Kim Cattrall Talks About Growing Older
By Susan Hornik
On September 23rd, PBS’ American Masters has an interesting documentary series for Fiftyisthenewfifty.com readers to check out—“The Boomer List,” which tells the story of this influential generation through the lives of 19 iconic boomers, one born each year of the baby boom from 1946 to 1964. At the recent TV Critics Press Tour, executive producer, Michael Kantor called 2014 “an important shift in American culture,” since the last of the baby boomers turn 50.
“Sex and the City” star Kim Cattrall, representing 1956, reflected on how it has felt to grow older. “I think one of the great things about getting older is feeling part of ‑‑ we survived a lot of decades at this point, and you look back on those ‑‑ the trial and error of it all with a lot of empathy. I find myself being more maternal towards the younger Kim. And I just want to, sort of, go back in time and say, ‘It’s going to be okay, you know. You are going to survive it.’ What I’m really interested in is finding a forum and maintaining a platform to speak to this generation, because I feel that we are the biggest generation out there, and nobody is really addressing us as far as entertainment. I find this very frustrating, and that’s why PBS is such an important part of my viewing appetite menu. It’s the closest I can get on commercial television. It’s frustrating, not just for me as an actor, but me as a person. So that’s why, being part of this generation, I want to speak about this generation in my work.”
Her viewing tastes have changed as well. “I’m no longer interested in ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ I’m more interested in ‘Anthony and Cleopatra.’ I’m interested in full‑bodied people because we have so much more to say. It’s so much more complicated; a much more interesting story. That’s why cable television is where I have really found another life in my 40s and 50s and will continue. What I’m finding very gratifying is that there’s a lot of places I can go and find an audience now, more than ever, and that’s thanks to Netflix and now Amazon and all the other cable networks who need programming…as an actress and executive producer, I’m creating a forum for people like me who want to hear stories about people like you.”
Cattrall hopes the documentary can share valuable insight for viewers, in illustrating some insight as to what getting older is about. “It’s thought of in our society as a disease. They actually even have anti‑aging clinics that have a very huge following, a huge business. I look at the other side of what is getting older; what it’s like to look at time in a completely different way. For the first time in your life, you have less time ahead of you than you have behind you; how does that make you feel? Having these very private moments about mortality in a very public way, that to me is very interesting. That to me, is fresh, and is a story that I want to tell and also be told. So that’s why I’m tackling it.”
Cattrall has just executive produced with HBO Canada and The Movie Network and Movie Central a show called “Sensitive Skin,” which was originally a British series by the same name, written for Joanna Lumley. “I’m just shocked that there isn’t the programming for us out there. This biggest generation that ever was is completely ignored, and I want to do something about that. That’s why I think this documentary feeds into that and is an important statement to make.”
Cattrall talked about how sex has changed in America during the boomer time period. “I think, for my generation, sex was a form of self‑expression, especially when you are young, not in a very educated way. It’s more of trial and error. But I feel that because I was born when I was born and was in high school and experimenting sexually when I was. The pill was introduced and you could plan when you wanted to have a child…. I was very fortunate to have the mother that I had, who said, ‘If there is a problem, please come to me.’ Not all of my girlfriends had that. But it was the beginning of this realization of choice, not just a choice of who you were going to sleep with, but when you were going to make commitments and have families. And that was in the women’s movement. And, of course, the pill, it was a huge ‑‑ we look back on it now and say, ‘Oh, my God. What did we know?’ But that was a very liberating force.”
She continued: “With sexually transmitted diseases, there were herpes and then the AIDS, this plague. And it really was a game changer; it really put all of this liberation almost into a deep freeze, an ice age again. And this real conservatism swept in, and a lot of hatred and prejudice against just wanting to have sex as part of your life would be adventurous, sexually. So we lived through quite a revolution from what our parents really gave us and taught us and what we were experiencing in the late ’60s and early ’70s with this liberation and celebration of sexuality to really putting this deep freeze on it. I think shows like ‘Sex and the City’ really were part of the thaw effect. Using humor, especially of society’s taboos, instead of violence, is the way to understand it and embrace it again. And realize that it is part of not just of life, but of expressing yourself and being human. I continue to do that because my generation, I feel we’ve had a lot of mixed messages.”
In being involved with this documentary, Cattrall acknowledged how while the world has changed, it’s still very much the same.
“It’s very cyclical. I look at what’s going on in the news now, and it reminds me very much of the Cold War. And I think, ‘well, where will this lead us?’ I think the thing that was so clear in our generation was the fear of the unknown, the fear of the atomic bomb and the Russian threat; I think that still exists today. It’s just slightly different circumstances. But it seems to be part of the human condition that continues, and what we, as a generation of boomers think there’s more of the feeling of, ‘well, we survived so many things, and how will this turn out?’ But you never stop holding your breath when you hear it. At the same time, you have this faith that you’ve survived so much that you can survive more. Our generation–we were brought up by survivors. My parents were pioneers. They came to a new country, and you think about doing that now, it’s just a tremendous amount of courage. But we have our own badge of honor in the sense of what we’ve survived and what we’ve witnessed, and that’s why I think it’s important to have a forum, not just entertainment but to speak about it and examine it in a personal way.”
Singer/songwriter Billy Joel, born in 1949; fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, born in ’51; author Amy Tan; new‑age guru, Deepak Chopra; environmentalist Erin Brockovich; and artist David LaChapelle are also featured in the documentary. Large format portraits by “TBL’s” director/producer/photographer, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, of the 19 subjects featured in the film, will be part of a museum exhibit opening September 26th in Washington, DC, as well as a companion book and DVD out October 1st.