Cynthia Nixon: from Sex and the City to sexual equality

“We had met when he auditioned me for a film that never got made. But I’m betting Davies barely knew the show existed. There was this notion that it was just a way of trapping men into marriage. Kirsten Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and and Kim Cattrall filming the Sex And The City movie in New York in 2007. Next week, we see her as Emily Dickinson – she really has a look of that poet – in Terence Davies’s excellent A Quiet Passion. We get the open-hearted, hopeful Emily in the surprisingly witty opening act. That’s gone.”

 Here we are talking about A Quiet Passion and Sex and the City still elbows its way to the table. That eccentric Liverpudlian loves being unaware of contemporary popular culture. My wife and kids had come out the weekend when you guys voted. Emerging in 1998, the show attracted much media attention, but it was not until the turn of the decade that it became a keystone of the zeitgeist. “In our case it was this idea that women are going about their lives and careers, having a great time of it and not sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. “It wasn’t a big deal to me,” she says calmly. “Oh, I know all about it,” she laughs. That changed in 2003 when she broke up with Mozez and began a relationship with Christine Marinoni. Nixon is endlessly articulate and well catered-for in terms of intellectual hinterland, but there is no hint of Miranda’s brittleness. Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle in A Quiet Passion, Terence Davies’s excellent film about the poet Emily Dickinson

It is at this point that we finally mention she is best known for playing the sensible Miranda in Sex and the City. “I was always able to make a living. “It was a big deal to other people for a while. “There was Law and Order and The Cosby Show shooting there and that was about it. “But Rod Lurie, who made the Reagan film, just phoned me up and told me he is making one about Nixon. My understanding is that it would be cheaper to fund the space programme for three years. “I think that’s right,” she laughs. That was an enormous thing for us.”

Nixon has the sort of presence and flexibility that appeals to casting directors. The notion, still palpable in many contemporaneous shows, that women only had sex to oblige men was blown away. She earlier played Eleanor Roosevelt. “No. But I had two offers when I graduated.”  

By the time I graduated from college, I had been working for 10 years and I was supporting myself

The only child of Anne Elizabeth Knoll, an actor, and Walter Nixon, a radio journalist, Nixon can be spotted in Prince of the City and Amadeus. For 15 years, she was in a relationship with Danny Mozes, a schoolteacher. In the final sections, we see the despairing soul that watermarks the gloomier verse. “I did go there,” she says. I wonder if she ever resents the way Miranda hangs over her life. Nearly 30 years ago, she played Juliet in Central Park for the New York Shakespeare Festival. He wants me to play Pat.”

You couldn’t make it up. I wonder if Nixon, at first, ever imagined it would become such a sensation. I think attitudes have changed.” 

Nowhere more so than in Ireland. Many were the magazines that asked: “Which Sex and the City character are you?” Miranda was the dry, intelligent cynic among the group. (Photo by Richard Corkery/Getty Images)

“No, I was just thrilled to find a TV series that shot in New York,” she says. A Quiet Passion opens on April 7th “I was in Belgium. At mention of the 2015 referendum on marriage equality, Cynthia perks up and summons memories of hearing the news. “That’s right. If it was Wheel of Fortune or something it would be different. That’s one of the elite “Seven Sisters”. But we rode it out and everybody calmed down. Isn’t it time she played Pat Nixon? One can imagine her slipping comfortably into character roles as the years progress. But I see what he means. But it stands up today.”

The renown has meant that details of Cynthia’s personal life have become public. It’s always been something I am very proud of. I was just thinking: ‘Great, something that’s shooting where I live.’”

The show was celebrated for offering shorthand representations of particular species of modern urban human. There was this notion that it was just a way of trapping men into marriage. Nixon is also cornering the market in first ladies. Women now had a very different attitude to marriage. Nixon was never a tabloid target like SATC colleagues Kim Cattrall or Sarah Jessica Parker. “Well, you make a joke,” she says tolerantly. That’s gone

“The thing about a successful, groundbreaking show is not that it creates something new; it is that it reflects something that hasn’t made its way into discourse yet,” she says. It was so amazingly exciting. Didn’t she go to Barnard? Not at all. Huh? He feels I look a lot like Emily. She recently played Nancy Reagan in the TV movie Killing Reagan. My wife had friends in Dublin who were involved in the fight. By the time I graduated from college, I had been working for 10 years and I was supporting myself. Cynthia Nixon has been slaving before the camera for longer than you might have guessed. But they had a similar attitude to that which men had: it may happen; I would like that; but I’m in no hurry.” 

And there was also a new openness about female sexuality. It connected with underexplored notions of female friendship. He said he would write the script for A Quiet Passion and watch Sex and the City with the sound off. That’s arguable. Ha ha! It reflected the development of a richer, less grimy Manhattan. He felt thoughts and feelings play across my face in a way that was right for the film.”

Sex and the City did not become a phenomenon overnight. Her performance as Dickinson stretches all her acting muscles. The couple, who first met in high school, raised two children in relative calm. Huh? “My parents had gone to great lengths to explain that very few child actors make it when their time is up. They were still interested in it. We ended up celebrating in a gay bar in Antwerp. “Honestly, I never did stop,” she says in that elegant patrician timbre. Now 50, she first spoke a line for money when she was 12 years old. You couldn’t make it up. The media was abuzz. Wait until you hear what I’m about to say. I made enough money to pay for my own, very expensive college.”

Hang on.