Actress Kim Cattrall

Golden Globe-winning actress looks back on her SATC years and talks about her new star vehicle—the indie film Meet Monica Velour.

Kim Cattrall's career spans film, stage and TV. The British-born actress has a long list of credits and is best known as the PR maven in HBO's hit series Sex and the City—in an award-winning role that she reprised in two SATC films. Classically trained, she studied in London and NY. Cattrall is also a best-selling author, whose book Sexual Intelligence was the basis for a feature-length HBO documentary produced by her own Canadian-based company. She holds citizenship in Britain, Canada and the U.S. and is next up in the indie film Meet Monica Velour.


Tavis: Pleased to welcome Kim Cattrall to this program. She is a five-time Emmy nominee for her work, of course, on “Sex and the City.” Starting this weekend in New York and L.A. you can see her in the new film “Meet Monica Velour.” Love the name, “Meet Monica Velour.” (Laughter) The film opens wider around the country after that. Here now, a scene from “Meet Monica Velour.”
Tavis: I was saying to you when you walked on the set that I knew I wanted to see this for one simple reason – I heard it was about a trailer park in Indiana. I grew up in a trailer park in Indiana, so I wanted to see it.
Kim Cattrall: Yes.
Tavis: So I wanted to see it. Then I heard it was about a stripper. I was like, “Oh, yeah, I am there.” (Laughter) Then I heard you were the star of it and I said, “I’m definitely there,” so I’m glad to have you on the program.
Cattrall: Oh, it’s a great pleasure.
Tavis: I read somewhere where you suggested that when you read a script and it scares you, you know it’s something that you want to do.
Cattrall: Yes.
Tavis: What scared you about “Meet Monica Velour?”
Cattrall: Well, I think everything scared me about it. That actually came from – I did a film called “Tribute” as a young actress and I worked with the great Jack Lemmon, and I asked him as starting up in my career, I said, “How do you make these choices?” He said, “I base it on what gets me going, what scares me.” I never forgot that, so I followed that advice.
I think playing a woman – I play women who are very strong and successful and courageous in their own way, and this was a woman without hope. I didn’t really know how I could access that, and then I sort of thought about a woman fighting for the custody of her child, and I think most women can get behind that.
Also, she’s marginalized – she’s been a huge star in the ’70s, huge porn star, and then she was sort of relegated to strip clubs, and then she met this guy and had a baby, and now she can’t even get a six-buck-an-hour shampoo job in any town. So she went from being marginalized to really being an outcast, and in some ways I feel that as a woman in my fifties, that can happen as an actress.
You have a career in your twenties and your thirties, and mid-thirties you have, like, an expiration date that can happen. So I’ve tried to avoid that. I had such great fortune at 41 to star in “Sex and the City,” and that opened up a lot of doors, but it’s still something that I fight and that’s why when this came along I didn’t – I wanted to fight for this role, and I did.
Tavis: I think I know what you meant by this, but I want to give you a chance to unpack it to make sure that I understand.
Cattrall: Yes.
Tavis: The one thing about humanity that always encourages and empowers me is that when we don’t have anything else, the one thing that we do have is hope. So when you say she’s a woman without hope, that’s almost without anything. What do you mean when you say she’s a woman without even hope?
Cattrall: Well, she can’t get a job, she’s not in a relationship, the only friends that she has are bikers, she’s either drunk or stoned or snorting meth with bikers, and her child, she can’t get to. She has no peace. She’s at a real crossroads, and when this young boy, this 17-year-old boy, who has this fantasy of what a woman is, which is Monica Velour, he’s almost like a white knight, and their meeting changes both of their lives so they can go on to the next stage of their lives, so.
Tavis: See, you keep saying these things I want you to explain. When you say “white knight,” how is a boy a white knight for a woman who has –
Cattrall: Well, he doesn’t see her as a washed-up porn star/stripper. He sees her as this fantastically woman that he thinks is the embodiment of everything that a man could wish for. So when she makes her first entrance in this strip club called The Petting Zoo –
Tavis: I love that.
Cattrall: – in Indiana, and (laughter) she does this horrific strip to “Tonight I Celebrate My Love for You” a la 1970s, with the moves and everything else, he doesn’t see her any differently than he saw her when she was 20 and he keeps coming to her and saying, “I want to help. We can be together. I want to be with you. You’re okay.” These two misfits have found each other.
It reminded me so much when I read the script of “Harold and Maude,” that great Hal Ashby film, and this was a role that I couldn’t believe actresses in Hollywood were not screaming over each other to get because there was Courtney Love, Madonna, they were all approached. I think because of the sexuality in it, it was a little frightening.
Also, Keith Bearden, who directed it, he’s a first-time director, and that’s a big chance to take, with having to put on weight and looking a certain way and being a certain way, and also playing someone who’s not absolutely heroic. I mean, this is a multidimensional character who’s very narcissistic as well.
Tavis: So what you suggested earlier, Kim, that you wanted to fight for this, what do you mean by having to fight to get the role? I think that strikes some as interesting, because when you think of the success that you have had, one doesn’t necessarily think that Kim Cattrall has to fight for a particular role.
Cattrall: Well, I think the thing that’s been difficult in some ways, or challenging, is that when you’re considered a television actress and – which is silly; you’re an actor, you’re an actress – that’s sort of what you do, and you play an iconic character like Samantha Jones, people want you to be that.
