters that King is sure about; others he is not. The same goes for the newcomers, who arrived to mixed reception from viewers, but who were pivotal to expanding Carrie, Charlotte York Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis) and Miranda Hobbes’ (Cynthia Nixon) universe: Nicole Ari Parker as Lisa Todd Wexley, Karen Pittman as Dr. Nya Wallace, Sara Ramírez as Che Diaz and Sarita Choudhury as Seema Patel.
With season one wrapped and a second season yet to be official, King and fellow finale writers Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky, in conversation with THR below, look back at their return to the SATC universe and the effort to diversify their story, talk about their biggest surprises around fan response, how the show plans to continue to handle Samantha, Stanford and Big going forward, and why there is more story to tell.
One expectation of And Just Like That was that it would just be more Sex and the City but with older characters. Another was that it would offer a different, contemporary take. What was your vision, and do you feel you accomplished what you set out to do?
Michael Patrick King: I will start with a reaction that people said to me before it was even on — just when it was announced — and that was, “Oh, I can’t wait to have a cosmo and sit back and see my girls.” I thought, “Oh, well, we’re not doing that.”
I mean, deliberately, there’s not even a cosmo in the show until episode four at the bar with Seema, where Carrie is trying to be in that other show before death. Miranda says to her that it’s fun. There’s no death. She didn’t know Big. She’s having a suspended reality in the old show by having a cosmo and talking about dating apps. So to me, I knew that we were always going to broaden the characters the way we did over the six years and two movies. Those characters in Sex and the City started out simpler than they ended. They started as archetypes and became fully fleshed-out characters. They started as “I got to get a man” and wound up being, “I’ve got to love myself and see what the universe hands out to me.”
So for us to simplify 20 years later, when the world is incredibly more complex, would be a mistake. The other thing that Sex and the City did, where I felt we were comfortable, was that we commented on what people were talking about and experiencing in society when they were 35 and single. We knew our template was to comment on where they are, where society is, at this age, at this point in New York, and to try to bring in as much of the world and create a slight overview rather than be in it. I feel we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, which was to show a new chapter in this show called And Just Like That. Also, you’ve only seen 10 episodes of this. You’ve seen six seasons and two movies of the other characters. To put the scale out and say, “Oh, well, I don’t know them as much” — of course. You’ve known Miranda 20 years. You’ve known Nya for 20 minutes.
Julie Rottenberg: When we first started talking about doing the series again, there was that giddiness I’m sure many fans had of, “Yay, we’re going to go back to that fantastic place we used to be.” But the truth is, you can’t go home again. If you do go home, it always looks different. We knew from the beginning if we tried to re-create that, we couldn’t succeed. And the fans wouldn’t have wanted that — as much as people think they wanted that old thing. Michael, you’ve said if you look back at what it was, it wasn’t necessarily what people remember.
King: They remember Sex and the City on E!; they don’t remember Sex and the City on HBO, which was darker, fucked up, messy, shocking and very alive and very aggressive in its attitude. I remember the commercialed, polished version like it was almost “Friendships in the City.” They cut all the sex out of it in syndication. So when people came up against the edge of this, they were like, “What?” But that edge has always been in the show. Always.
Rottenberg: Even if you watch the real thing on HBO, there is a revisionist history that’s happening a little bit with what people have chosen to remember about certain aspects of the show. So we knew we couldn’t reproduce that. Very intentionally, anytime we felt like there was a joke or coffee shop scene that felt like too much from the original series, we pulled back. We consciously wanted to invent a whole new arena for these characters, both the familiar ones and our new characters. So, I think we were also getting to know this new world along with the audience.
Much has been said about the show’s diversity efforts, which were made both on- and offscreen with characters and writers. The “Diwali” episode, in particular, was divisive amid a cultural appropriation conversation. Where did that storyline come from and how did you weigh whether to do it and other cross-cultural storylines like it? [In And Just Like That… The Documentary, also now streaming, Parker says there is a show rule where every story comes from an experience from the writers room.]
