An all-expense-paid, weekend (read: three days) vacation to the domestic destination of the winner’s choosing. Those were the stakes in a bet I made with my husband in the winter of 2021 into 2022, still in the throes of the pandemic, when “And Just Like That…” premiered.
That premiere, of the continuation series picking up after six seasons of “Sex and the City” and two feature films, was conspicuously missing one element: Samantha Jones, one fourth of the quartet of women who famously cavorted through the streets of New York City – and their love lives – in the late 90s and early aughts when the HBO series ran its celebrated course. (HBO, and Max, are part of Warner Bros. Discovery, like CNN.)
Jones, the sex-positive PR maven who added a certain spice to the proceedings, was of course played by Kim Cattrall, ’80s film actor of “Mannequin” and “Big Trouble in Little China” fame. But after the Emmy-winning series ended in 2004, along with 2008’s “Sex and the City” feature film and 2010’s poorly received sequel, Cattrall declined to appear in a third movie that never happened. When “And Just Like That…” was being created, Cattrall had moved on from the franchise and wasn’t asked to be a part of it.
Nonetheless, my husband was sure that somehow, Cattrall would eventually show up once again as the character at some point during the run of “And Just Like That…” I, on the other hand, was squarely confident that this would never happen.
And so, the terms were simple: Cattrall, as Samantha, would have to appear on camera in a scene of the new series at any point before it ended. And while I was rather caught off guard to see so many direct references to Samantha in the first season of “And Just Like That…” – including her lavish Fed-Exing of funeral flowers to comfort Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) after losing Mr Big, as well as their continued text communication – by the season finale, I was safe.
Cut to late May of this year, just weeks before the premiere of the show’s second season, when it was leaked that Cattrall in fact WOULD be reprising the role of Samantha. As it happens, I was finishing up my workday in CNN’s New York office, while my husband waited for me in a park nearby. It was in fact he who broke the news to me, sending me an item on social media. A coworker – clearly not a “Sex and the City” fan – asked me if this was a big deal, to which I replied, “Yes, this is a big deal!”
What made the development so shocking – on par, I would say, with other famous TV moments like “Who shot JR?” on “Dallas” – was just how clear Cattrall had made it that playing Samantha was firmly in the past for her. As early as 2017, she notably said, “This is about a clear decision, an empowered decision in my life to end one chapter and start another… It’s a great part. I played it past the finish line and then some, and I loved it.” Last year, she even attended a Variety Power of Women event (for which she was an honoree) built around the “power of saying no” (which of course was in reference to more than simply saying no to playing Samantha, but it surely served as the impetus).
Not to mention, there were public comments by Cattrall and Parker that suggested tension between the former castmates (Cattrall’s 2017 interview with Piers Morgan, and Parker’s remarks to Andy Cohen as well as a more recent item in Variety in which she said she wouldn’t be comfortable with Cattrall returning to the franchise).
And yet, my husband remained committed to the idea that Cattrall would one day return, even in some sort of standalone scene, if for no other reason than “money talks, and bulls— walks.” Ultimately, of course, that was the right sentiment, since Cattrall made a sly reference to her negotiations around her upcoming Season 2 finale cameo while on “The View” in June, when she said she received “a call from the head of HBO” asking for her to appear in the series. “Let me get creative,” Cattrall recalled saying, adding that one of her requirements was to have friend and longtime collaborator Patricia Field on board once again as her costume designer for Samantha.
The lesson here: as powerful as it is to say no, there’s also value in knowing when it’s OK to change your mind. This week, we will get to see Cattrall’s most iconic character one more time, but don’t get your hopes up for more Samantha in the newly-greenlit Season 3 of the series – Cattrall has gone on record saying that this cameo is as far as she’ll go.
But I’m not willing to bet on that.