Cynthia Nixon: The Joy of Sex and the City

Playing Miranda changed Cynthia Nixon’s life. Now the star reveals how she’s reinventing herself after 40.

By Rory Evans
Cynthia Nixon on MORE’s May 2008 cover
Photograph: Photo by: Lorenzo Agius

On Sex and the City

An emporium of comfort shoes — waxy, Crayola-colored Crocs down the center, orthopedic inserts behind the register, cork-soled granny sandals to the left — is about as far as you can get, physically and ideologically, from the stilettos fetishized on Sex and the City. Yet here is Cynthia Nixon, Sex and the City‘s Miranda Hobbes, perusing the sale rack at a shop in her neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. As she moves toward a pair of sleek, understated black ankle boots by Arche (the brand, she says, of a put-together woman), a salesman recognizes her — but only as a frequent customer. She brings the boots to the register, where another older salesman feels compelled to approach her. "Anyone ever tell you you look like Reba?" he asks.

"McEntire? No, I’ve never heard that one," Nixon answers gamely. The young cashier, meanwhile, shakes her head apologetically, clearly a-tingle with embarrassment at having to work with these dunderheads. "When is the movie coming out?" she asks while handing back Nixon’s gold card. "Because I can’t wait."

Neither, it’s safe to say, can most of the women who tuned in to Sex and the City on HBO for six years on Sunday nights, nor those who now make a bedtime ritual of watching the reruns on TBS, nor those who’ve snapped up the DVDs and turned the theme song’s opening strains into the ring tone of their lives.

It was hard not to fall in love with the show. The fashion was pure eye candy, the apartments (or in Carrie’s case, just her walk-through closet) inspired acute real estate envy, and thrilling sex seemed always to be on offer. But underneath the fantasy were four endearingly flawed friends who, while they were navigating life changes and nursing broken hearts, offered us glimpses of ourselves. And Nixon’s indelible portrayal of Miranda — a pragmatic, hyperarticulate lawyer who worried about choking to death in her apartment with only her increasingly hungry cat for company and was the first of her friends to have a baby (with her bartender lover) — made her the easiest of all to relate to. Even Miranda’s wardrobe was more down-to-earth, so much so that Nixon, 42, still wears a good bit of it. "I definitely started looking better in real life because of the show’s clothes," she admits over a late bistro breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. "Some of the cutting-edge stuff was borrowed or samples, but mine was such a mix that I got to keep it all. It’s not as if anyone wanted it back."

Not everyone embraced the series right away. "Some people thought it was shocking and vulgar to have these women sitting around talking about sex and men, and having opinions about things they want," Nixon says. But the show went on to earn 55 Emmy nominations and seven wins, including one for Nixon, and on May 30, the saga will continue with the release of the long-awaited film.

Although the series relied on its stars’ winning chemistry, none of the actresses (Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, and Kristin Davis) auditioned with one another before being cast. "It’s a strange miracle that we all came together over time," says Davis, who plays Charlotte York and is now one of Nixon’s closest friends. "It was kismet." And judging from the TV shows that tried this season to capture some of Sex and the City‘s appeal — Cashmere Mafia, Lipstick Jungle and the misbegotten Big Shots, which featured men talking like women talking like men — it’s a formula not easily duplicated.

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