“She’s basically a short man with boobs,” Nixon says, laughing. “A lot of what I love about her is her butchness. I’m not saying I fell in love with her in a sexually neutral way. I love her sexuality—it’s a big part of what I love about her—but I feel like it was her. It wasn’t something in me that was waiting to come out. It was like, This person is undeniable. How can I let this person walk by? Christine would probably kill me for saying this, but my daughter said one time that if you really had to break this down, [it looks like] she would be butch and I would be femme…but really once you get to know us it’s really the opposite.”
Six years into the relationship (they’re now engaged to be married in New York as soon as it is legal), Marinoni now stays home with the children. They both adapted quickly to the new household structure, with Samantha being the first one to broach the idea of calling Marinoni something more familial than “Christine” (they call Nixon “Mommy” and Marinoni “Ma”).
Charlie’s processing of the relationship started at school. “His teachers were just so great about it,” Nixon says, “because they were the first people that started referring to ‘Charlie’s moms,’ which is so lovely, and we really hadn’t done that yet. So Charlie came home one day and he said [to Marinoni], ‘You’re my mommy too!’ ” Deciding to seize the opportunity, Nixon began calling her partner Mama Christine. “I said, ‘Charlie, where’s Mama Christine? Is Mama Christine in the other room? Would you take this to Mama Christine? What does Mama Christine want for breakfast?’ I did this a nauseating amount, and one morning we’re at breakfast and Christine is in the shower and Charlie says, ‘Where’s Papa?’ My daughter says ‘Papa? You mean Daddy?’ And he said ‘No, Papa! Christine!’ He’d come up with this masculine name for her. It’s gone through a whole series of things.” When Charlie’s Russian barber told him to ask his daddy to give him a little brother, Nixon says she stood back to watch the preschool-age Charlie’s reaction. “I was just going to let it go—what are you going to say? But I saw Charlie—I saw it land and how he thought about this, and he was quiet for a while. Then he very slowly said, ‘Sometimes I call Christine Mommy.’ It was like Charlie was trying to navigate what everybody’s assumptions about him and his family were at age 3. It was so amazing.”
Nixon’s real life finds parallels with the fictional Samantha Jones’s in two significant ways —becoming romantically involved with a woman and dealing with breast cancer. In another coming-out of sorts, two years ago Nixon announced on Good Morning America that she had been diagnosed during a routine mammogram in the fall of 2006 and had undergone a lumpectomy procedure and six-plus weeks of radiation treatment.
“I look to her as a rock, unshakable,” says Davis, who didn’t take the news of the diagnosis as calmly as Nixon had. Rather, Davis jumped up on a chair until Nixon coaxed her down. “Crying would have been too upsetting to her. I felt like we had to go to war—so I stood up on the chair!”
Nixon didn’t want to discuss her cancer while in treatment and first spoke publicly about in spring 2008, just before the first SATC film premiered, just before the world saw her first big-screen nude scene. Was baring her breasts a political act in response to her cancer? “No! They didn’t know about it at the time. Generally, my thoughts are, if they ask me to do [a nude scene], I’ll do one,” she says. “I mean, I won’t do anything, but I feel like if Michael Patrick wants me to do it, there’s a reason he wants me to do it.” In good health now, she’s become a spokeswoman for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer education and research organization.
Despite those similarities to Samantha, Nixon, like everyone else in the world, has taken the Sex and the City test—and she’s totally a Miranda. And yet, of course, she’s also not. “My mother was asked one time, how is Miranda like me, and she said, ‘Well, she looks very much like Cynthia.’ ”
So convincing is Nixon as Miranda and so dear is the character to fans that many still view the actress through a fog of cognitive dissonance—some seem to refuse to think of her as a lesbian. “With the first flurry of articles when I came out, there were kind of crazy quotes from people, just the average person on the street. One was like, ‘I don’t understand. Miranda’s not the bisexual one; Samantha is the bisexual one.’ I don’t know what to tell you, that’s a crazy comment. And they all said, “Oh, Miranda kissed a girl, and she didn’t like it!”
She takes being confused with her role in stride, as she does the attention celebrity brings. Nevertheless, she often manages to slip under the radar, even go unnoticed. “I don’t have red hair in real life, so when we’re not in production, I make my way back to blond. I also stubbornly go about my life the way I always did, and sometimes it’s not the smartest thing to do. I’m in places people wouldn’t expect to see me, like on the subway or in line at the post office. So they just sort of feel like I look like that person, but I’m probably not that person. I was standing on line making a deposit at the bank recently, and the teller was looking at me, and looking at my name, and she said, ‘You know you have the same name as that woman on Sex and the City?’ ”
Like all the characters, by virtue of living beyond the pages of Candace Bushnell’s source novel, Miranda has changed—if not to become more like Nixon herself, then surely in the direction of the actress’s own temperament. “I think I’m softer than her, and she has become softer. In this particular film Miranda is more of a caretaker than we’ve seen before. I feel like [now] Miranda is a bit of a cheerleader among the four of us,” she says, drawing a connection to her own persona. “I can be very loud and excited.”
Davis confirms that the character displays more positivity in the new film, more like Nixon. “Cynthia is very enthusiastic, which you don’t know if you only know her as Miranda. There were times when I’d be sitting with her at awards shows, and she’d pump her fist and scream” or raise her hands exuberantly if an actor friend was being lauded. The more demure Davis was occasionally embarrassed by her friend’s expressiveness. “Sometimes I’d think, Just put your hands down!”
The cast members are tight-lipped about the plot of Sex and the City 2, though a look at the trailer gives some juicy clues. Troubles in marital paradise! Abu Dhabi! (Morocco, actually.) The designer caftans! Aidan is back! Liza! But because none of the actresses wants to lose a pinkie finger, or whatever contractual doom awaits spoiler-spillers, each is preparing for the publicity gauntlet and rapid-fire volley of questions—the questions they can answer. Promoting the film takes some preparation. Nixon says, “You exercise, watch what you eat, get a facial, try and spend all the time you can with your kids in the meantime, because you know you’ll be in Europe a bit.”
She’s also prepared for the inevitable rumors about cast infighting. “They have so many negative things [written] about all of us not talking,” Nixon laughs, “so we let each other know, ‘Hey, did you know we’re not speaking? I don’t know if you knew this, but I can’t talk to you today—we’re not speaking.’ ” Though annoying, rarely does Nixon find the rumors egregious or damaging. “I don’t get too much of it,” she says with characteristic calm.
Then there’s that other question all the fashion plates from SATC are routinely asked: “What are you wearing?” Nixon, who is dressed today in a black blouse with gunmetal beading, looks well put together, but she says she generally can’t be bothered about fashion. “Christine is the clothes shopper. I hate it.”