I mean, even doing a movie like “Ghost Writer” with Polanski, he’d seen the series but I think that he was open-minded to changing that idea and seeing that I am an actor, much the same way as Keith Bearden did, because he had never really seen “Sex and the City,” if you can believe it, so (unintelligible).
Tavis: I can’t imagine that.
Cattrall: I know, I know, I know.
Tavis: He doesn’t own a television.
Cattrall: I know. (Laughter)
Tavis: It’s on every channel, it seems.
Cattrall: So this whole idea of reinventing yourself is quite ridiculous, in a sense, because I’ve always been an actor. I’ve just played certain roles and people think of you that way. So this, I felt, was an opportunity, first of all, that scared me, and to play the best part that I’ve ever had on film, and to just – I really engrossed myself and Keith and I rehearsed, so we rented a rehearsal hall sort of in the Broadway area of New York and we really broke it down and talked about every aspect of this character.
Her voice, he based it on three specific women in his life, and spending time with them, one of them, and knowingly changing the timbre of my voice – at the end of a shooting day I was like this all the time, with a cigarette or whatever, my back was killing me. But it was –
Tavis: Twenty-five extra pounds will do that to you.
Cattrall: Exactly.
Tavis: I’m a witness.
Cattrall: Yeah, exactly, and putting that weight on was actually quite freeing and liberating, and that’s one of the things Keith said. He said, “I’m going to change people’s perception. No one has ever seen you like that,” I said, “Including me.” Scary.
Tavis: Liberating in what way, though?
Cattrall: Well, most of your life as an actor in Hollywood, either an actress or an actor, you have to look – you have to work out, you have to look – you rarely get to play someone who’s just human, who’s real, who is overweight, even not grossly overweight, but who has aspects of just everyday life.
To play that and to breathe life into it is a great joy instead of playing something superhuman or über-ambitious or courageous or whatever. There’s some kind of character that only really exists in the movies. This woman, at one point she says to him, “You don’t want to live your life because you’re scared it’s not going to be like a movie,” and I think that’s true for a lot of us.
Tavis: Since you raised it earlier, was there ever a point, has there been a point in your life, your career, that is, where you were at all concerned, worried, that you might not be able to disaggregate, to disconnect who people think you are from sex? Not every role you’ve played, obviously, has had sex at the core of it, but you’ve become so famous for playing a role where your sexual inhibitions are right out there.
Cattrall: Well, I think there’s a true distinction between sexy and someone or something that’s sexualizing you.
Tavis: Mm-hmm, that’s fair.
Cattrall: I think that’s very clear. I think in my early career a lot of things that I was offered was just what was out there, and I was always a theater rat, so for me, my film career, when I was younger, always sort of subsidized my theater habit. Then I sort of realized, well, wait a minute, I want film to matter too.
Especially after “Sex and the City,” I thought I’m going to make different choices now, not just on what scares me but also what I really feel is a true portrayal of women and different kinds of women who are in the world today.
Tavis: I was going to ask you how fondly you look back on those years, and I’m not even sure that I want to even use the word “fondly.” Maybe I should just offer you a sentence with a blank in it.
Cattrall: Okay.
Tavis: Because I don’t want to put words in your mouth. So when you look back on those years now, you think what?
Cattrall: Of the “Sex and the City” years?
Tavis: Mm-hmm.
Cattrall: Oh, such a tremendous amount of fun and excitement and joy. In this post-feminist world to have a show like “Sex and the City” come along is quite extraordinary, and to bring women together – I’m a child of the ’60s and the ’70s. We were fighting for women’s rights then, and I think that we’ve sort of slid back.
We’ve had other concerns and I know that, and the world is in a very tough place, but we still don’t have equal pay and we still don’t have equal rights, so that is something that needs attention paid.
Tavis: I wonder if this, the new project, “Meet Monica Velour,” says anything subtly, subliminally, about that fight for equality, that fight for women’s rights, that fight for the full humanity of women being respected. You know what I’m getting at here?
Cattrall: Right, I think you’re absolutely right. I think that’s very perceptive. When I read the script, as a woman, I said to Keith, “Thank you very much for writing a feminist film,” and when I have a feminist platform people say, “That’s because you’re a woman.” But when a man does it it’s so much more powerful, I believe, and he understood.
Just that little scene and clip that you said, “This is reality. Women – deal with it. This is who we are; this is what we’re like. You can’t deny it.” This is a young boy who’s learning, and he’s not just learning about sex and disappointment and delusionment or reality meeting fantasy, he’s also learning about life and women. They come together. You can’t have one without the other. (Laughs)
Tavis: That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing, I would argue. (Laughter) I wouldn’t want to be in the world if you couldn’t make that connection. Just take me out of here. I’ll close where I began – how cool is that name, “Monica Velour?”
Cattrall: It’s the best.
Tavis: I just love it.
Cattrall: It just says it all. Originally the name of the film was called “Ms. January,” because she was Ms. January 1978.
Tavis: Oh, Monica Velour, that’s so much better.
Cattrall: It’s so much better, I agree.
Tavis: Well, as one who grew up in a trailer park in Indiana, I highly recommend this movie. (Laughter) So go see “Meet Monica Velour,” starring one Kim Cattrall. Kim, good to have you here.
Cattrall: Oh, Tavis, I’m so sorry it took me so long to get here.
Tavis: No, it’s a pleasure.
Cattrall: I’m busy.
Tavis: Pleasure to have you here. Nothing wrong with being busy in this town.
Cattrall: That’s true.
Tavis: That’s our show for tonight.
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Last modified: April 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm