Kristin Davis is sitting on the sunny patio of a Los Angeles ice cream parlour and every so often, as we talk, she puts a hand up to shield the side of her face. At first I don’t understand what she is doing, then I realise that she can sense anyone who tries to snap a photograph of her. ‘Someone was taking a picture of me out of their car,’ she explains. ‘And look,’ she says, pointing upwards, ‘there’s a drone.’
Not, she adds hastily, that it is stalking her. ‘They don’t care about me, thank God.’ We are in the celebrity hotspot of Brentwood Country Mart (LA’s hilarious take on a rural market, with high-end shops such as Goop), which attracts the likes of Ben Affleck and Reese Witherspoon. The paparazzi are always hovering, waiting to catch somebody. ‘If you park in the parking lot, you’re trapped,’ says Davis. ‘So I parked on the street.’
Even dressed down in a grey sweater and faded jeans, Davis is instantly recognisable as her ditsy on-screen alter ego, Charlotte York Goldenblatt – one of the famed quartet from Sex and the City, the landmark show that metamorphosed into And Just Like That…, which is about to return for a second series.
A quarter of a century has passed since Sex and the City first aired in 1998. Based on the newspaper columns of Candace Bushnell, it ran for 94 episodes before wrapping in 2004. ‘People forget how shocking it was,’ says Davis. ‘Four women over the age of 30 starring in a show where men are secondary and we’re talking about relationships and sex openly.’
Two films, in 2008 and 2010, were followed by an 11-year silence before they burst back on our screens two years ago – in their mid-50s – in And Just Like That… (The title comes from one of the segues that Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, often used in her column in the original series.)
‘And just like that,’ says Carrie, now a podcaster, in this season’s trailer, ‘I realised that some things are best left in the past. But maybe not everything…’ The camera pans to Aidan, Carrie’s former boyfriend, gazing dreamily at her as she bounds up the steps of her New York brownstone.
There are some critics who say that the whole show would be best left in the past. ‘Why shouldn’t our lives still be interesting?’ asks Davis, now 58. ‘Society expects you to diminish yourself as you age. But why should we? As Mary Steenburgen [the 70-year-old Oscar-winning actress] said the other day, “I’m still alive.”’
Davis arrives a few minutes before our appointed time, which is her first un-starlike move, then orders a latte, with regular milk, also very un-LA. She apologises for her lack of designer garb (clothes, after all, play a leading role in the series). ‘But I do have A Bag,’ she points out, looping her green Chanel quilted handbag over the back of her chair.
When the show began, Davis played a relentlessly bubbly, very traditional ‘Park Avenue Pollyanna’ (Carrie’s phrase) who is single-mindedly focused on her quest for Mr Right, giving rise to her most memorable line: ‘I’ve been dating since I was 15. I’m exhausted! Where is he?’
The new series sees the women navigating motherhood, menopause, death – and a much more politically correct social circle. It has been criticised for being too woke, tripping over itself to play cultural catch-up. ‘I’m so tired of that word,’ sighs Davis (referring to ‘woke’). ‘I feel like it has been weaponised. And it’s unfortunate – because it really just means being educated about what other people are going through. Why is that a bad thing?’
Unlike Charlotte, Davis has never sought a conventional life. A single mother of two adopted African-American children, she has never married. ‘I think it was a reaction to the South [she grew up in South Carolina, the only child of a data analyst and a psychology professor], where they’re very, very focused on getting married soon.
‘There’s pressure. My parents were not like that. [They] were much more hippie and I was more independent. I remember saying very young: “I am never getting married.” I was like, “Down with the patriarchy!” I did not want to stay [in the South] with all the blonde people. I’m sorry. No offence.’
To escape the blonde people and their debutante balls, she moved to New Jersey to study acting, then waited tables in New York while auditioning for roles. Her first big break was in 1995 on the soap opera Melrose Place. In 1998, she was asked to read for Sex and the City – as Carrie. ‘I was like “I can’t pull that off, I’m not that girl. I’ve got to play [Charlotte] because I know her.”’
In the original script, Charlotte was not a principal character, but Davis refused to sign a contract to that effect. ‘I was like, “Hell, no.” I knew they needed me.’
A few days later, I speak to Parker, who rings from New York on a Sunday morning. She pays testament to Davis’s strength of character. ‘Unlike Charlotte, Kristin is very open and doesn’t arrive at a conversation with a judgement. She has the hospitality and grace of a true Southern girl but she is incredibly self-sufficient and a very progressive thinker.’
