And Just Like That Cast & Writers On How Diversity Will Weave Throughout Season 1 Organically
When the cast of HBO Max’s Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That… hit the red carpet in New York City on Wednesday night, everything was different.
After more than two decades since the original series premiered, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis reunited but this time they invited a new and more diverse cast and team of writers to play in this fan-favorite universe that aims to mirror what the world looks more accurately.
“I think the only thing worse than a lack of diversity is faux diversity or diversity for diversity’s sake,” series writer Keli Goff told Deadline at the premiere during a conversation that also included fellow writers Rachna Fruchbom and Samantha Irby. “You never know until you get started [on a project] because all of us have been in those situations where someone wants to hire us but then nobody cares what we have to say. I think it was refreshing to be in a room with [executive producer] Michael [Patrick King] who was open to really listening.”
Added NY Times best-selling author Irby, “With Michael, it never felt like, ‘Oh, I tacked on these three brownies.’ It felt like we’re starting this new thing together. And because we were included in that way, it made it that much easier to bring the [new] characters into the show.”
Goff finds the formula that was implemented on And Just Like That… is an example of how to welcome writers and characters of color into the fold.
“It’s one thing to hire writers of color to write characters of color, but it’s a completely different thing to bring in writers or producers of color to create characters of color. That’s what Michael brought us in to do,” Goff, who is also a playwright and journalist, said. “He didn’t tell us,’ Here are the characters I created…” He told us, ‘Tell me who these women are.’ It really feels great to be in a room where we are heard and appreciated because there are plenty of places where we’re silenced.”
Added Fruchbom, “As an Indian American, I am representing Indian Americans but I’m also representing people from Ohio.”
As fans are swiftly screening the first two episodes of And Just Like That… the way it’s tackling diversity is already being criticized for being heavy-handed.
In a scene, Miranda (Nixon) returns to school and is taking a class taught by Dr. Naya Wallace (Karen Pittman), and the pair get caught up in an awkward exchange leaving the former using every buzzword she can recall from her thorough read-through of anti-racism books.
Irby revealed that while the first two episodes really lean into the uncomfortable conversations right now, and also revealing the remainder of the series will leave that behind as the focus shifts to Miranda and Naya’s blossoming friendship. The writers chose to lean into the current climate to show how much everyone is working to say the right things and that we may not always hit the mark perfectly and that’s ok.
Nicole Ari Parker is one of the newest stars on And Just Like That... in the role of Lisa Todd Wexley, a documentarian and mother of three who is growing close to Charlotte.
“It’s so great to be cast in this role but it’s even greater that she’s so well written,” Parker said. “They didn’t just hire diverse actors, they’re giving them hopes and dreams and issues like the rest of the cast.”
As paparazzi photos leaked from set, the internet predicted Parker’s Wexley was added as a potential replacement Kim Cattrall’s Samantha Jones. Cattrall opted not to reprise the PR maven in the continuation. Although Parker revealed most of the chatter has blown over, she confirms it added a lot of pressure.
“The fans love Samantha and they miss her. I can’t blame them for that,” she said. “It feels like now it’s calming down a little bit as we get closer and people are excited and happy to watch. I hope they love it.”
Choudhury stars as Seema Patel, a self-made Manhattan real estate broker who shares the actress’ Indian heritage.
“Seema is so [bad ass] that I’m shy of her,” she exclaimed. “When I read for her I wondered if I could really do her because she’s always on the forefront. She’s not shy or private. She speaks her mind. She’s also funny but she really doesn’t have a lot of time because she’s got this high-powered job. She’s everything that I’m not.”
She continued, “She has an Indian family who wants her to have specific relationships and she’s rebelling. She has so much going on but that’s New York City.”
Leaked set photos showed Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a traditional Indian sari for a celebratory scene which brought accusations of cultural appropriation against the show’s star on social media. Choudhury asks that fans wait to see how it all plays out because it’s not as it seems.
“When you see the scene, you’ll get it,” she said. “Even I thought to myself that if they take paparazzi shots people will think this is cultural appropriation and it is so not. I’m Indian. Sarah Jessica Parker is aware of these things.”
LeRoy McClain is one of the new men loving and living in the city. He portrays Andre Rashad Wallace, musician and husband of Dr. Naya Wallace. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star reveled at the opportunity to work alongside Pittman representing Black love on the small screen.
“You’ll see from the first episode they have a really strong love bond,” he said of Andre and Naya. “They both lead from a place of love and commitment. But with everything we know about this show, will it all be smooth sailing for them from the beginning? No. What is though, right? Karen and I took it very seriously what we’re representing. This is a new voice for a new chapter of this show with this Brooklyn couple trying to make things work. I think the show is very truthful in the things this couple has encountered along the way.”
Latina Cree Cicchino will portray Luisa Torres, girlfriend of Miranda and Steve’s (David Eigenberg) grown-up son Brady Hobbs (Niall Cunningham). The first two episodes are littered with jokes about how sexually active Luisa and Brady are which leads to conflict between all parties.
“Teens are gonna teen!” Cicchino said. “Niall and I would make up these backstories and we think Luisa and Brady are a sweet, devoted, and in-love couple. Luisa is a lot like a 2022 version of Miranda so seeing Miranda interact with a new generation young woman that’s a version of her was a very interesting dynamic to play. I was so lucky to share scenes with Cynthia, it was an honor.”
New episodes of And Just Like That… will be released every Thursday via HBO Max.
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