After a couple episodes of And Just Like That‘s second season, a feeling washes over. Like a conversation with old friends or a favorite pair of jeans, the Max revival series settles in with Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte York Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis) and their expanded brunch table, and things look different yet feel familiar. It’s like watching Sex and the City.
“We had a season that was dominated by a loss and the grief that commonly follows a loss like that. That is a color and you cannot escape; even in the attempt to find nobility in that grief and be unburdensome to other people, it still exists,” Parker tells The Hollywood Reporter of the first-season storyline centering around Carrie mourning husband Big (Chris Noth). “And this is a season about resurfacing. It feels in tone really familiar to Sex and the City, it’s just that the questions have to be slightly different because of life experience.”
Over the course of 11 episodes (the first two release on Thursday), the sophomore season of And Just Like That — which Parker executive produces along with her original co-stars, Nixon and Davis, and their showrunner Michael Patrick King — sets out to answer a new set of questions that come with self-discovery for the starring trio, whose characters are now in their 50s, and their newer co-stars in the beloved franchise, played by Sara Ramirez, Nicole Ari Parker, Sarita Choudhury and Karen Pittman.
“What is it like to now be single at this age in this particular city? What does discovery mean and what’s important now versus maybe the last time a person was single 10 to 20 years ago?” asks Parker of Carrie, who is now widowed and dating, once again in Manhattan. “How has life changed? How has sexual politics changed? That right there, is a season,” she adds. “And it’s about friendships and the different way we pursue our friendships, and new friendships.”
The first season of And Just Like That catapulted Sex and the City back into the zeitgeist. After the beloved HBO series ended in 2004 before two movies in 2008 and 2010, the 2023 revival brought Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte (without Kim Cattrall’s Samantha Jones; more on that later) back to a weekly audience that had now expanded to span generations, thanks to streaming. Upon hearing the megarevival described as the center of the universe, Parker offers a humble laugh. Because along with the excitement came the critics, and an audience who had a lot to say.
“We tend to not incorporate the peripheral chatter or feelings, even if they are loving and supportive and enthusiastic; it’s not really productive for storytelling and you tend to kind of be result-oriented,” she says of weighing the fan response to season one with the creative vision for season two. “[SATC creator] Darren [Star] initially and Michael Patrick when he took over have always written on instinct. Michael Patrick’s instincts have been pretty good for a long time. I think he’s at his best when he simply tells the stories he thinks are exciting and real, and heightened and heartbreaking and hilarious and whimsical and absurd.”
When crafting their first season, Big was always going to die and Samantha was never going to appear. King has called it a great accomplishment that Big’s death, which happened via a heart attack on a Peloton bike in the first episode, wasn’t spoiled. The death of the character, whose real name is John James Preston, was a plot carried over from the Sex and the City 3 film that never materialized; the narrative of Big’s death and its focus on Carrie’s recovery was reportedly what made the since-vocal Cattrall uninterested in reprising her role, thus scrapping the third installment.
But the sexual assault accusations against Noth, first reported by THR shortly after And Just Like That premiered, were an unforeseen hurdle to the season one conversation; the show’s writers edited out Mr. Big’s season finale cameo as a result. (Noth has denied the allegations). Still, King said that Carrie’s longtime lover across six seasons, two movies and the revival would still remain a large part of Carrie’s life heading into the second season.
The new episodes indeed call back Big’s death, as Carrie enters the second year of mourning her husband. But there are no flashbacks or images of Noth in the role. “I don’t think you need to [see him],” says Parker. “He played such a profound role in her life and obviously in the audience’s feelings, I don’t think we need to remind them with imagery. We tend to be reminded in our own lives every day of things that are important to us without seeing a photograph or film clip. Books can remind us; music, sounds, cross streets, food, a restaurant, a museum, flowers at a kiosk. I think that’s the way we mostly live when we are recalling somebody; it’s moments when we don’t expect.”
Parker clicks into that feeling of loss and learning how to navigate it. “I have friends who have coincidentally lost their husbands in the very recent past, as well as my mother; my father passed away unexpectedly, a young man at 76. And it was awful,” she says. “But as you move on and you integrate this loss in your body somewhere, you find joy again; and you feel bad about being joyful again, and then you’re more comfortable being joyful and happy.”
