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Around the time Sex and the City ended its tremendously successful run on HBO in 2004, Cynthia Nixon noticed a change in the way people responded to her on the street.
“I’ve been acting since I was 12, so there have always been a certain number of people who knew who I was, but it was small,” says Nixon, who portrays the cynical, type A lawyer Miranda Hobbes on SATC. “There were a number of years when people would recognize me as Miranda, and suddenly people recognized me. They knew my name. We sort of jumped from just being those characters to actually people knowing us as actors.”
Six years and one summer blockbuster later, Nixon’s not the kind of TV and movie star you might expect. Despite the mania surrounding the 2008 SATC movie reunion—and the hype surrounding the May 27 premiere of Sex and the City 2, this Tony, Grammy, and two-time Emmy recipient walks the fine line between fame and discretion with ease. She maintains a calm, centered remove from the tabloid rumors (for the most part) and, at the same time, is candid and forthcoming about her life. She holds her privacy dear but refuses to let celebrity force her to abandon the workaday tasks around her Upper West Side Manhattan home that the nonfamous begrudgingly take for granted. It’s that authenticity that makes Nixon a favorite among both gay men, drawn to SATC’s archetypal women, and lesbians, who are thrilled to have her on their team.
When SATC writer and director Michael Patrick King presented Nixon with the Vito Russo Award at this year’s GLAAD Awards, he described her as being out: out and proud as an actress, out as a breast cancer survivor, out as a woman who was with a man for 15 years, and out as a woman who is now in love with a woman. Nixon’s been doing a lot of coming out in the past few years.
She met partner Christine Marinoni (then an education organizer) in 2001, when Nixon was campaigning to reduce public-school class sizes in New York City. The two women became friends and confidants during Nixon’s 2003 split from Danny Mozes, her partner of 15 years and the father of her two children, 13-year-old Samantha and 7-year-old Charles. She and Marinoni started dating in 2004.
Nixon’s either reluctant to talk about the tipping point—from friend to girlfriend—or there’s simply not a clear delineation between the two. But her costar and close friend Kristin Davis, who plays SATC’s proper Charlotte York, says there never really was “a coming-out moment.” Although Davis says she’d “met and known Christine,” she didn’t have any inkling of their budding relationship until it dawned on her how much Nixon was devoting to the schools campaign—and to Marinoni. “They’d be on the phone and writing speeches,” Davis says, “and I thought, She’s really into this.”
Her costars weren’t the only ones to take notice. “Shortly after we started seeing each other—like a month after—we got a press inquiry about it,” Nixon says. “And I thought, This is crazy.”
Uninterested in addressing media questions about her new relationship (or the gender of her steady date), Nixon understood that she might need help managing the new attention, so she hired a publicist for the first time. He was “a very nice man who I won’t name, but he does have a number of clients who are closeted,” she says, adding that the publicist’s approach was to kill all the rumors—to essentially deny that Nixon was seeing a woman.