As opposed to her sex-kitten television persona whose steamy sexual escapades constitutes her most delicious victories and proudest accomplishments, Emmy nominated actress Kim Cattrall finds her greatest success in love, life, work, and the company of animals.
If you only know Kim Cattrall from her Golden Globe and Emmy nominated performance as lustier-than-thou man-eater Samantha Jones on HBO’s awards-winning comedy Sex and the City, then you probably don’t know the lady at all.
“In my real life, I’m not the life of the party like Samantha – nor do I want to be,” says Cattrall, who is already gearing up for the fourth season of the hit show.
So while Samantha is added notches to her bedpost, Kim is luxuriating in bed with extra hours of beauty sleep during her televisions hiatus (from September to March). “I don’t have the kind of sexual appetite that she has, maybe I had that for a period of six months in my early years,” exclaims Cattrall, laughing.
And as Samantha is prowling the Big Apple sniffing out new sexual conquests, Kim is enjoying her home life as a happily monogamous married woman to musician/businessman Mark Levison.
If there’s any sniffing and prowling going on a the Cattrall/Levison East Hampton, New York abode, it’s strictly happening with the couple’s four pets: Dot, Kim’s 10-year-old female Dalmatian: Kiva, Mark’s 11 year-old, 140-pound Pyrenees female dog; and his two Pixie bobcats, Kobi, a girl, age one, and Giacomo, a male, age two and a half.
Kim’s favorite way to start any non-workday is with a seaside walk with all the animals in tow. “These cats are really the size of a small dog, and there’s more like dogs in their behavior too. If you go for a walk, they’ll follow right behind you,” she says. Cattrall has long had a following even before pets and Sex and the City came her way. In a career that’s spanned more than 20 years, she’s compiled a list of diverse credits that include a portrayal of a department store mannequin who comes to life in Mannequin, a memorable role in Big Trouble in Little China with Kurt Russell, a spot on the smash comedy hit Porky’s, s stint as Mr. Spock’s love in Star Trek VI, and a part as socialite/party-lusting wife in denial of her husband’s criminal charges and extramarital affair in Bonfire of the Vanities (one critic called Cattrall’s performance “the only good thing about this movie”).
Despite her impressive feature film resume, Cattrall admits she was often unsatisfied with what Hollywood had to offer. “Have I always made good choices in the parts I accepted? No! Looking back, there were times as an actress that I just wanted to work.” But where was the choice role that would challenge and fulfill her artistic longings?
It turned out to be on the small screen, in a show about four single women living in New York City. Surprisingly, Cattrall initially turned down what became her role of a lifetime on Sex and The City. “I wasn’t interested in anything that might be about female exploitation,’ she says. Once she learned that Sarah Jessica Parker was attached – and heard what producers had in mind for the female leads – she gladly signed on.
“These are four single women who are not willing to compromise about what they want in a man – and that doesn’t mean having a chip on your shoulder or that they can’t make mistakes in a relationship. It’s just about them saying, ‘I have a plan and I’m hoping for somebody to join me in that plan, but I’m not going to give up on what I want,’” Kim says.
In other words, what Samantha wants, Samantha might not get – but that’s really okay too, explains Kim. “Samantha wants someone to share her life with – like all the girls in the show – but she’s not putting all her eggs in the same basket. Sure, she hopes each guy will be the one that can match her in all areas and be her soul mate, but in the meantime she’s not going to deny her sexuality,” adds Cattrall. “I think Samantha makes sex fun when sex has been taboo, bad and not too nice, and ‘ladies don’t do that.’”
Is Samantha a model for the 21st century single woman? Cattrall likes ti think so. “I think Samantha is a role model for women in that she accepts the possibility that Mr. Right may not be out there. Instead of thinking ‘He’s gotta be out there’ – that desperation in itself brings sabotage – Samantha thinks, ‘If he’s not out there, I’m going to be fine. I’m going to be more than fine!’” That’s where Samantha and Kim truly understand each other.
Several years ago, after two divorces, Cattrall had all but given on ever finding her Mr. Right – and she too was doing just fine on her own. However, companionship was important. Enter Dalmatian Dot, a gal pal who inherently understood how everyone needs love, spots and all. Thanks to Dot, Cattrall was never lonely or in need of TLC.
“It was she and I for so long. I had her almost eight years before I met Mark,” says Cattrall, who was living in L.A. when she got from a California breeder. “She came from the second letter and was the last puppy. I remember the breeder saying to me, ‘I can just tell this puppy has a real sensitive heart.’ That was enough for me to hear. And it just felt right between us.”