Last season left off with Carrie dipping her toe into moving on, as she kissed her podcast producer Franklyn (Ivan Hernandez) in the finale. With the more episodic feel of season two, the protagonist gives off nostalgic SATC vibes (also reviving a very recognizable Sex and the City movie dress) as she will once again be navigating dating, sex and new relationships, even as she continues to confront Big’s death when promoting her book about losing the love of her life. “It doesn’t mean that it’s not there or it won’t show you itself,” Parker says of Carrie’s grief, “but it’s very different this season the way Carrie experiences that loss. She’s able to be much more circumspect about it, talk about it. We have to touch on it, because it would otherwise be as if she’s ignoring a truth. But it doesn’t dominate in the same way. I think it’s a much more buoyant season.”
Nixon agrees: “Carrie has got a little time out from Big’s death and our characters and I think our whole company has found their footing, so we can really dive right in. This season is lighter, it’s more joyful.”
Also contributing to the nostalgia and onscreen buoyancy is the Samantha Jones cameo, which unlike Big’s season one death, was not kept secret for season two. (John Corbett’s return as Carrie’s ex-love Aidan also leaked, and was then used as a marketing hook in the season two trailers.) The upcoming return of Cattrall in the role she previously said she had no interest in reprising comes in the finale and was filmed with a limited crew and without any of her co-stars.
As THR reported, the idea of having Samantha return was first presented by HBO chairman and CEO Casey Bloys to King, who then wrote the scene into the finale. In a season two interview, King told THR: “I know Kim [Cattrall] said that she’d hung up the Samantha wardrobe, and then some magic happened behind the scenes because all of a sudden there was a possibility of it happening. Something about the 25th anniversary, the fans have always asked for Samantha and something happened where all of a sudden I was like, ‘Well, maybe if it’s a possibility, I can come up with a small beautiful little treat.’ And that’s what happened.”
The resulting scene follows up on the season one ending where Carrie and Samantha connected over text message. Parker echoes that the moment was intended to be a surprise for fans pegged to the show’s 25th anniversary. “The friendship is mended. They talked about it; you’ll see,” she says of being among the decision-makers about the scene. “The friendship [between Carrie and Samantha] is in good shape and I think by the time we get to that phone call that we share [in the finale], the portrait is clear of where they are and who they are.”
She continues, “When we first started talking about this idea, it’s just such an opportune moment in the story and it was really a nod to the 25 years. It’s just a really sentimental, funny, sweet moment that is timed perfectly for a specific even that’s happening in Carrie’s life. It’s so familiar. So it’s really nice, I think.”
Davis echoes that the Samantha moment was something the original stars all discussed. “It seemed right for the story and for the fans,” the actress tells THR. “Friends might move and not be in your life all the time, and that doesn’t mean you’re not friends. Sometimes you don’t talk to people for a while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reconnect. So, that rings true and I felt good about it; I felt like it was the right choice to make.”
Which is why it was unfortunate that it leaked. “I just hope that people aren’t disappointed. I want the fans to be happy. We all want the fans to be happy. That was on our minds,” she adds. Nixon describes the moment as a one-off, rather than a scene-setter for more Samantha in a potential season three. “It was really intended as a fun surprise. It’s a real bummer that it leaked because I think a lot of the beauty of it was that people wouldn’t know it was coming and then (clap) Samantha would just pop up. I think it’s a one-time thing, kind of a 25th anniversary nod kind of thing, personally,” she says.
In addition to following Carrie’s story around Big’s death, a goal of the first season was to expand and diversify the cast. The second season fleshes out the characters played by Nicole Ari Parker, Choudhury and Pittman (the latter who split her time filming between season two of And Just Like That and the forthcoming fourth season of Apple’s Morning Show), as well as Ramirez’s Che, who brings Miranda to Los Angeles to explore their relationship further in season two.
“I think it was enormously difficult but enormously important when Miranda found a way out of her marriage that I think had been keeping her trapped and unhappy for so long. I know a lot of people understandably felt really bad for Steve,” Nixon tells THR of the loud response to her character leaving her husband, played by David Eigenberg, for Che. “We all knew that to have Miranda first cheat on Steve and then leave Steve, that was going to be enormous. And even within our own cast and crew, it was hard for people! People had buttons that said Team Che and Team Steve.”