King: All of our stories come from one of us, and then we build and add fantastical and, hopefully, smart technical stuff on top of it to make it a story that’s not just about us. I had an experience where I met Nisha Ganatra, who wound up directing the finale and episode nine, through a friend. I went to a Diwali at her house, as I would say, a virgin. I barely knew Nisha at that point, but what impressed me so much was the intimacy of having somebody that I barely know tie a red string around my wrist and tell me that it was to remind me how strong I was. That kind of thrilling intimacy was something that I was interested in — and in the newness of an experience and a world I didn’t know. I did have an experience where I was incredibly warmed and moved forward in a relationship by a festival that I didn’t know anything about. So that was the jumping-off place.
We always knew we were looking to create characters who represented more than the white women in the show before, so we always knew we were going to bring in people of color. We gravitated toward a South Asian, Queens immigrant family and this American story of Seema creating this success for herself. What’s funny is that once [writer] Rachna [Fruchbom] was in, and we started fleshing out Seema, what Rachna thought was interesting was that my emotional attachment [to Diwali] was much greater than hers because she was used to it; it was every year to her. So, we investigated the magic of that. A friend of mine who died was South Asian and I went to her memorial. At her memorial, all of her girlfriends, whether they were South Asian or white or Black, were wearing saris that she had given them at some point. So to me, there was always a level of respect. We talked to Rachna and [actress] Sarita [Choudhury] about it, then we put it in the show.
It was a moment for Carrie in clothing that no one’s ever seen her in, which is right on story for Carrie — she’s always fascinated by clothes. Then we had Seema give her permission. We did a lot of research online before we wrote that about appreciation versus appropriation. Once again, we reflected, if we’re going to do something personal, what’s the bigger context of how the world will speak about it? We tried — to use a sports analogy — to cover our bases.
There have been questions around character choices this season, notably Miranda’s. Some have wondered if her actions have been in-character — something you address in the finale, both in a conversation between Miranda and Carrie, and with Miranda’s hair color (dyed back to red in the finale). Why does she still feel like Miranda to you?
Elisa Zuritsky: I was very surprised at the criticism that she’s behaving out of character. I’m not surprised that people have a lot of opinions about how she’s behaving, but the specific “Who is she?” of it all I found kind of mystifying. If you look back to the original series, she was many things throughout the arc of the whole show. She starts out one way; she softens up through the series; she has ups and downs in the movies with Steve. She’s kind of a tumultuous person. So the fact that we meet her again and she’s gone through this after the pandemic — after everything that’s happened in the world, with her child growing up and her marriage the way it is — to me, it followed a logic that made sense. But this is the most subjective arena I’ve ever been in in my life. I feel like we’re in this giant psychological experiment with everybody’s subjectivity flying around.
Another specific surprise I had was in the beginning of the series. People had a big reaction to [Miranda’s] first classroom interactions with Nya, and I, again, was surprised by how that was interpreted. There were people who related to her who recognized her in themselves. The idea that she would misspeak in a classroom full of 20-year olds and with a professor she admires and fears, that she’s saying the wrong thing, to me, remains hilariously true for people, and I would say, white people.
King: If you look at the familiar series, she’s the first one with an opinion. She’s the anarchist. She’s the one who’s saying: “Society is bullshit. I shouldn’t have to dress a certain way. I don’t want to have to be a girlfriend.” She’s still saying all that. The reality is she was always the one who was the most aggressive and the most current, and the most against the societal norms. When they used to do polls, “Which of the ladies are you?” Miranda’s number was always the lowest. Very few people identified with Miranda. It was Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha — and then it was Miranda. I was like, “What? That’s crazy!” All the funny, sarcastic, smart women I know are Miranda but for some reason, people don’t want to own that. So all of a sudden, Miranda is a wife and a mother, and she’s now the one they’re claiming is them. But she’s always been, quite frankly, the societal clown. They all have been. Miranda is the one who goes on a date with braces and doesn’t know she has olive tapenade in her mouth. She’s smiling and acting the fool, but she has a very advanced brain.
Society keeps tripping Miranda, and that’s exactly where we are. Society is tripping everyone, and it doesn’t make her out of date that she doesn’t know how to respond to that. That was a unique situation. She was trying to do the most current thing she could. She goes into the classroom and gets thrown that Nya looks different and then gets into a bigger social-racial context as to why she made a mistake because she’s hyper-aware. She sees herself. She’s not clueless. She’s clued up. That’s why she keeps tripping all over herself. To me, what I love is that Miranda, the firebrand and the one with red hair, returns to the firebrand with red hair. But what’s really important is the conversation we had about the return to the red hair — every decision you see in the show goes through the jury room, and that’s all of us. We try it. We say what’s guilty, not guilty, what’s a good idea, not a good idea.
