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Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Sex and the City’s frenemy feud

It’s unlikely that Kim Cattrall’s Samantha Jones will ever return to Sex and the City.

Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker on location filming Sex and the City.
Look how happy Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker looked together!
James Devaney/WireImage
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

In Sex and the City, Samantha Jones provided much of the eponymous coitus. Played by Kim Cattrall over the course of six seasons and two movies, she has swing sex, group sex, work sex, public sex, lesbian sex, elder sex, and sex with a professional dildo model. She’s a Goldilocks of cocks in season two, contending with penises that are too small and too big. She at least attempts to seduce a priest and successfully convinces a man to groom his pubic hair in the name of gender equality. She literally wears out her Rabbit vibrator. More than any other character, her sexual adventurousness leaves no bone unturned.

So when Sex and the City’s revival, And Just Like That, was announced, it was especially puzzling that Cattrall would not be joining the cast with her former co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis.

Why would SATC continue without the sex? Would it just be And the City? How do you fill the Samantha-sized sex void without this electric character?

It turns out that Samantha’s exclusion doesn’t have much to do with the story but rather a feud between Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Samantha’s dear friend Carrie Bradshaw and who served as an executive producer on both the old and new shows. While the actresses were portraying platonic soulmates, the two, according to Cattrall, butted heads when the cameras stopped rolling.

Looking back with this lens, storylines that had Samantha getting fat, getting arrested in Abu Dhabi (and having a condom-waving meltdown in a souk), and impulsively dyeing her pubic hair red-orange in a misguided attempt to stave off her looming mortality, could be mordantly interpreted as Parker enacting a wicked, slow-boil torture on her rival. Yet, the two never let whatever was happening offscreen bleed into onscreen animosity. It’s a testament to both that fans want to see the women of SATC be friends until their dying days.

Like many feuds spanning across time and place, only one party has spilled all the beans — mostly on Instagram. The rest of the fighting has been done in denials, podcast interviews, and oblique references about “family.” And if you put all those clues together, it’s not a complete surprise that Cattrall won’t appear in the reboot, and probably won’t ever be seen on the show again.

Kim Cattrall and Kim Cattrall’s mom think Sarah Jessica Parker is an emotional terrorist

The eruption that seemingly hammered the nail in Samantha Jones’s metaphorical SATC coffin occurred in 2018 (the character, it seems, will reportedly have moved abroad in And Just Like That). Cattrall’s younger brother Chris died in February 2018 and she posted a remembrance of him on February 4. Two days later, she thanked fans and colleagues for sending her family support. Six days later, Cattrall clarified that “thanks” post, saying that she received warm wishes from a person she didn’t want them from: Sarah Jessica Parker.

“My Mom asked me today ‘When will that @sarahjessicaparker, that hypocrite, leave you alone?’” Cattrall wrote, explaining that not only had Parker upset her but also Mother Cattrall. “Your continuous reaching out is a painful reminder of how cruel you really were then and now. Let me make this VERY clear. (If I haven’t already) You are not my family. You are not my friend. So I’m writing to tell you one last time to stop exploiting our tragedy in order to restore your ‘nice girl’ persona.”

Cattrall could have sent this note over email or text to Parker, who sources said had sent condolences publicly and privately. But Cattrall chose to say them in public. In doing so, the post garnered a lot of attention, attracting over 78,000 “Likes” and 25,000 comments — much of that attention, no doubt, came from SATC fans. It also was a clear confirmation on Cattrall’s end that she did not like Parker, hasn’t liked Parker, and seemingly will never like Parker.

This type of airing of dirty laundry doesn’t regularly happen in Hollywood. Actors like Cattrall are told never to confirm salacious gossip, as it might risk future prospects that bring in future money. Cattrall has cannily played the game for years — including six seasons and two movies — so her emphatically stating that she does not like Parker is a flip of the proverbial script.

While this outburst took many by surprise, it was actually Cattrall doubling down on comments she made in a 2017 interview with Piers Morgan. She told Morgan that she and Parker were colleagues, not friends. “The common ground that we had was the series and the series is over. ... Sarah Jessica, she could have been nicer ... I don’t know what her issue is. I never have,” Cattrall said.

In her Instagram post, Cattrall linked a New York Post story that detailed the rift between the two stars. According to the Post, Parker, allegedly irked by how popular Cattrall’s reception had been in the first seasons of the show, began to ice Cattrall out and isolate her from co-stars Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis.

