You acted in many TV shows, but the most famous of your characters is Mr. Big in “Sex and the City.” Was being identified so closely with that role a blessing or a curse for you?
No one wants to be defined by one role, it just so happens that some roles stick to you and there’s nothing you can do about it. What’s up to me is to make people believe every character that I play. From a director’s point of view, you don’t want to distract the audience with an actor who has baggage. I did a part in “Cast Away” with Tom Hanks, and people went, “Oh look, there’s Mr. Big.” You have to work through it. I just keep working.
“Law & Order” started in 1990. What are the differences between the New York of then and now?
New York is a much cleaner, safer city, and I like the Citibike system. The fast food may be healthier now, but as for the rest, I better not say too much about it…
Which areas do you like in particular?
I find myself really liking parts of the Upper East Side. It’s the area that has changed the least. I’ll never give up my love for New York.
Did you ever do one of those “Sex and the City” bus tours that are offered all across the city? Maybe with a wig, so no one would recognize you?
That’s completely ridiculous. They go to a street that was a set for Carrie’s apartment. Come on: life is too short to even think about such nonsense!
But at the time, the success must have swept you away.
We didn’t know it was going to happen. We stood in front of the camera, the chemistry felt good, the scripts were fun. We had a lot of fun. And then it all took off like a rocket. By the time we shot the movies in 2008 and 2010 we literally had to film false scenes to avoid giving away the actual plot.
Are you still in contact with your former co-stars like Sarah Jessica Parker or Cynthia Nixon?
You stay in touch. I think it’s great that Cynthia is running for the office as governor. I’m sure her instincts are good. I’m curious to see what her policies would look like.
You played a disgraced politician in “The Good Wife,” Peter Florrick. To what extent are you politically interested? Are you active in any way?
As far as the outcome of the last presidential elections is concerned, I feel like most people: distressed, anxious, stressed out. Every day I am reading about what other ridiculous thing this man has been up to. It has raised the anger level so much. But the thing is, even if you could get rid of Trump you’d end up with Mike Pence, who is just as bad. I think the only hope we have is that the Republicans lose the next election. They seem to have completely abdicated from any kind of ethical or moral stance. Other people talk about it much more articulately than I do. I am just one of the many who are angry, frustrated and disgusted.
How radically has television changed in your opinion, with the advent of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon? Do you watch a lot of TV series yourself?
I get hooked, sure, there are many shows I like. The development is absolutely great. I was hoping the networks would follow suit, react more strongly to the new competition. Streaming productions is where the real creativity is right now, that has shifted from the cinema to TV. Apart from all the Marvel superhero films there are maybe ten movies a year that are great. But that’s not enough. In network television, commercials are the tail that wags the dog. It’s so limited. And there is so much more creativity and innovation in streaming productions. I did a show called “Manhunt: Unabomber,” and that only became a success once Netflix took over.
What is the best drama series in your opinion? “Game of Thrones”? “Mad Men”?
I haven’t watched “Game of Thrones,” so I’m seven years behind on that one. “Mad Men” is fantastic.
What do you think of the rapid spread of social media? Are you on Facebook?
I have a Twitter account, but I barely use it. I have Instagram, and I occasionally use that for exchange with a few people I know. I try to stay away from all the noise, there is just too much noise out there. I read the New York Times; I’m pretty much addicted to it. Unfortunately, there is so much bad news right now. Generally speaking, the news is distressing, and I’m really stressed out from it. I think most people feel like that.
You are 63, even though you look much younger. Do you sometimes ponder your own mortality, also in your role as father of a ten-year old son?
I wake up every day thinking about it. I lost a lot of friends in the last eight years. I lost my mother two years ago. I’m thinking about mortality all the time. There is more behind me than there is ahead. That’s why things like Facebook and all that other crap don’t interest me. You have to think about the Moment.
How do you do that?
Meditation is helpful, and I try to stay in shape–also for my kid.
How did the #MeToo movement change the entertainment industry?
The movement totally transformed the industry. It is hard to even have a discussion about it right now. The more women could run things, the better. Look, my mother was working in a very chauvinist business, and she learned to say no. She never compromised her own values to get ahead, she worked hard. And that was the example she set for me. You have to hope it doesn’t create complete antagonism between men and women.