We meet Cynthia Nixon on a Sunday morning. Her press team calls us 15 minutes before the interview to be sure we were arriving on time. The appointment is at the Hotel María Cristina, the glamorous hotel where, since decades, celebrities overnight when they visit San Sebastian. She is in the city for the premiere of her film A Quiet Passion in the International Film Festival.
There is a private room ready for our interview, away from the flashes that follow her wherever she goes. A bottle of sparkling water, a glass with ice and a slice of lemon are prepared for her on the marble table. When she arrives, dressed in an elegant stripped dress and discrete jewelry, with a smile on her face, she introduces herself. As if we did not know her. Her blue eyes remind us immediately her role in Sex and the City, as well as other characters with whom we have grown up the last decades.
Not wanting to waste a minute of the privilege of interviewing her for BASQUE LUXURY MAGAZINE, we start interviewing her about her last film.
What moved you to accept the role of Emily Dickinson in A Quiet Passion?
I love the poetry of Emily Dickinson since I was young. The project was really exciting.
It took a long time to get the financing; I thought it would never happen. But when it happened, I was very excited and really scared at the same time.
Playing the role of a real and recognized character is a big responsibility. Which do you think is the major contribution you have done to the role?
I played the role of other real people´s life before, but there were more photographic evidences of them. With Emily Dickinson we only had one photograph. But we had 1800 poems and thousands of letters that she wrote.
I read biographies of her, but also the poems and letters from different periods. I tried to understand her. I felt a strong kinship with her. She is a combination, which I am too, of non-presentational or shy, and ferocious.
I have a friend who I think is very like her. I know this friend since I was six. I thought about her a lot too when I played the role.
How much of you has the character you play?
I think a lot. Of course there are many differences. I’m not so overwhelmed by the world as Emily was. Sometimes I want to be sure I am appreciated, but not wanting to sell myself. I think I have that in common with her.
I’m a very social person, I don’t like crows particularly, but I like been with the people that I’m close to. I could never be a writer because you spend so much time alone, and if you are Emily Dickinson, you really have to spend a lot of time alone, and I don’t think I could do that.
Which is your favorite poem of Dickinson?
I have two favorite ones and they talk about the two main topics she worked on: one of them is about death and the other one is about the pain of love that is not going to work.
The first one is called “I heard a Fly buzz-when I died”. It’s a description of the moment when you are in a room with someone and he dies, and it´s exactly as she describes. But she tells it from the point of view of the person that is dying, which is interesting.
The other poem that I particularly love is “I cannot live with you; it would be life” and it’s about this person she is in love with, who is a minister, and she cannot have him. It’s beautiful.
You have been an actress for TV and for cinema. Where do you feel more comfortable?
Sometimes when a film has a very big budget, it takes really long. You have to make so many angles and it is so intimidating, with enormous cameras moving and hundreds of people in the crew. I like smaller films better; I get less intimidated and I feel more freedom to try things.
Film directors have a lot of authority to decide what they want. For television directors it is harder sometimes because the network company is there telling them what they can or cannot do. I’m less fan of that. But I like television because it’s quick.
Is being an actress a way to escape from reality?
No, I don’t think so. When I was a child I grew up in a family where I wasn’t allowed to be angry a lot, or express big emotions, I was told to behave. And I could get out of that strictness by acting. But I don’t think it’s a way of escaping.
What I do is, I try to find a character inside myself, because we have different ways of being inside ourselves. We have the shy self and the confident self, the optimistic self and the pessimistic self. Most characters that you play, you have to find them inside you and amplify that part of you. So it doesn’t feel like escaping, it’s like learning yourself better in different ways.
Some people feel that acting is pretending and it is like that at a certain level, but I think is also imagining yourself in different settings and different circumstances; and also acting is so much about communicating with the person you are acting with. So it’s a lot about truth and reaching people at an emotional level rather than being in the save corner pretending. I don’t think acting is safe.
Recently you took part in the TV series Hannibal. What do you think about the character of Hannibal?
Hannibal is a fascinating character and I learned about the show because my oldest child was a big fan of it, so he showed me episodes of it. And I admire the three main actors of the show; they are amazing. So it was really fun to act with them.
With Sex and the City, you have educated and amused a whole generation of women. Do you see your character –Miranda- as role model?
One of the nice things about Miranda, like all the characters of the show, is that you can admire her, but she is not perfect.
Sometimes if you have movies or TV shows that are about empowerment, empowerment of women, or empowerment of whoever, you can run the risk of making characters that aren’t very real, that are too perfect.
The thing about Miranda is that she is confident and very assertive, she is very smart, but she has certain problems, and she is a person who is so much into her professional live that she leaves her personal live behind. And she was lucky to meet this man who made her take care of her personal live and I think she was also lucky to get pregnant by mistake, because I don’t think she would have ever decided to have a child. She was focused, in a very masculine way, on her career, and she found a partner and a home that she wasn’t planning to. In a way that often happens more to men; there are not focused on that, and then they meet a woman that wants to have children.
The influence of Sex and the City on people has been huge. Which do you think is the most important value you have transmitted?
The main thing that the series wanted to say was: we have this idea, “what women really want, more than anything else is to get married”, and that’s just not true. Some women really want to get married, and some women really don’t want to get married.
Women really want to do everything men also want to do. They want to have exiting jobs and they want to have fun in their lives, they want to have sex, not as a part of marriage, but because they like sex.
At the end, it wasn’t all about sex, there was much more than that…
Yes, it was about women striving to have the best life that they could and supporting each other in their quest for success and personal growth.
Are we going to see a third part of Sex and the City?
I don’t think so.
You have been a couple of days now in San Sebastian. How has your stay been so far?
I walked around the city a little bit, and it’s so beautiful. The rest of the team went to the beach, and they had such a nice time. Maybe I’ll do that later today. I just love to watch the sky and the clouds and I discovered a restaurant that I love, called Astelena. It was so amazing, I had two of my meals there. I hope I will brunch out, because the Basque Country is famous for good food.
What is luxury for you?
Luxury for me is time. Having time to do what you really want to do. Not what you just have to do. And that could be anything. That could be going out for dinner, or going to a show, or going on vacation, or it could just be staying home all day long with nothing to do, alone or with your family or whoever.
For me time is a great luxury.