Kim Cattrall wrapped up in 'Private Lives'

Pictured from left: Paul Gross and Kim Cattrall

Pictured from left: Paul Gross and Kim Cattrall star on Broadway this autumn in No�l Coward�s "Private Lives" directed by Richard Eyre at the Music Box Theatre (239 West 45th Street). Previews will begin on Sunday November 6; opening night is Thursday November 17. The limited engagement runs through February 5 2012. (Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann Photo/)

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You feel you pretty much get your money's worth from the moment she steps onstage. Kim Cattrall -- for real -- wrapped in a towel. Nothing but.

She goes on to prove that she looks just as good in evening gowns -- duh -- and just as confident taking on one of British theater's quintessential roles: Amanda, the free spirit in Noël Coward's "Private Lives," which opened last month at the Music Box.

Cattrall's bio proves she's full of surprises, from her birthplace (born in Liverpool, England, raised in Vancouver) to her acting chops, with a slew of legit theater credits ("Whose Life Is It Anyway?" "The Three Sisters," David Mamet's "The Cryptogram," to name a few) alongside those film and TV roles she's most known for in America (including "Porky's," "Mannequin" and, of course, "Sex and the City"). If you need more proof she's the real deal, rent "Meet Monica Velour," a charming, recent indie film in which she plays a past-her-prime porn star -- without any of the designer dresses or makeup you'd expect from the woman who played Samantha Jones.

She took time out to chat with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio about Samantha, theater and life in the Hamptons.

What's it like taking on Noël Coward?

[Director] Richard Eyre . . . and I wanted to do a tragedy -- Ibsen's "Ghosts." But another production of "Ghosts" got a theater before we did. These other producers called and said, "We have the rights to 'Private Lives' -- would you be interested in changing horses midstream?" [She chuckles.] A Coward comedy instead of an Ibsen tragedy. The absurdity of it appealed to me. So I read it and called Richard after 14 pages and said, "This is serendipitous -- we should say yes. We could have a lot of fun." And we have.

You and your leading man, Paul Gross, seem to have great chemistry.

Paul and I are like kindred spirits. A friend just told me, "Y'know, I've seen a lot of productions of this, and this is the first one where I really thought they were having sex." [She laughs.]

Well, you certainly slap him for real.

When he slaps me . . . it's a fake out. We're upstage. He's slapping his thigh. But I have to hit him downstage. There's no way to fake it so close to the audience. Paul was up for it. Sometimes, I'm sure it stings more nights than others. [She chuckles.] I do my best.

A lot of people consider you pretty brave, given all you had to do and say as Samantha Jones in "Sex and the City."

As I've gotten older, I feel more like, "Who cares? If not now, when am I gonna do this?" And there's a feeling of confidence from doing the series . . . being part of something that was truly -- for me -- phenomenal. Giving voice to women. It was very exciting. I think it's made me more aware of time and how I want to spend it. I felt it was important to lay low for a while, get back to my roots, in theater. And I guess that did take guts. Because a lot of people just wanted me to do the same thing. It's scary to step outside of that. But I didn't like the alternative -- playing the same notes over and over again.

 

I had no idea you're a Liverpudlian.

Oh my gosh, yes. Liverpool has played a big part in my life. When I went back in the late '60s, I met an aunt who introduced me to theater in the West End and Stratford. I remember seeing Janet Suzman as Rosalind in "As You Like It" in 1968. I literally was on the edge of my seat, saying, "I want to do that." And years later, I'm in my first play in the West End, "Whose Life Is It Anyway," and they get Janet Suzman to play the judge. I almost fell off my chair. We became good friends. I still had my program from 1968, with my bus ticket stapled in the back.

Now, you're back in New York.

It's terrific. New York at Christmastime is magnificent, so . . . magical. And going to see Radio City Music Hall every year, y'know.

Do you really?

Oh my god, yes, yes, it's a tradition.

And I hear you've a place in the Hamptons.

I love Long Island. Especially the light . . . it's extraordinary. My city life is hectic. Out there, I don't leave the house much. I'm on the water, it's quiet -- I can restore myself. I grew up on Vancouver Island, so being close to water -- it calms me. I love the farms, the vegetable stands . . . I have a lovely garden, which I garden in. [She chuckles.] Me and my cat -- we're very happy there.

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