In a warm chat today at MIPTV with Julian Newby of the MIPTV News, Kim Cattrall, star and executive producer of Sensitive Skin, discussed what it’s like to work on a project that addresses ageing and the evolution of a mature relationship.
Sensitive Skin is an American adaptation of a British series of the same name. It follows a middle-aged woman who, with her husband, sells their family home for a “one bedroom cyberloft” in a hipster Toronto neighbourhood. The objective: To start afresh. “Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens,” Newby began menacingly.
Newby kicked off by asking Cattrall why it’s taken so long for her to get aboard a TV project since Sex And The City, Cattrall reflected that if she ever returned to TV, it would have to be for something extraordinary. When she was invited to hear about Sensitive Skin, she was skeptical. “But I felt this was a story that has never been told before,” she said.
“I was drawn to the intelligence and the humour of it. It reminded me of SATC because, after AIDS, sex was a scary thing to speak about, and we were there doing it with humour. In a way this does the same things for ageing: It’s the journey of a woman starting to see the effects of gravity, and it’s scary.”
She also admitted that being an executive producer and having some power is fun, after which Newby asked about the process of Americanising a British programme.
“We say North-Americanize in Canada,” Cattrall teased.
“I think it’s a black comedy. It has more emotional weight than in the original,” she said. “It was also important to take characters unseen in the original and make them more a part of Divina’s world.” (Divina being the show’s protagonist.)
Cattrall also felt that the questions Divina asks herself are universal: “‘What have I not accomplished? What are the challenges left for me personally?’ Those questions drive me in a very personal way,” she said . “Women my age have much to say, and unfortunately this business doesn’t recognise that most of the time.”
She reflected, “I’m known for playing women who know what they want and how to get it. But to play someone who’s in a crisis and is not aware of it … this was a very different area of investigation for me, and that’s why I’m so proud of the end project.”
The notion of the cautionary tale played as comedy also touched her.
“I like comedy that makes you question. It’s a very intelligent way to get rid of fear,” Cattrall pointed out. “You’re laughing, but you’re coming away with something that makes you question your own life.” She compared this feeling to how she felt when she saw The Mary Tyler Moore Show for the first time, and realised that having a career was really an option.
Newby then asked whether she brings her theatre experience on-screen with her for television.
“The theatre makes it almost impossible to work in TV because the writing is so great,” Cattrall gushed. “I’ve been doing Molière and Shakespeare, I just did Tennessee Williams. So when you go from that to a TV show, especially from a woman’s point of view, it’s like ‘eeeee! — I don’t want to be ‘a wife who gets plastic surgery‘.”
Sensitive Skin addresses women’s ageing with delicacy, and also spoke to where she is in life presently. “There are a lot of public personal moments for me” in the show, Cattrall admitted. “Everyone wants to remember me from Mannequin, and Big Trouble in Little China, and —”
“Porky’s,” Julian interrupted.
“And Porky’s!” Cattrall laughed. “The pressure to stay young, be young, bubbly, nubile, is suffocating.”
But she also doesn’t want Sensitive Skin to be seen as purely a women’s programme.
“I would be sad if it was just considered a women’s programme. This is about a relationship, not just Divina,” said Cattrall. “The men in the show are important, and they’re addressing this issue in their own way as well. I think it’s a human story, and I don’t want to be cornered and lost and pigeonholed, just for women.” She hastened to say that if Sensitive Skin ended up like SATC, she’d still be very happy. “But I’d so like for Sensitive Skin to reach a broader audience.”
Newby asked about the fashion side of Sensitive Skin, and how it compares to SATC, which spawned whole revolutions in fashion as the series progressed.
Cattrall said that Sensitive Skin focused more on getting Toronto-based designers involved. “We wanted to use talents inherent to Toronto and make that part of our story as well,” because Sensitive Skin is also about “a city in flux. All these condos are coming up, and there’s not enough space. Where will people go, how will they function? It’s about that transition as well.”
The floor opened to audience questions. One person asked whether she expects the show to resonate in other regions, like India.
“That was always the question about SATC — why did it work internationally to such a degree?” Cattrall mused. “I think because women are women, men are men, and relationships are the same, no matter what language or culture. Love is complicated, change is complicated. I think anyone from any civilised country, with a TV set, and who likes stories, with humanity, and conflict that they can relate to personally, will understand what Sensitive Skin is about.
“There’s so much in both versions that you can connect to. And it’s about that connect,” Cattrall concluded, voicing her hopes that, if the show gets adapted in other territories, “people will make it their own.”
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