The Next Big Thing: Chris Noth and ‘Sex and the City’

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Even among goliath Hollywood blockbusters, Sex and the City is still one of the most anticipated films of the summer. And while Iron Man and Batman try to save the world, Carrie Bradshaw might have an even more difficult feat on her hands — bagging the commitment-phobic “Mr. Big,” a.k.a. Chris Noth. To Big’s credit, he did man up and do the right thing in the final episode of Sex and the City’s television incarnation. He showed up in Paris unannounced, swept Carrie off her feet, and brought her back to her beloved New York and her four best friends. So, where do they all go from here? The worldwide hype for the movie knows no boundaries; iTunes will feature Sex and the City character playlists. “It’s good road trip music,” says Noth of Mr. Big’s picks. After the jump, Noth speaks on Sex and the City, his love of music, humanitarian trips to Cambodia and Vietnam, and his future endeavors.

It’s been four years since the last episode of Sex and the City. Since that time, a lot of positive things have happened in Chris Noth’s life — fatherhood, environmental activism, and a much-heralded return to playing Detective Mike Logan on the widely popular television series Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Noth is quite proud of the show, saying, “The work we’re doing is the best that’s ever been done on Law & Order.” He’s also heavily involved in environmental awareness working closely with the RainForest Action Network. Noth shares their concerns regarding atmospheric changes that are threatening the environment. “It takes major disasters to make people wake up, and we just don’t want that to happen,” says Noth.

There was so much talk about whether the Sex and the City movie would actually happen. What was your reaction when you found out they were really doing it?

I didn’t think it would happen because it sort of fell apart pretty quickly after everyone had the idea that there was going to be a movie. I thought that was it. So, when it came up again, I kind of didn’t pay it much mind until I got the real call from Michael Patrick King. I was always on board to do it because I love working with everybody, and I know if Michael Patrick is going to write it, it’s going to be worth doing.

It seemed like paparazzi and reporters showed up every time you filmed the movie on location in the city. How were they able to protect the storylines?

Whenever we went outside to shoot, there were tons of people. The people watching were taking photographs and trying to figure out the plot. So, every time we walked by we would say something out loud like, “That was a really great dream sequence.” Then, you would see them all desperately scribble down, “It’s a dream ,,, it’s not real.” I thought that was pretty fun.

How was it to reprise your role of Mr. Big, and did you make any adjustments this time around?

I had to consciously try to stay fit more. I am ten years older now. But, I take my cues from the writer. With this project I pretty much trusted what’s on the page and let my instincts take over. Also, my relationship with Sarah is ten years old, and we know who we are and how we work together and we have fun doing it.

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They say a leopard never changes its spots. At the end of the day, do you think Big can be faithful to Carrie?

I think that Big has gotten older, and the longer they’ve been together, the more ground they’ve covered together. Carrie and Big have a history and a view of the world that is similar in many more ways than people think. It’s a long distance from the start of that series to where we are with the movie. I think we’re looking at people who are no longer interested in the things they sort of embraced ten years ago. It’s true for most of us here in New York City. I think as you get older, it’s a different city for you.

Sex and the City was essentially about single women in Manhattan in their thirties. I find in a big city atmosphere it’s more common to get married mid to late thirties, whereas in Middle America you’re usually married by twenty-five. Do you think it has to do with more opportunity?

Having a lot of choices can be a good thing and can also be a distraction. But, in cities like New York, people feel they don’t have to settle or want to. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. If you take a look at our parents’ generation, I think the divorce rate is about 50%. So, I think it makes it more difficult to find the one that’s going to last through that. But it makes for a stronger relationship, one that’s probably worth fighting for.

Do you think there is any Big in you or you in Big?

I’m bringing something of me to that part. So, my interpretation of Big is what you see on screen. If someone else played him, it would be a completely different one I would assume.

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You’ve also reprised your role of Detective Mike Logan on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. What made you decide to go back to the show?

I made a Law & Order movie called Exiled. I was in the process of making a couple of those a year. However, network television doesn’t really do TV movies anymore. Then, I did a guest appearance on Criminal Intent, and it was not long after that they came to me to do every other episode with Vince [Vincent D’Onofrio]. It was a pretty sweet offer at the time, and I realized it would be difficult, but decided to jump in. I was not that happy the first year, but it has grown into something that I am quite proud of. The last two years for me have been my best Law & Order experiences, including the ones I started out with in 1990. We have been doing really relevant stories that have something to say.

You have been a very busy working actor in New York. In a recent interview, Sarah Jessica Parker said she loves New York because she can just be a normal person — ride the subway, go to the grocery store, etc. Do you feel the same way?