Zuritsky: It was a very late-breaking decision we made while we were filming. Toward the end of the season, the three of us were on location, and we were wondering whether we had given Miranda, in the finale, her moment. We knew she was going to L.A. at that point. Did she have a final button on her journey? For some reason I can’t explain, the red hair just popped into my head as a powerful image for her. Then it sparked this big conversation. Julie and I had a big argument about it. What is the message we’re sending out — that it’s better to have dyed hair than natural hair? The more we talked about it, the more I became strident about her freedom to change it up if she wants to. I suddenly felt like we were the judgmental voices in Miranda’s head and society saying you have to be one thing.
Rottenberg: I was really against it at first, I’ll admit. Hated it for so many reasons. But once it happened on set that day, I felt relieved to see that familiar Miranda again. I think, in a way, it all harkens back to that first episode. She’s arguing to the death that she’s a feminist, and why should she pretend she’s anything other than what she is? Then Charlotte’s saying Ruth Bader Ginsburg dyes her hair, and I don’t think anyone could attempt to argue that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not the ultimate feminist. Why did Ruth dye her hair? We don’t know, but she chose to.
King: The decision led to our Declaration of Independence, which is Miranda claiming that you can be — which is all the series has ever been — whoever you want to be as long as you’re OK with it. The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship, and for Miranda to come to the courtroom bathroom and argue with Carrie, “Can’t I change and then change back again?” We were very adamant that we were opening the door to let anyone at any age decide who they are to themselves and whatever the trappings of that are. It also shows that the very rigid Miranda has learned, just like Charlotte has learned, that you have to let go of ideas about how you want something to go because life comes in.
Miranda thought she would be a gray-haired lawyer, and now she’s going to L.A. to sit in an audience and have red hair. Charlotte thought she was going to have this perfect they-mitzvah; she didn’t get that. Carrie thought she’d live with Big forever, and she didn’t get that. Nya didn’t get what she expected at the end, and Seema got something she wasn’t expecting. And [Lisa Todd Wexley] shows up as this incredible sage for friendship. It’s all about how these characters affect each other and how the 10 episodes let us begin to tell these stories.
Zuritsky: I feel like the journey of shutting out everybody else’s noise — what everybody is always saying we as women should be doing — and just doing the things that feel right to you, is to me, what both series are really about at heart.
King: It’s not easy to shut out society. It wasn’t easy when they were 34 and being told to act a certain way and be married, and it’s certainly not easy at this age when society is telling them to act a certain way.
Che, a queer, bisexual, nonbinary person of color, in a love triangle with Miranda opposite fan beloved Steve, a straight white man, has been a source of contention this season. Were you surprised by that or did you anticipate the backlash and consider how the love triangle might frame the characters in it?
King: Julie, Elisa, and I got together all the writers and I said basically, “Get ready. I’m going to project 90 percent of people watching this show, their relationships consist of — in a good way or a bad way, depending on how you frame it — sitting on the couch, eating ice cream, watching television and talking about their kids. So Miranda is going to upset the norm.”
I always thought people would be upset that something changed the norm and the way they want to think about relationships, but that’s what we’ve always done. The fact that Che was the flint, the fire — I just wanted Che to be authentic, passionate, not a liar, not a player, true to theirself and clear. That’s what we wanted to do for Sara Ramírez. That’s what we wanted to do for Che. So the conscious effort we made was to make Che authentic and let the chips fall where they may. Che knows who they are. Miranda doesn’t know who she is anymore. She’s wanting to be somebody new or, her true self, but the effort we made was to make Che forthright, I believe noble, authentic, and dynamic, which is what we got with Sara. So we wanted people to feel that whether they want to feel that or not.
Rottenberg: To your question, were we surprised? Michael did say buckle up, and I might have thought my seatbelt was on. I was both 100 percent prepared and 100 percent shocked at the impact that it had on people. We always have to believe in what we’re doing because we know we can’t write to or away from whatever the response might be. We have to just know we believe in it. It comes from an honest place. We felt we’d earned that story, and it was a story we wanted to put out there. Then, how people respond? That’s the beauty of art. After that, it’s out of our control.
