Cynthia Nixon: ‘I Was Troubled By How Un-Diverse Sex And The City Was’

The Sex and the City star chats to Grazia as Ryan Murphy's Ratched hits Netflix.

cyntiha nixon

by Martha Hayes |
Updated on

Genre-defying storytelling. Provocative characters. Visionary styling. There are certain hallmarks we expect from a Ryan Murphy show, and the casting is up there. Ryan, who cut his teeth on Glee before creating Pose, The Politician and Hollywood, clearly has an eye for it. And since he often casts the same actors, once you’re in, you’re in. Lucky Cynthia Nixon.

‘To get invited into his universe was very exciting,’ the SATC actor-turned-activist tells Grazia. She stars in new Netflix series Ratched, the backstory of cold, calculating asylum nurse Mildred Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Sarah Paulson plays Mildred – stylish on the outside, unhinged on the inside – and Cynthia her unlikely sidekick, Gwendolyn Briggs, press secretary for the governor of California.

If this sounds a bit close to home for Cynthia, 54, it is. Just months before accepting the part, she was running for governor of New York. ‘It was maybe one of the reasons Ryan thought of me,’ she ponders. ‘Or chose to make the character political. I don’t know which came first!’

What piqued Cynthia’s interest wasn’t simply the exploration of mental health and women’s power, or even working with Sarah Paulson and Sharon Stone (who has a monkey, in a coordinated outfit, on her shoulder in most of her scenes). It was the way that Ryan shines a spotlight on history and flips it on its head. ‘Ryan is trying to go back into these historical periods where people of colour and queer people have been erased from the narrative and say, actually, those people were there. Let’s try to imagine who they were and what they were doing.’

Does Cynthia see many parallels between then and now? ‘Obviously, things are more possible [now] but even though we have more and more women in politics, it’s still a bridge too far for so many voters and it adds a whole other layer of challenge. So much of the election of Donald Trump and the pandemic has exposed not only how deeply conservative a country we are, but how retrograde we are, particularly when it comes to white supremacy.’

How is she feeling about the upcoming US election? ‘I am hopeful. I cannot imagine we would re-elect him,’ she says. ‘But I could not imagine we would have elected him in the first place. I’m worried he is deliberately trying to provoke unrest and be seen as the law and order candidate and that will scare people into re-electing him.’

A lifelong advocate of LGBTQ+ rights, education, women’s health and breast cancer (she was herself diagnosed in 2002), Cynthia stepped her activism up a gear in 2018. And while she may have lost out to Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo as governor of New York, the experience was life-altering. ‘I’m a high-adrenaline person but I’ve never experienced anything like the constant adrenaline of that campaign,’ she recalls. ‘It took my wife [Christine Marinoni] and I months to recover. In the days after the election, I just sat on my couch and I never do that. It reminded me of being pregnant.’ [The couple have three children.]

Next, she’s on-board for The Gilded Age, a new drama from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. And surely now she’s in with Ryan Murphy, she’s set for life? ‘I hope so!’ she quips. I wonder if she can imagine being associated with any character more than Miranda Hobbes, who she played for six seasons of Sex And The City, followed by two films. ‘No, I can’t imagine it,’ she laughs, and she’s ‘totally’ OK with that. ‘I’m very proud of it. I love it dearly.’

Even though it hasn’t exactly aged well? ‘I was always troubled by how un-diverse it was,’ admits Cynthia. ‘Certainly racially, but also how the slice of New York city it was showing was so incredibly affluent. Miranda’s husband was the only representation of anybody who didn’t have money for days. I guess Carrie didn’t have money for days, but you would never know it by the way she spent!’

That’s not all that hasn’t stood the test of time. ‘I was given a lot of the clothes and was startled by how quickly the shoes dated,’ she says. ‘One day these shoes that were so cutting edge were now quaint and old-fashioned.’

And so I got to thinking (sorry), would any amount of clothes lure her back into the role for one last hurrah? ‘Oh sure, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,’ she says. ‘I love the character and the other women but we’ve pretty much confirmed that’s not going to be happening. That ship has sailed!’

Ratched is on Netflix now.

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