Years before Kim Cattrall found international stardom as Samantha Jones, the brash best friend of Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte on Sex and the City, she learned a valuable lesson from a Hollywood legend. The 24-year-old actress was starring opposite Jack Lemmon in Tribute, a film version of the Broadway show that earned Lemmon a Tony nomination.
Lemmon had dozens of credits, including classics like Some like It Hot and The Apartment under his belt and two Oscars on his mantelpiece at home.
“How do you have longevity?” she asked the veteran actor.
“Take things that scare the pants off you,” he replied.
It’s advice she took to heart, particularly when approaching her new project, Sensitive Skin for HBO Canada.
“I think for me to bring this story to North America was the scariest thing,” she says. “Hanging in there and really trusting my instincts because I doubted them sometimes. I put it on the shelf and I walked away but I kept coming back and I think the thing that kept me coming back was the fear of it.
“I could go on playing Samantha for the rest of my life but I wouldn’t be very happy. I wouldn’t be advancing in any way. This was really hard sometimes and it did scare me daily on the set. I never had children but I can imagine it’s like having a child, or going through the gestation period. Instead of nine months it was almost nine years and you go through periods of real doubt and self-doubt.”
Returning to television for the first time since Sex and the City, Cattrall plays Davina, a woman on the verge of a mid-life crisis who, along with her husband Al (Don McKellar), shakes the cobwebs off her suburban life by moving downtown.
“It’s the change of the guard, isn’t it? I’m starting to play characters who are of a certain age and it is a feeling of, ‘Am I really ready for this?’ Holding onto yesterday instead of embracing whatever this is,” she says.
The show not only focuses on Davina and Al — “One of the things I’m most proud of is that you really believe Don and I are a couple,” she says. — but also Toronto, the city they call home. She credits McKellar, who also directed the series, with capturing the look and feel of Hogtown.
“He’s made Toronto look like the city it is,” she says. “Which is very difficult to capture. Because he has lived there his whole life, we were shooting in neighbourhoods the crew didn’t even know about. It’s so diverse. The city is almost a character as well. We’ve really given Toronto a midlife crisis too.”
Sensitive Skin premieres Sunday on HBO Canada at 8 p.m. ET/MT.