King: When it comes to society and what we did when we were doing Sex and the City — and hopefully, what we tried to do here — is that we look at where the edge is. So when we started building this, I was like, “OK, where’s sex now?” And really, what sex was and is — the edge is gender. So for us to not explore gender would be to be not current. I think it’s more a struggle about traditional marriage versus nontraditional depictions of people in relationships. When we did Sex and the City and they were all 34, that’s too late for society, at that time, to be single. They were already fighting an uphill battle. The fun thing about the show is, if it’s fun at all, that we get to explore the uphill battle of the individual against society. That’s all we’ve ever tried to do.
Despite the absences of their actors, you chose to keep both Samantha and Stanford’s presence in the show. Do you plan on continuing that in a possible season two, and in terms of that final text between Carrie and Samantha in the finale, have there been any conversations with Cattrall?
King: These people are in the characters’ lives, and there are circumstances that we cannot supersede. Our beloved Willie Garson can never make an appearance. So, I don’t know. We’ll have to have big conversations, if there’s a season two, about how we handle Stanford because it’s painful for all of us. It’s just a fact that there can never be another Stanford scene, and there can, of course, never be another Stanford.
And there can never be another Samantha. Kim Cattrall has said she doesn’t want to play Samantha, so that’s a fact we dealt with. I’m happy that people saw that Samantha was in the show because she was to us. When Carrie texts [in the finale asking Samantha if she wants to meet up in Paris], Samantha types back, “How about tomorrow night?” and Carrie writes in all caps, “FABULOUS” — that’s the most Sex and the City-fabulous I’ve ever seen! It’s all caps, and it’s a text; it’s not even spoken.
On Dec. 16, THR reported sexual assault allegations against former star Chris Noth. Were you aware of those allegations, including the one made by a former Sex and the City stand-in, prior to this, and how did you feel about it?
King: I had no idea of any allegations and I still have no idea of the details of any allegation, so I can’t comment on any of that because I knew nothing about it. It didn’t affect the production aspect at all. The entire show was filmed and completed by the time the allegations came out.
The final finale moment sets up a second season that would not necessarily need to involve Big. How, if more And Just Like That comes, will you treat his presence in Carrie’s future storylines?
King: Big will appear in Carrie’s DNA emotionally. Anytime you have a great love — a friend, a pet (laughs) — anything you love that you lost, it’s a part of you. The Carrie story was about her finally letting go of actually holding on to Big. She let go, and we’d like to believe that the minute you let go, something new comes. We all have people who have died, and they’re an incredible touchstone to you every day. When you choose to love someone in your life, they’re in you, and they are referenced constantly. When we go forward, if we go forward, just like we reference Samantha, who is no longer in the show, Carrie and Miranda and Charlotte — these people are in their lives. They will always be a point of love and sometimes a wound.
All you’re looking for as writers are those things where we all connect as humans. That’s usually a sadness or a giant joy. Then you build stories around that. The fact that you see the light — it’s in the show, because it’s my mother who we think is flicking in the lights — and that that’s there, that’s all you do. That’s all we try to do with the show as writers. We get in the writing room and say what moves us, what part of our lives can we steal, manipulate, co-op, embellish, make better, make worse for them? And by them, I mean the characters and the people who are so devoted to these adventures that we’re putting out there. It’s all for them. So, Big will always be, literally, a big part of Carrie’s life.
The entire finale feels like a complete series end with just enough of the door left open for a season two. What are your plans for the franchise’s future, and who is in the mix for talks about a second season?
King: Here’s the thing. You’re thinking about more? We’re thinking about more. We’re going, “So, Miranda is in L.A. now. What is that about? Carrie and [her podcast producer] Franklin kissed? That looked hot. The door closed! What is that about? What’s going to happen to Nya and Andre Rashad? Are they getting back together? What’s with Seema and Zed? We don’t know what’s happening there. And what’s up with Herbert and LTW?” I want to know more about all the new characters. I want lots more. We have no answers, but we have a lot of questions.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
And Just Like That is now streaming its full season on HBO Max.
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