I have been riding the city’s subways since I got here in the late ‘70s. Part of the greatness of being in New York is being part of that massive anonymity and to observe and see so much of life around you. So, you don’t want to be the focus of it. However, being on television or in something as phenomenal as Sex and the City makes you become the focus of a lot of people’s attention. It would never stop me though. There is a way to kind of act invisible. But, if someone does notice you, they are usually going to come up to you. I know that Sarah is as much a New Yorker as I am, and you don’t give up your rights on the street. It’s not worth living in New York if you did.

You own the very popular Cutting Room in Manhattan. Tell me your philosophy behind this restaurant/live music club.

The basic philosophy is that we are just trying to create a home for people who love music. It’s a small live music venue. There’s another room with a jukebox that has all the music my business partner Steve Walter and I grew up with and loved. I think we’ve really brought a needed venue to the city. It’s a place where people can find respite through music. I think music can heal the world, if it’s the right kind.

How do you feel about the current music scene in New York City?

All around, you see little live music joints dying and being bought out and torn down. There’s a tremendous wealth of music out there, but there’s just no platform for them to be heard. We want to reach out to these performers and we also reach out to older acts. We had Donovan play here recently. We’ve also had everyone from Carly Simon to Leon Russell to Ricky Lee Jones. Norah Jones played our place way back in the day before she broke out and became famous. It’s been a fertile ground for great musicians. On our Monday Night Jam, we get some of the best musicians in the city and everyone is welcome to jam or sing with them.

You have been heavily active with the Rainforest Action Network. Tell us about your involvement with this organization.

We raised $10,000 for them the other day at Lord and Taylor. I recently co-hosted an event with Joseph Abboud and Gotham magazine at Lord and Taylor, since I’m a huge fan of Joseph Abboud suits. Lord and Taylor presented a great donation of $10,000 to Rainforest Action Network during the evening; it was incredibly generous of them, and it was a fun way to raise awareness about this crucial organization. I was proud to be a part of it. I jump on things like that. We also throw a benefit for RAN every November. The first benefit Norah Jones played, and Jimmy Webb played the second. Rainforest Action Network is a really dedicated group of activists who demand ethical action from government and big business. It’s changing the way big business works, so that it supports a world that we can all live in. Also, they’re going after governments, including our own. We’ve had a terrible setback with this president. Eight years of going backwards has been disheartening. We may be right at the edge of the cliff where we can’t go back anymore in terms of putting forth a mechanism where the weather will be forever changed. I’m not exaggerating or being dramatic. It’s in the newspapers, and I think everyone knows what’s happening. But, it should be the first thing on everybody’s list because all of these other problems can be solved politically in time. Once you change the basic laws of nature, which we are doing by completely destroying the atmosphere, then you don’t have a place to live or a place to solve problems. You don’t have an earth to stand on anymore. It’s an emergency and should be treated as an emergency. I believe that any small token that people can do, whether it’s planting a tree or recycling or picking up a piece of garbage or joining the Rainforest Action Network. We have 7 billion people in the world. If a billion of those people get active, we can save it for the rest of mankind.

Tell us about your trips to Cambodia and Vietnam and the land mine situation there.

In 2001, singer Nancy Griffith introduced me to the work of the Vietnam Veterans Association. These are the guys who served in Vietnam and came back to Vietnam and built hospitals for land mine victims. These veterans have also taken land mines out of the ground and diffused them. They also build prosthetic devices for kids and teach the people in the villages how to build the devices themselves. It was sort of an organic process of recycling, if you will. In other words, the people who were affected and helped were then taught how to help others. So, it gave them a job. It’s a beautiful organization, and I felt really honored to have watched and observe this in Cambodia and Vietnam. While I was there in Saigon, I accidentally walked into a museum that was showing the work from the book Requiem, which was the work of all the photojournalists who died in Vietnam — people like Larry Burrows, Dicky Chapelle, and Sean Flynn, Errol Flynn’s son. The book was so dramatic and heartbreaking and I went into that world and read a lot about it. I realized that if I ever were going to be anything else, I would have wanted to be a photojournalist in that war, because it was at a time when a photo could change the politics and it did. I have a deal with AMC, and we are going to do eight hours based on these guys because their stories haven’t been told. We’re getting the story together now. That’s my next mountain to climb.

Any other projects you’d like to tell us about?

I have an indie movie coming out called Frame of Mind that Charles Kipps wrote. It’s a thriller about a new piece of evidence that comes up in the John F. Kennedy assassination. I also just got an indie movie called My One and Only starring Renee Zellweger.

I wanted to congratulate you on the recent birth of your son, Orion. How has the adjustment to fatherhood been for you?

When I do an episode, I’m away for two weeks. So, the biggest adjustment is all of a sudden this need to see him and be with him. I have never had that before. I used to love to go away for a job, but now I don’t want to. Kids grow so fast. It’s just having this little person in your consciousness all the time. My big thrill is my son is seeing New York for the first time this weekend, and I can’t wait to take him around. He’s been in California. If we take him to Times Square, his eyes are going to light up. Do you see Big being a father?

Yeah. I think that’s the next big thing!

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