When Sarah Millican and Kim Cattrall met at the Glasgow Comedy Festival, they got on like a couple of brilliant women. Last week, they nattered about not being pregnant and getting older. This week they talk about the power of ‘No’.
Kim Cattrall: Yes, I do. I’m not a good example because I’ve become more of a public figure as I’ve got older. It started to happen in a big way when I was 40. But when you’re younger, men are sort of checking you out. Now that doesn’t happen. But I’ve never really relied on or gotten off on that. I always hated it. I wanted them to shut up and fuck off.
SM: I don’t know if the men that are attracted to you purely on how you look are the ones to go out with. Not for me, anyway. The ones who, in a conversation, make you all sparky, they’re the ones you have long relationships with.
KC: I totally agree. Don’t be focused on getting a man. That doesn’t define you. What defines you is what you like to do.
SM: And if you meet somebody along the way, then great.
KC: Yeah! When I was younger I used to take classes at university – I wasn’t full-time as a student but I’d take some classes, writing, photography – and I would meet people, mostly women, who were doing the same thing and we really got on. Like with you; when we met there was an instant, “Oh she’s great. I would really like to spend time with her.”
“I realised I was the most happy and the most present and the most fulfilled when I was acting. This is the road I had to take.”
SM: I felt like we had a lot in common. I love that when people on Twitter say we’re “an unlikely friendship” you just fire back with “It’s not unlikely!”
KC: Why do you think they say it’s an unlikely friendship? Who am I supposed to be friends with?
SM: Exactly! They see you as this big Hollywood star and because I’m very low-status, the gulf between us is much bigger for the public than it actually is.
SM: I think they don’t think of us as being in the same category even though we’re both women, performers, comedians. I think they see you as untouchable. I am very touchable.
KC: I guess so. That makes me sad. The me that you know is very touchable. I have a handful of girlfriends I can rely on. Some of them are long term and some of them are shorter term.
SM: When you say ‘short term’ do you mean you met them recently or that you’re about to finish them?
KC: There’s a couple where I’ve had to say, “You know what? You’re too much work at this point in my life. I’m spending time feeding your neuroses or making you okay, and I have enough of my own, thank you.”
SM: It isn’t so bad if it’s two-way and you’re helping each other, but some people are like a drain.
KC: When I do talks for schools or film festivals, I’m inspired, because I meet so many people with really great questions that a teacher or book might not be able to answer, because they haven’t had the experience. But I have a perspective on it: I worked really hard and I can give them some clues that I didn’t have access to. Sometimes it’s about how to pull back and protect yourself; sometimes it’s about saying yes, and when you say yes, and what that means. I wish I’d had the guts to go out and find those people and ask them those questions.
SM: I’m always very clear, if anyone asks for advice, to say that I work hard. Do you find that some people think that there isn’t much to what you do?
KC: Oh yes. People say, “Oh I could have done that.” I think to myself, well if you could’ve, you would’ve. But I saw this in theatre school: there are people who can’t really do anything else – I realised I was the most happy and the most present and the most fulfilled when I was acting. This is the road I had to take. That’s why having children was not a huge question for me. There are enough people having babies. I can be maternal in other ways.
“The way we’re presenting women on television now is certainly more powerful, but I wanted to give voice to someone who was in crisis, and whose crisis wasn’t screaming, yelling, wailing, it was internal.”
SM: You were talking before about giving advice. Is there any advice you were given that you couldn’t have managed without?
KC: I was told this in the middle of my career: the most power you have, as an actor especially, is to say yes or no. So when you say yes, make sure it’s for the right reason. It made me value myself very early on in my career, before other people were backing me. When I go in the room and meet somebody, I’m not desperate. You have to think enough of yourself to question if they are the right people for you to work with.
SM: I say no a lot more than I used to. I love the freedom it gives me when I can say, “I don’t think this is right for me”. It doesn’t mean the project is bad; it’s just not right for me. Allowing yourself to say no makes you better at making more informed decisions.
KC: When you say no, there’s a relief. It’s like there’s your career self and your personal self. Because you care so much about what you do, you sometimes need to say no and just let it go. When you do, other things come which are so fantastic, whether it’s an idea or another job or a situation. It makes you the priority, not the project.
SM: That’s brilliant advice. You’re obviously very proud of Sensitive Skin and I think we’re often proudest of our most recent achievement because it’s current. What do you think is your proudest creative moment?
KC: In everything I’ve done, I’ve learned a lot. I think I take that with me into the next project. When I was in Liverpool doing Antony and Cleopatra, I felt like I was flying. I can’t really describe it; it was out of body. The words were there, they were Shakespeare’s, they were brilliant and all I had to do was say them and I was the character. It felt effortless.
The thing that I loved most about Sensitive Skin was giving voice to a woman who isn’t usually given voice to. The way we’re presenting women on television now is certainly more powerful, but I wanted to give voice to someone who was in crisis, and whose crisis wasn’t screaming, yelling, wailing, it was internal. I think that we get much more interesting as we get older.
SM: I find it frustrating that only a handful of women – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith etc – get through and most other actresses just seem to disappear. I don’t understand why there seems to be more value in the young than in the experienced, opinionated, lived-in women.
KC: It’s the viewers. More kids watch television than adults. The interesting thing about the baby boomer generation, now in their late 50s, early 60s, is that we are the first generation to be brought up with television in our home on a daily basis. There’s a huge audience out there and no programming for it. Most of the people in Sensitive Skin are 40+ and I specifically made it for that demographic and networks specifically rejected it because they say, “it’s not our audience”.
SM: But you create your audience.
KC: Yes! What is great about right now is that there are more places that need material, so there are more possibilities. The show isn’t just a woman’s story; I didn’t want it to fall into that stereotype. It’s a couple’s story. She’s going through this midlife crisis, but it’s affecting everyone in her life. The crazy characters in the show are all of a certain age, which meant I was able to go to places creatively that I don’t think a regular network show would have let me.
SM: You spend a lot of time here. What do you like about being in the UK?
KC: I can merge here much easier here than in New York. My friend and I went to the theatre in London. We didn’t have enough time to eat before the theatre and there were drinks afterwards. It was 11pm and we hadn’t eaten and we were scared to go back to my friend’s place because we knew everything would be shut. So there we are sitting in a kebab place, and sitting pretty close to the window as it was packed. People were saying, “Is that Kim Cattrall?”
SM: *laughs* You’ve got to eat!
KC: We were starving!
Sensitive Skin continues on Sky Arts, Wednesdays, 10pm
In tomorrow’s Standard Issue, Sarah and Kim tell you how to take the perfect cock shot.4500 Views
Sarah Millican is a comedian, writer, reformed workaholic, feminist, cat and dog mam, wife and lover of food.