“I think Dot and I are both very alike in that we rule with our heart. I wish that I could say my head ruled especially when it comes to business decisions, but for me, the bottom line has always been, does this make me feel good emotionally or not? I think we both rely on our instincts, she reveals. “Ever since we moved in together, we’ve been the best pals.”
Sharing the best of times together…
“On weekends in L.A., we would go hiking in and around the Santa Monica Mountains, and those were real special times for us. I didn’t know them very well and neither did she, of course, so we kind of sniffed them out together. During those hikes, the thing that was so sweet about her is that even though she’d go on ahead of me, she’d always come back and check up on me, like Hey, c’mon! It’s not as much fun without you!”
Dog-training was also fun and rewarding for the inseparable twosome. “I trained her myself. And I think all dogs need to be trained for the animal and for the owner’s sake so you can have a long healthy relationship,” emphasizes Cattrall.
“I had trained another dog I’d had before Dot. It was an Irish Setter-Weimaraner mix which was a CRAZY dog! His name was Rupert and he was a puppy, but I realized early on that certain habits that he had were just going to drive me insane and put a wedge between us. I’d always come home and find that he’d been digging up the flower beds continuously. I hired a trainer to come home and he said, “You know, you’ve got to give your dog positive attention because if you don’t, he’s going to do things that will get him negative attention. Negative attention is better than no attention at all,’ he said.”
After Cattrall spent more quality time with Rupert, he nipped the need to go digging. Digging deeper herself, Kim learned and even bigger lesson from the Rupert experience. “What was also interesting was that after the trainer said that about negative attention being better than no attention at all, I looked back on some of my past relationships with men, and that philosophy rang true there as well!”
Kim’s current philosophy, be it on dogs or men: “It’s really great having a dog and/or relationship, but I’ve certainly learned the hard way that you’ve got to make sure both have enough of your time and positive attention or you’re not going to get good results.”
“My time with my husband and our animals is really my priority, particularly when I’m not working. It took me so long to find this man – that I’m so highly compatible with – that I want to be with him whenever I can,” she says. [Kim met Mark three and a half years ago in a New York jazz club, The Blue Note. They celebrated their 2-year wedding anniversary on September 4th.]
The love of animals was a major aspect of compatibility for the couple. “When you marry someone who also has pets, there’s already a real strong common bond there for the two of you because the other person knows that pets are an extremely integral part of your life. They are your family,” says Cattrall.
While Sex and the City’s Samantha may be a role model for the 21st century single woman, Kim surely a positive example of a woman who has it all: the thriving career, the good marriage, the “kids” [Kim is also stepmom to Mark’s daughter, Amber).
How does she keep the proper perspective on all her success? “I think the fact that I have a relationship that I really nurture and care about, and a family that supports me, and friends that are there for me – who are all really honest and communicate with me – helps me stay steady while working in a tough but rewarding career,” she says.
“Success in show business can be very transitory, and even before Sex and the City, I had nibbles of it here and nibbles of it there,” says Cattrall, explaining why she refuses to take her acclaim that seriously. “I’m really mostly about doing the work, not having people admire or like me. My experience of Sex and the City is in the show, not in the effects of the show.”
Certainly, her pets couldn’t give a lick about Cattrall’s fame. “They don’t care about ratings or award nominations; they’re like, ‘Just make sure I’m fed and petted and love me – and get that real good spot.’ Sounds like the key to a woman’s heart too,” teases Cattrall.
“At the end of the day when it’s only the dogs and cats and Mark and I all piled on top of each other in front of the fire just hanging out watching a video. I always think there’s nothing better than real life.”
Kim’s Basic Instincts:
An old soul / a young spirit:
When I was a child, my grandmother used to say that I sounded like an old soul. I would come out with very clean, clear observations of what was going on around me. But I feel as I get older, that finding this love and fulfillment in my personal life has renewed a younger spirit in me.
On what makes a woman sexy:
Her mind. Her imagination. Her honesty. And I think confidence that comes when you really know who you are. That was what was so amazing about Mae West to me, who is one my idols. She was such an original. And she was a big broad, who didn’t try to be a “little” something else. She took everything she had and just celebrate it. I love women who do that. There’s just something about those women who own their greatness and their fabulousness. It’s just so damn attractive.
By Jill Daniel