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Big in New York: 20 years of „Sex and the City“

He is the face of New York. No other film and TV actor stars in more shows capturing the spirit of New York than Chris Noth. He chases the criminals of the Big Apple as a detective in “Law & Order” and “Criminal Intent.” He rose to global fame as “Mr. Big” in “Sex and the City” as the man of Sarah Jessica Parker's dreams in 96 TV episodes and two movies. For seven years, he impersonated a corrupt politician in the CBS series “The Good Wife”—a role that is more relevant than ever these days. Chris Noth changed his schedule for the exclusive OOOM cover story and flew from London to New York a day early. In our interview, the actor talks about his exciting career, his turbulent youth, the blessing and curse of the success of “Sex and the City,” about New York as it was and is, the decline of American politics and his own mortality.

Herbert Bauernebel19. Juli 2018 No Comments

A perfectly tailored suit. Chris changes into the last outfit for our OOOM photographer; the tailored suit fits perfectly. Seconds later, he is posing again, showing the impressive posture he perfected as Mr. Big and Peter Florrick.

Before his success, Noth lived through his hardest years in New York as one of thousands of hopeful actors starting out every year. It was a daily fight for survival. “I lived in a basement hole,” he tells us, sitting relaxed on the couch, feet stretched onto the couch table. The unbalanced diet and the cheap fast-food almost made him physically ill. Short of financial means as he was at the time, it “wasn’t always that easy” with girls. Looking back at the time, he grins. But he had conviction. “I had this dream to become an actor!” Nothing could stop him, and he eventually realized his dream.

His father died when he was twelve. Noth was born in Madison, in the US state of Michigan. His mother, Jeanne L. Parr, had a career as renowned CBS correspondent and was always on the road. His father, an insurance salesman, died in a traffic accident when Chris was twelve. Throughout his childhood, Noth travelled extensively with his mother. Their many trips brought them to Great Britain, Spain and then Czechoslovakia. As teenager, Noth lived through several “really wild years,” as he says. He lived in Connecticut, close to New York, before moving to California. Returning to the Big Apple, Noth lived through a period of personal “hunger years” before his first real break: he was accepted into the Yale School of Drama. In the course of his stint at the school, Noth acted in 25 plays and studied with teaching legend Sanford “Sandy” Meisner, who had also founded the Group Theater with Lee Strasberg. Meisner was an advocate of experimental but highly effective teaching techniques, and became world famous as an acting teacher in his own right (his method, the Meisner Technique, is still taught to this day).

Climbing the ladder of success. Noth’s career started to pick up momentum. His first bit parts in films like “Smithereens” (1982) and “Baby Boom” (1987) were followed by his first lead role in the Indonesian low-budget flick “Peluru dan Wanita” (“Bullets & Women”). Before long, he was offered a part in “Law & Order,” and eventually his now-legendary role in the HBO show “Sex and the City.” “It took off like a rocket,” Noth says of the time.

I was struggling, teetering on the edge of financial ruin. My unbalanced diet almost made me ill. 

He looks out of the window pensively, registering Central Park in the distance. Noth shakes his head. It’s been 20 years since “Sex and the City” debuted. “Time flies.” For a while, the enormous fame felt like a curse. In the public eye, Noth and his character “Mr. Big” merged into one and the same person. He was typecast, which made some directors steer clear of him, he admits freely. After “Sex and the City,” Noth joined “Criminal Intent” and, alongside Julianna Margulies, the CBS show “The Good Wife.” Most recently, Noth shone in the Netflix series “Manhunt: Unabomber.” The last series, “Gone,” in which he played the lead as mustachioed FBI agent Frank Booth, ended after one Season.

An elderly lady recognizes Chris Noth through the window. He interrupts the shooting and walks out to talk to her. 

A pulsating city. The advertising industry banks on Chris Noth’s charm as testimonial as well. He starred in several ads for an internet search engine, holiday homes, HomeToGo, and others. Here, too, Noth reminisces about New York and shows his favorite spots. “The first time I arrived in New York I drove from the airport towards the Midtown Tunnel–and the whole city just spreads out in front of you. It pulsates, and your starts beating faster–you just want to be a part of it.”

Today, Noth lives in a suburb of the Californian metropolis Los Angeles with his wife, Tara Lynn Wilson, and his ten-year old son, Orion. “It is just more quiet there,” says Noth.

That said, Noth still spends a lot of time in New York, a city he continues to have a very special relationship with. Noth also owns a summer house in the Berkshires, an idyllic, rural region in the west of the New England state of Massachusetts. He also travels globally; one of his next destinations will be the Japanese capital Tokyo. The idea, Noth laughs, is mainly his son’s: “He is an ardent Pokémon fan.”

As we shoot the last set of frames in the bar of Hotel Beacon, an elderly lady stops in the drizzle outside. She has recognized Noth and waves to him through the window. Noth interrupts the shooting and walks out into the rain to greet her. The frail lady, two heads shorter than Noth, tells him she is a fan. Noth bends his impressive frame down to hear the lady’s quiet voice. A brief exchange follows, both agree that the “old New York” was a much more exciting place than the haven for multi-millionaires it has become. The he extends his hand and she grabs it, wishing him “all the very best.” Chris Noth smiles the exact smile that Carrie Bradshaw fell in love with.

“The outcome of the presidential elections stresses me out, makes me anxious. It raises the anger level.”

We return to the suite, take seats again, and the TV star starts to talk about his exciting career, turbulent youth, blessing and curse that the cult series “Sex and the City” was to him, the decline of American politics, and his own mortality.

19. Juli 2018