Cynthia Nixon – back on the small screen
secretary for the governor of California.
If this sounds a bit close to home for Cynthia, 54, it is. Just months before accepting the part, she was running for governor of New York. ‘It was maybe one of the reasons Ryan thought of me,’ she ponders. ‘Or chose to make the character political. I don’t know which came first!’
What piqued Cynthia’s interest wasn’t simply the exploration of mental health and women’s power, or even working with Sarah Paulson and Sharon Stone (who has a monkey, in a coordinated outfit, on her shoulder in most of her scenes). It was the way that Ryan shines a spotlight on history and flips it on its head. ‘Ryan is trying to go back into these historical periods where people of colour and queer people have been erased from the narrative and say, actually, those people were there. Let’s try to imagine who they were and what they were doing.’
Does Cynthia see many parallels between then and now? ‘Obviously, things are more possible [now] but even though we have more and more women in politics, it’s still a bridge too far for so many voters and it adds a whole other layer of challenge. So much of the election of Donald Trump and the pandemic has exposed not only how deeply conservative a country we are, but how retrograde we are, particularly when it comes to white supremacy.’
How is she feeling about the upcoming US election? ‘I am hopeful. I cannot imagine we would re-elect him,’ she says. ‘But I could not imagine we would have elected him in the first place. I’m worried he is deliberately trying to provoke unrest and
be seen as the law and order candidate and that will scare people into re-electing him.’
A lifelong advocate of LGBTQ+ rights, education, women’s health and breast cancer (she was herself diagnosed in 2002), Cynthia stepped her activism up a gear in 2018. And while she may have lost out to Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo as governor of New York, the experience was life-altering. ‘I’m a high-adrenaline person but I’ve never experienced anything like the constant adrenaline of that campaign,’ she recalls. ‘It took my wife [Christine Marinoni] and I months to recover. In the days after the election, I just sat on my couch and I never do that. It reminded me of being pregnant.’ [The couple have three children.]
Next, she’s on-board for The Gilded Age, a new drama from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. And surely now she’s in with Ryan Murphy, she’s set for life? ‘I hope so!’ she quips. I wonder if she can imagine being associated with any character more than Miranda Hobbes, who she played for six seasons of Sex And The City, followed by two films. ‘No, I can’t imagine it,’ she laughs, and she’s ‘totally’ OK with that. ‘I’m very proud of it. I love it dearly.’
Even though it hasn’t exactly aged well? ‘I was always troubled by how un-diverse it was,’ admits Cynthia. ‘Certainly racially, but also how the slice of New York city it was showing was so incredibly affluent. Miranda’s husband was the only representation of anybody who didn’t have money for days. I guess Carrie didn’t have money for days, but you would never know it by the way she spent!’
That’s not all that hasn’t stood the test of time. ‘I was given a lot of the clothes and was startled by how quickly the shoes dated,’ she says. ‘One day these shoes that were so cutting edge were now quaint and old-fashioned.’
And so I got to thinking (sorry), would any amount of clothes lure her back into the role for one last hurrah? ‘Oh sure, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,’ she says. ‘I love the character and the other women but we’ve pretty much confirmed that’s not going to be happening. That ship has sailed!’ ‘Ratched’ is on Netflix from 18 September
quite literally – the mother of all diary clashes. Just a day after revealing she’d given birth to daughter Daisy Dove on 26 August, Katy Perry took to Twitter from her hospital bed to announce the release of her muchanticipated new album, Smile. ‘Delivering a baby and a record in the same week,’ she tweeted triumphantly, immediately horrifying the usual gaggle of mum-shamers, appalled that the miracle of new life wasn’t ‘enough’ for her. How could she care about anything else now she was A Mother?
Thing is, sometimes you have to. And sometimes, you just (whisper it) want to. I know this because I had my daughter on a Monday and was back at my desk by Thursday. I’m a freelance writer and was finishing a mammoth project I’d accepted several months earlier. I had no idea back then that making tea and toast at the same time can be a superhuman challenge in the days after giving birth. All I knew is that the deadline couldn’t be changed and I didn’t want to miss out on the money or an opportunity I’d worked hard for.
True, like Katy, I didn’t need to commute, worry about childcare or even squeeze into any work clothes. I wrote from home, sometimes in my pyjamas and largely when my daughter was either asleep or with my husband in another room (because yes! She was his child too!). And some days, I sat
IT WAS –
at my laptop rocking my daughter’s bouncy chair with my foot and weeping with exhaustion into a packet of Custard Creams. Yet I never regretted the decision I’d made to keep on working. My job is part of who I am. Why shouldn’t Katy make sure as many people as possible hear the album she’s spent months recording?
Finding a way to muddle through from the start might even make life easier in the long run, with one NCT survey saying a third of women found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to return to work after maternity leave. Art critic Melissa Gronlund started work three weeks after having her daughter, Bertie, and published a book within a year. ‘I didn’t feel guilty at all. I wanted to work and I had opportunities I didn’t want to let go by,’ she explains.
‘Maternity leave can you give you a false impression – first of being a full-time mum and then that you will be a full-time 20 AUGUST professional exactly like you were before,’ she says. ‘It’s more realistic and helpful to understand you are going to be both from the beginning.’
Of course, for every new mum starting a business or writing a best-seller, there are many more barely managing to shower each day. ‘My son Noah had colic for six months and didn’t sleep,’ says teacher Cathy Davies, who says she was too exhausted to even contemplate feeling any pressure to be more productive outside of motherhood. ‘I had to hold him constantly to stop him crying; there was no way I could have even thought about work. I needed every second of my maternity leave just to feel normal again.’
The fact is every mum must be able to decide what’s right for her family without judgement, whether that’s taking a year to figure out how to keep this new little person alive or casually dropping a top five album while breastfeeding.
Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, believes that the answer might be bosses being open to us all working more flexibly, something many of us have proved over the last few months works just fine. ‘This is about choice, and we remove that choice for women by adhering so rigidly to outdated work practices,’ she says. ‘Flexible working improves productivity, efficiency and emotional wellbeing and gives more mothers access to work. When and if you return to work is a personal choice that needs to be made for you and your circumstances.’
So whatever you decide, how you spend your maternity leave is no one else’s business. Or, to quote Katy’s succinct hospital bed tweet, ‘Don’t f**k with mama.’