New York State of Mind: 'Sex and the City' Is Their Day Job. but at Night, Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon Really Act Out
Ever wonder how the "Sex and the City" actresses manage to deliver those filthy lines without dying of embarrassment? Maybe it's because Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon have weathered far more humiliating moments in their real lives. Like the first time they worked together, back in the late '70s. "We did that record," says Nixon. "You mean the 'Little House on the Prairie' record?" says Parker. "Yes," Nixon says. "We did that." That, and so much more. They're both former child actors who survived, thanks to solid work on stage and screen--and despite clunkers like "Square Pegs" (Parker), the "ABC Afterschool Special" (Nixon) and a TV movie they did together called "My Body, My Child." Now they're sharing another New York experience: spending their TV hiatus in the theater. Parker opens this week in David Lindsay-Abaire's "Wonder of the World," in which she plays an earnest woman who leaves her husband and searches for herself at Niagara Falls. A few blocks downtown, Nixon takes the lead in the estrogen-rich 1936 Clare Boothe Luce classic "The Women." During a break in their respective rehearsals, the women talked to NEWSWEEK's Marc Peyser about life on stage, in "Sex" and what it's like to be an icon of New York fabulousness after Sept. 11:
PEYSER: Many actors who become famous abandon theater. So why are you two still here?
PARKER: It's not that one is superior to the other. I love our other job. But theater is just so liberating--to be responsible for your own skills.
NIXON: It's like something being homemade. There's such a small group of people involved in a quiet room. You're much more of a worker.
How difficult is it for actors to come back to the theater?
NIXON:It's much more fluid than it used to be. It used to be you were either a stage actor, a film actor or a TV actor.
PARKER: You can scare yourself away from it. If you don't work in the theater enough, the idea of doing it, if you wait too long, is too horrifying. I've heard Meryl Streep say it was a scary idea to come back.
What's your scariest theater moment?
NIXON: I was playing Anya in "The Cherry Orchard." I had to come on and say, "I just heard a moment ago that the cherry orchard has been sold." But I forgot the entrance. I'm standing in the wings, but I didn't come on. Everything ground to a halt. The play couldn't proceed until this information was delivered. So an actress came on stage and tried to fix it, but she didn't know the line. She said, "I just heard backstage that the cherry orchard has been sold." Improvising Chekhov is a bad idea.
PARKER: I threw up during "Annie."
PARKER: No, the prop man had a garbage can in the wings. I went off and Mr. …