Similar to how Parker described the creative approach to season two, Nixon says she didn’t seek out the feedback. “I hear bits and pieces of things; mostly from journalists,” she says of the fan response to Miranda’s life-changing decisions. But she struggles with what the source of the “Che maelstrom” is: “[Actor and comedian] Lea DeLaria said this thing in the New York Times that when butchness shows up in the world, it freaks people out. Other than that, I don’t know what to attribute the Che maelstrom to, other than to say it’s always been a controversial show. There’s so much on television right now, the idea that people are not only watching but actually arguing about it like they used to do about the old show, that seems like a good sign to me.”
And she applauds her character for making her later-in-life decision. “When she was a young woman, she thought the be all and end all was to play with the big boys [in corporate law], make partner and have a big fat salary. And now, partly a combination of her maturing and partly a combination of Trump, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Muslim ban and the xenophobia that has been just exploding, she wants to not be a part of the problem but be a part of the solution. She’s still young enough that she has time to make a major change, but she’s old enough that she better not delay,” she says. “What we see in the second season that I certainly have noticed in my real life when a marriage ends and there’s one person who wants to leave and the other person doesn’t, you check in with those two people a year or two down the line and the person who didn’t want to leave is even more happy than the other person.”
The opening scene of the second season features all seven cast members in varying levels of intimacy. The montage signals another SATC callback: there’s more sex in season two. For Davis, certain scenes between her and onscreen husband Evan Handler reminded her of some of their earlier sex scenes on the original series as she brought Charlotte into new bedroom territory. And that resulted in one sex scene between the married pair that makes Davis blush when thinking about it.
“I wanted us to see that Charlotte and Harry [Handler] have a positive relationship where Charlotte, who was always called the prude of the group, is now in a place in her 50s where she’s comfortable with her body and her sexuality. And she’s not hiding or girlish about it; I wanted her to be a woman,” she says. And she credits her scene partner and her 25-year relationship with King for feeling supported. “Intimacy coordinators are a fascinating thing. Sometimes it can be another personality in the mix, though I know the goal is to make you comfortable. But when you’re with Michael Patrick and when I’m with Evan, who I’ve been with forever, we can speak freely about what we’re comfortable and not comfortable with. No one is going to make me do something I don’t want to do,” she says.
When looking back on the pre-intimacy coordinator era of the original series, Nixon says they still felt supported because the women were always centered in the story. “The women were in charge. The men were the guests, which meant that they were kind of nervous and it was really our job to make them feel comfortable,” she recalls. “We have a couple of different intimacy coordinators who have been just fantastic and sometimes we need them more and sometimes we need them less, depending on who is involved in the scene. Not only do they make sure people feel safe and comfortable, but they make suggestions: If this person does this to this person, does it look like an actual sexual act? How can we make it look more like something is really happening?”
Looking back, Davis says she wishes intimacy coordinators had been around for their sex scenes with the original series’ many guest stars. “You’d say hi to the guy and then you’re doing the thing. That was a lot!” she says with a laugh.
Circling back around to their creative approach to the season, Parker credits their diverse, female-dominated writing room for centering Che Diaz (Ramirez), Lisa Todd Wexley (Ari Parker), Seema Patel (Choudry) and Dr. Nya Wallace (Pittman) more in season two, as the franchise famously pulls its storylines from real experiences from King’s writers room.
It’s not lost on Parker that there are now seven faces on the poster for the show. “The thing that really struck me about the episodes I’ve seen, which I think is just a big accomplishment and speaks to the richness of talent of these new characters having being played by these particular actors, is that the stories now exist without any of the original cast. The camera goes off just with them,” she says. “And it’s not a question that it’s holding the attention of everybody; and that’s just major.”
Parker continues, “It takes a while to integrate characters, as it does friendships. That’s very real. And just because Miranda has a friend or a colleague, that doesn’t mean they will cross paths with Carrie. And when they do, it’s a slow process. We all are a certain age and you think, ‘My dance card is full, I can’t make new friends; I don’t know how to go to a dinner party and meet new people.’ But, you do. And sometimes, someone squeezes room on their dance card for somebody else. And that’s kind of what happened here.”
What does expanding their ensemble mean for the future of the series? All three original stars agree it opens the door for more And Just Like That. “There were a lot of great, bold things last season that I loved. But I feel like this season is really where we found our footing. So yes, I would love to do more seasons,” says Nixon. Davis adds: “When we were young I was like, ‘Let’s do it forever!’ I am very hopeful about next year.”
And Just Like That‘s second season launches with the first two episodes June 22, followed by a weekly streaming release on Max.