Until recently, says Davis, the hardest aspect of her role as Charlotte was having to rein in her temper. ‘All these crazy things would happen to her and I’d ask, “Why doesn’t she get mad?” Who doesn’t get mad, especially if people scream profanities in her face during sex. Do you remember that [episode]? I really hated that. I only did it because Cynthia Nixon [who plays Miranda] told me it was funny. But I was pissed.’
Sometimes she would voice such objections at read-throughs: ‘I said, “Charlotte must be a secret murderer.”’ She widens her eyes and nods: ‘That’s what people do if they can’t feel their anger. I told them if you were to open her closet door, body parts would fall out – of all the men she had secretly killed. And they’d be Saran [cling film] wrapped.’
Michael Patrick King, the writer of the show, laughs when I recount this to him later. ‘Charlotte has always been the trapped one who can’t really respond… but there’s a scene in season two where Charlotte bellows. And I said to her “Go for it”. It’s fun to see her really let loose.’
He describes Davis herself as ‘fearless’, recalling a time many years ago when she broke up with a boyfriend just before they were due to go on safari together. Instead of cancelling the trip, she went alone. ‘The idea of Kristin going on that safari alone was such a big thought to me… She was fiercely following her own desire… And now with her kids and her single parenting: it’s a ferocious, independent move.’
Davis recognises her own tenacity. ‘You can’t be in this business and not have some steel, man,’ she says. ‘You’d be killed, you’d quit. You gotta have some toughness.’
Now that the photographers have evaporated, Davis sits sideways on her chair, watching everyone on the bustling patio. ‘People-watching is really fun; it’s important for actors to do and sometimes you lose that ability…’
Occasionally, she engages passers-by in conversation, especially those with dogs or small children. ‘Oh my God, your dog is adorable,’ she says to someone toting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy.
Charlotte had a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Elizabeth Taylor in the original series. The older Charlotte has a bulldog named Richard Burton.
The change of canine is perhaps symptomatic of a toughening in her on-screen character, as she tackles conversations about race and is parenting a child called Rock who identifies as ‘they’, a development initially shocking for Charlotte.
Off-set, Nixon, Parker and Davis are very close. ‘We have a secret text with code names. We switch around just in case anyone finds us,’ says Davis.
They have a ‘profound connection’, agrees Parker. ‘Kristin has always been deeply loyal… I’ve always said, “Kristin would take a bullet” [for us]. “She’d jump in front of a moving train.”’
One of the series’ original four, Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall, is no longer in the show – having reportedly fallen out with Parker, although she has a brief cameo in this series. Are any of the cast still in touch with Cattrall?
As I ask the question, the toddlers at the next door table, ice cream smeared over their faces, start yelling: ‘No, no, no, no.’ Those kids are trying to help you out, I say. ‘They really are,’ laughs Davis. But she gamely continues: ‘You have to respect people’s wishes. I’m not gonna waste energy on it. I can’t change anybody.’ She sighs, ‘I do understand fans’ feelings – that they’re upset… I wish I could fix it, but I can’t, it’s not in my power.’
The clamour at the next-door table continues. Davis’s own children, Gemma and Wilson, are now 11 and five. ‘I’d always thought about adopting. But it took me forever to actually do it. They give you this form and there are a bunch of races listed there and you’re supposed to check the ones you want. I thought that was nuts so I just checked “any”.’
She has become very attuned to any hints of racism. ‘People make crazy comments. They want to know why my tall daughter doesn’t play basketball. And when you have a boy, it’s really frightening to look at the news.’
Home, she says, is ‘hectic’. ‘They’re very sporty right now. My daughter’s running track and my son is obsessed with basketball and soccer… Do you have kids?’
Davis often asks questions, going out of her way to make this a conversation. I tell her my daughter is about to graduate from the local high school and she gasps, ‘Oh my gosh! Are you having feelings? Where’s she going to go, what’s she going to do?’
As a single mother, Davis has barely dated since having children. ‘I have a lot of mom friends who want to set me up, I can’t deal with it… I’ve tried because life is short, right? Sometimes you think “That might work.” But it’s a challenge… It’s an energy issue. Twice I tried new relationships: one with someone I had known for many years, someone brilliant in our industry… He got upset with me that I hadn’t paid attention to something work-wise that he’d done and I was like, “Dude”.’
At the time she was playing the betrayed wife in a London theatre production of Fatal Attraction. ‘I’d fall asleep putting Gemma into bed and I’d have to wake myself back up and drive out to dinner.’