Filming “Sex and the City” on March 15, 2001.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall filming a happy scene, even though they probably didn’t like each other that much in this moment.
Tom Kingston/WireImage

This divide was seemingly confirmed by executive producer Michael Patrick King in 2018. “As the show progressed, the characters, everybody grew, it became a family. Kristin, Cynthia, and Sarah Jessica became one group, and Kim never joined mentally. Kristin and Cynthia went in the light,” King told the Origins podcast in an episode on SATC.

The experience was apparently so sour that Cattrall reportedly didn’t even want to sign on for the 2008 movie, but did so after asking for and receiving more money. Her argument was that Samantha was as beloved a star as Parker’s Carrie was, and Parker was making more money the entire run. In the end, Cattrall was reportedly paid $7 million for the first film, and Parker $15 million. That movie went on to gross over $415 million, prompting a sequel. Cattrall was reluctant to participate in Sex and the City 2, but eventually did the film (earning, by reports, $10 million to Parker’s $20 million).

Cattrall’s reluctance was met with stories about “diva” behavior, although the origin of these rumors is unclear. Cattrall said at the time that her only “demand” was not wanting to make the films in the first place. The popular narrative that Cattrall is money-hungry and difficult to work with makes it her fault if any attempt at a revival of the series or movie sequel is squashed. Pinning the blame and fan ire on Cattrall isn’t entirely fair to Cattrall, however, if she was experiencing an extremely unpleasant work environment.

Cattrall’s decision to lay the Parker beef bare on Instagram now seems like a culmination of her experience rather than a reaction to Parker’s comments of support.

Sarah Jessica Parker: Even though Kim Cattrall said I hate her, I do not hate Kim Cattrall

Parker has never directly addressed Cattrall’s Instagram post, but she has talked about Cattrall’s interview with Morgan. On a February 2018 episode of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, Parker was asked about how she felt about Cattrall’s assertions that they were not friends.

“Heartbroken,” Parker told host Andy Cohen, painting a more cordial picture than Cattrall did. “I found it very upsetting because that’s not the way I recall our experience. I always think what ties us together is this experience — it was a professional experience but it became personal because it was years and years of our lives.”

Parker also spoke to People that same month, reiterating that she and Cattrall have never fought. “I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing that part. So there was no fight; it was completely fabricated, because I actually never responded. And I won’t, because she needed to say what she needed to say, and that is her privilege,” she said, pointing out that Cattrall’s interview with Morgan was misleading.

Kim Cattrall, left, and Sarah Jessica Parker attend the premiere of Sex and the City: The Movie.
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Almost three years later, on January 10, 2021, Parker announced on Instagram that And Just Like That would be coming to HBO Max. Parker tagged her co-stars Davis and Nixon but not Cattrall, and later confirmed that Samantha would not be in the show. King, an executive producer on SATC who made those comments about Cattrall not being part of the family, was the showrunner. HBO Max’s chief content officer, Casey Bloys, said the series would focus on the three remaining friends and that it would show the realities of being 50, and having people in your life (presumably like Samantha) come and go.

Whether the fighting was real or not, Cattrall’s scorched earth reaction, as well as Parker’s assertion that there was no feud, ultimately sealed their future involvement in And Just Like That.

The entire series is built on the fantasy that these four women are friends. With Cattrall making it very clear that she doesn’t like Parker, the fantasy couldn’t continue. Every episode would unwittingly challenge viewers to “spot the discord” between the two feuding actors. At the same time, Parker’s “that’s not the way I remembered it” recollections and “sorry you felt that way” apologies perpetuate the narrative that the onscreen friendship continued when the cameras stopped rolling. Her comments make it seem as though it was Cattrall’s choice not to participate in the revival and the door is open should she ever return, even though that might not be the actual case.

A fascinating wrinkle of this fallout is that the series’ legendary designer and stylist Patricia Field will not be joining And Just Like That, citing a scheduling conflict. Field works on the Netflix show Emily in Paris, which was created by SATC’s other showrunner, Darren Star. Starr was allegedly allied (according to tabloids) with Cattrall. And on May 17, 2021, Cattrall posted a picture with Field, calling her a “dear friend and confidant”:

This indicates that the breakdown was not as simple as “Samantha versus everybody,” that there may have been larger and more complicated factions on the Sex and the City set.

According to reports, And Just Like That will place Samantha in London — she exists, but she isn’t running into her old friends. There was a previous rumor going around that the show would kill her off; Samantha living in London at least leaves the possibility of a return. Ostensibly, it would be easier to return from the UK than return from the dead in the SATC cinematic universe, though both seem more feasible than Cattrall working with Parker again.

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