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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

You are commuting between the East and the West Coast, between New York and California. Where is home for you?

I still keep my foot in New York, but I raise my child in Los Angeles, more removed from the madness. We also spend time in our house in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, where we spend at least three months of the year. We travel a lot. I was just in Cardiff and brought the family with me. A while ago we were in Budapest, which is one of my favorite cities in the world. And I love skiing in Austria.

You are running a rock-‘n’-roll bar in Manhattan, The Cutting Room. Sting, David Bowie and Lady Gaga have played there.

I’m a partner in the venture, and my partner runs it all. I hold charity events there to raise money for some of my causes, like for the “Rainforest Action Network.” There is an enormous amount of music out there. I enjoy providing a venue for new bands which may not have such big Budgets.

Do you enjoy going to bars yourself?

I used to more than I do now. A good bar is a very comforting place. Unfortunately, New York has lost most of them. The venues all seem to be college bars now. The places I used to go are all gone. I go to The Cutting Room, and another place called The Knickerbocker, which is a great place to hang out. But it’s a shame to see that the places where artists used to hang out simply don’t seem to exist as much anymore.

You met your wife Tara in the The Cutting Room in 2001. You are very protective of your private life. Why is that so important to you?

Tara was a bartender in The Cutting Room. I see no value in exposing my family at all. I think there is a corroding quality to this idea of the reality-TV mentality where private lives are examined and privacy is eroded. Young people seem to be particularly susceptible to that mindset. Personally, I have developed a talent to avoid paparazzi. You get an eye for it. If I spot someone taking pictures in a certain location, I know to avoid that particular playground or whatever in the future. It’s a game of cat and mouse. When you see pictures of stars playing with their kids on the beach, you know they are going there because they are aware that there are paparazzi there. It’s often a conscious decision, one that I would never make.

Your mother was a successful CBS reporter, and you tragically lost your father when you were twelve. How hard was your childhood and youth?

Losing my father left a crater in my life. I substituted many teachers as father figures, certain friends of my mom’s I became very close. The marriage between my parents wasn’t great while it was going on. I understand a bit better what happened to him, now that I am a father myself, but there is still a lot of curiosity. He was a bit of a war hero, a very smart man. I don’t understand what happened to him after the war, why he didn’t thrive more. The thing is, in those days they all drank and smoke. I grew up in a cloud of smoke. I think they didn’t know that it was destroying them. But my mom was a real survivor, she went out and provided for the family. So I had kind of a wild childhood.

How do you mean?

I was a handful. Many of the friends I was hanging out with are dead, in jail, or committed suicide. We lived in Stamford, Connecticut, a rather dull suburb, an hour outside of New York. If you weren’t a jock you were experimenting with drugs and doing other “fun” things like vandalizing, breaking into homes and stealing cars. You know, stuff that was exciting to people, that provided an adrenaline rush, but ended them up in jail.

My mom remarried and we moved back to California. I hated it so badly that she eventually agreed to let me go to a co-educational art-school, which completely transformed my way of thinking. I basically turned from a juvenile delinquent into someone for whom the arts were alive. It completely changed my focus, it changed my whole life. I think it saved my life.

You traveled a lot throughout your childhood, and that has continued all through your career. Are there places you still wish to visit?

I’m a gipsy, always have been and probably always will be. My son now really wants me to take him to Tokyo. I’ve not been there yet. He really wants to go, I think mainly because of the Pokémon culture over there (laughs).

While studying at Yale School of Drama you performed in 25 plays. What did you learn from that experience?

I really loved being there, and I really wanted to be there. I wanted to immerse myself in that world; it was like an addiction. I learned what life in the theater is like, and that was a great experience.

What fulfils you more, playing theater, hearing the reward of applause after the play is over, or acting for TV productions, with long shooting days but a global audience?

That’s impossible to say, at least for me. Those are entirely different concepts, themes, formats and stories. I just saw two plays in London that gave me the most visceral experience of acting in a long time. Some of the greatest experiences I myself have made as actor were on stage. But it has become very difficult to make a living in this world with theater…

Sandy Meisner, who is legendary for teaching an experimental approach to acting, was your teacher.

Sandy was like a scientist of acting. He taught me that what you do does not depend on you, it depends on what the other person does. You shouldn’t be in your own head too much about your Performance.

When did you feel that you would be able to make a living as an actor?

Oh man, I really struggled. It made a difference to me whether I was getting a hamburger or a cheese burger–and that’s an 80 cent difference. All through my twenties I was teetering on the edges of financial ruin. I got thrown in jail once for jumping a subway. Living and eating in diners made me ill, having relationships with girlfriends was really hard. So, there was no money, but you could actually live in Manhattan in those days and not be a millionaire in those days, if you were smart. I lived in a studio in a basement, which I rented for 400 dollars a month. To me, that seemed like an enormous sum, and I had to wait on many tables to pay for that. But compared to today? At least there were places where you could get affordable food, there were happy hours in bars. Everything has become extremely expensive since.

Did you have a plan B, in case your acting career did not work out?

No. I’m too stubborn for that. This was all I wanted. By the time I had finished my studies with Sandy I had invested so much into the dream already. I wanted to be part of the acting community. When I was accepted into Yale at 27 I knew I had a real chance.

19. Juli 2018