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Sex and the City is back, but this time, the creatives and cast promise things will be different.
A more inclusive and representative look at both sex and the city itself is guaranteed, the HBO Max limited series’ writers and stars revealed to The Hollywood Reporter at the And Just Like That premiere, held at MOMA in New York City on Wednesday. But perhaps more immediately noticeable is the absence of original Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones, as well as actor Willie Garson, who portrayed Carrie Bradshaw’s best friend Stanford Blatch on the original HBO series and who passed away during filming.
Stanford is in the “first couple” of episodes but, following his unexpected death, the show “had to shift a little bit,” shared writer Rachna Fruchbom, who noted that showrunner Michael Patrick King took a very SATC approach to addressing Garson’s absence. “The scripts were done, so we did have to do some creative shifting,” fellow writer Samantha Irby confirmed to THR. “I think [King] figured it out in a very beautiful way. It’s not treacly, which we’re all allergic to. We don’t want anything super sweet.”
When it comes to Samantha, King recently told THR that, “I never thought, ‘Oh, there’s a hole I have to fill.’ Samantha doesn’t not exist in their lives. The show was born of these three characters: What’s their life, and who can I bring in to inform it?”
On Wednesday’s carpet, Irby said Samantha will be addressed in the HBO Max follow-up in a way that explores how friendships aren’t always everlasting. “With Samantha, it gave us an opportunity to show that friendships change, no matter the age,” she explained. “You think of your 20s as like, ‘I don’t talk to her anymore, but now I talk to her.’ It gave us a chance to show how friendships evolve in both a good and bad way.”
Added Fruchbom, “When you’re in your 50s, it’s unlikely that every single human you were close to in your 20s or 30s are the same people. So, we tried to treat it super organically, like it might naturally evolve. But we didn’t lose her. It’s not like we just waved her away. Samantha’s there. She’s there.”
In turn with who is — and isn’t — there, the NYC premiere event focused heavily on the show’s new castmembers and how the series plans to tell a story about the city, sex and New Yorkers that’s more representative of who you might find in the Big Apple.
For writer Keli Goff, the biggest shift is how And Just Like That avoids taking a tokenistic approach to its characters. “Sex and the City has had Black characters before, so I feel like what we worked on this time is showing the diversity within diversity. And not just for Black people,” Goff said. “My friends who are Indian, my friends who are Latino — it’s like they’ve had the one character that’s supposed to represent everybody. So it was really exciting to have diversity within diversity.”
It’s a narrative approach actress Sarita Choudhury, who plays wealthy real estate broker Seema Patel, says bucks Hollywood tradition of bringing in people of color to diversify a cast, only to have those characters serve as supports to a show’s white leads.
“When you do a show like this, everyone is so aware that if we’re gonna take it on, we have to take it on,” she said. “So what I love and hope has happened in the writing, especially, and with the directing, is that each of us has a full life on the show. I’m not brought in to ask any of the original characters about their plots. It’s about my life.”
“It’s not the stereotypical tropes that we all see. From the roles that I’ve played, some that I’ve auditioned for — we all know what those stereotypes are. So I think what’s really great about the way that Andre’s written, that Nya’s written, is that they are very true-to-life human beings that deal with human problems that we all share,” LeRoy McClain, who plays Andre Rashad Wallace, told THR on the carpet about the show’s representation, especially its men of color.
While Karen Pittman, who plays the Brooklyn-based Columbia University law professor Dr. Nya Wallace, was tight-lipped about how sexy her character gets on the show, she did reveal that viewers will see “a joyful Black woman” with grace “who looks good and has a great time” — even if she’s primarily seen with certain characters.
“I don’t know if I spend time meeting Seema in season one, but you will see Nya and her husband meet Miranda Hobbes and her husband Steve,” she said. “You see them kind of wanting to find each other in their worlds, which I think is even more interesting. We’re not gonna see all of the women of color bound up together. You’ll see them integrated as they actually are in the culture of New York City.”
Sara Ramírez, who plays Che Diaz — a 40-something nonbinary bisexual Mexican-Irish podcast host — acknowledges that when it comes to the increased visibility of characters like their own and fellow new castmembers Nicole Ari Parker, Pittman and Choudhury, “visibility isn’t justice” but it is still “important.” And that visibility doesn’t just cover facets of characters like Che’s identity, but their romantic life and sexuality on the limited series, which writer Irby says will feature “some” gay sex.
“I feel really grateful that I got to step into this universe — this iteration, this continuation, if you will — of Sex and the City to widen the world and to remind people that there are queer and trans people in the world who exist, who are empowered, who are dynamic or complicated, who are funny, who are smart, who are sexy. So you better believe that Che Diaz brings on the sex in the city.”
With a narrative around 40- and 50-somethings, the shows’ writers say it was important to not shy from featuring the sex and sexuality of all its characters, particularly its older ones. “For us, it was really important to show that the moms still get busy, that they still have vibrant, passionate sex lives,” Irby said.
“If not better [sex lives] because when you’re a mom, you don’t have time,” Fruchbom added, laughing. “If I want to have good sex, I have to be specific and I have to know what I like. I don’t have time to mess around.”
And while there is lots the team is excited they could include in this extension of the Sex and the City universe, there is one thing that at least two of And Just Like That‘s writers, Fruchbom and Irby, say didn’t make it on-screen. And both playfully put the blame squarely on Goff.
“We tried to get diarrhea into the show. Keli, no pun intended, shit all over that and wouldn’t let us do it,” Irby said. “For someone who hates diarrhea, you didn’t have problems shitting all over us trying to give Carrie Bradshaw diarrhea.”
The first two episodes of And Just Like That are now streaming on HBO Max, with a weekly rollout to follow.
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Robert De Niro