Was he British? ‘Oh gosh, no!’ she says in shock, then erupts with laughter: ‘I don’t mean it like that. I’ve had some Brits in my life and they were wonderful.’
Society, she feels, still can’t quite fathom single mothers. ‘When I mention I have kids, I can see the question in their eyes: “I want to ask her where her husband is – but I’m not going to.” Because it’s not really that polite.’
Despite being in the spotlight for so many years, even she was surprised at the mockery to which she and her castmates were subjected – for any signs of ageing on the one hand, tweaking on the other. ‘It’s hard to be confronted with your younger self at all times. And it’s a challenge to remember that you don’t have to look like that. The internet wants you to – but they also don’t want you to. They’re very conflicted…’
She talks openly about the work she has had done. At first she just tried Botox. ‘I was super-excited I didn’t have to have my lateral lines,’ she draws two lines across her forehead with her index and middle finger. ‘But I didn’t do anything else for a long time.’
Then came the fillers: ‘I have done fillers and it’s been good and I’ve done fillers and it’s been bad. I’ve had to get them dissolved and I’ve been ridiculed relentlessly. And I have shed tears about it. It’s very stressful.’
Now, she says, she has a more laissez-faire attitude to the whole thing. ‘It’s whatever. I can’t keep it up. I don’t have time. You’re trusting doctors [but] people personally blame us when it goes wrong – [as if] I jabbed a needle in my face…’
She is referring to some work on her lips. ‘No one told me it didn’t look good for the longest time. But luckily I do have good friends who did say eventually. The thing is you don’t smile at yourself in the mirror. Who smiles at themselves in the mirror? Crazy people.’
Nor does she have much time to work out or do special diets: ‘I just eat what the kids are eating. It’s exhausting to make something different for myself.’ She gave up drinking in her early 20s, describing herself as an alcoholic back then. ‘It was enough of a problem for me to go, “This is something that could get in the way of what I want to do in life.” Luckily my first boyfriend out of school was sober – which was super-duper helpful.’
A small boy bangs on the window next to her, showing her his ice cream cone. ‘Look at you!’ she exclaims. ‘It’s so exciting. I get it!’
Even though the trailer for the new season is only just over a minute long, Charlotte appears in nine different outfits. ‘Really?’ says Davis. ‘You paid more attention than I did. I do wear a lot of little somethings. I have to figure out what to do with them all. My house is chaos right now.’
For as well as earning a reported $1 million per episode, Davis is allowed to keep all the clothes she wears on screen. ‘We’re very lucky that we’ve been working as long as we have – so we have special things in our contracts.’
Although the clothes are still fabulous, Davis says there is less emphasis on them in the new series. ‘It was never just about the shoes… [but] now we’re trying not to be so label aware – because the world has changed… For a couple of years we only wore brand-new things off the runway. It was insanity: we would have people waiting at the runway shows to take them and fly them [to us].’
She glances at the time. ‘Oh my God, it’s one o’clock. How did that happen?’ She has been talking for two hours straight. But instead of leaving, she is off again, barely drawing breath for another 45 minutes. ‘She talks a mile a minute,’ Nixon tells me, a few days later, ‘she’s very high energy. Very fun. Very funny. But she also takes everything in... Nothing gets by Kristin, she’s clocking everything.’
Although she can’t give too much away about the new season, Davis says that Charlotte has to make some major readjustments. ‘Motherhood is a big issue because you can’t control your children and Charlotte is fundamentally about control. And you can’t control your body as you’re ageing and going through menopause – so there is some of that.’
In fact, she says, she feels more in tune with Charlotte now. ‘Before the show came back I was like, “Gosh, am I just going to be a mom now? Forever?” I didn’t feel creatively fulfilled in life. Charlotte goes through a bit of that. She has to really re-examine: who am I? Did I get lost in all of this?”’
Looking back, says Davis, ‘She [Charlotte] was so stressful. But I wouldn’t change a single thing about her because she’s had growth. That’s why it’s still so interesting to play her.’
Does she think she will still be playing Charlotte in her 60s? ‘We’re not turning 60 right now, so calm down,’ she jokes. ‘I really don’t think we’ll still be doing it in 10 years’ time; that would be weird.’
I’m not so sure. They have defied expectations before. And ‘Sex and the Sexagenarians’ does have a certain ring to it.
And Just Like That… is available from 22 June exclusively on Sky Comedy and Now