Ten years after Sex and the City, Kim Cattrall is back on HBO with Sensitive Skin, a new dramedy about figuring out who the hell you are in your 50s. Although the show is based on a British series, it’s most reminiscent of Louis CK’s FX masterpiece, Louie, in its mix of humour and dark depth. The plot follows the long-married couple Davina (Cattrall, who also produced) and Al (fellow producer Don McKellar, who also directed each episode) who rattle around a stark concrete condo in downtown Toronto after selling their family home in the ‘burbs. Some of Canada’s best talent fills out the cast, including Marc-André Grondin (Goon) as a lascivious piano teacher; Colm Feore (Thor) as Cattrall’s imperious brother-in-law; Mary Walsh (This Hour Has 22 Minutes) as an acid-tongued radio host; and Clé Bennett (Lost Girl) as the Jacksons’ friendly neighborhood dealer. (American ringer Elliott Gould also appears as Don McKellar’s cuddly quack doctor.) Here, Cattrall tells FLARE why Sensitive Skin will strike a chord with all ladies—of a certain age or otherwise.
On getting the show made “I was in London in the West End doing a David Mamet play and I got a call from my agent, who told me the head of comedy at BBC Two wanted to have a creative meeting, so I met with him and he asked me if I would be interested in making a new series. He suggested Hugo Blick, who had done the first season of Sensitive Skin for Joanna Lumley. I went home to my little place that I was renting and watched all six episodes and I was completely hooked—completely hooked—and I met with Hugo Blick a week or so later and he said, “you know, I’ll write you a show.”
I said, what I’d really like is to do a North American version of Sensitive Skin. I took the original series to HBO America and they put it in development for almost four years. We went through a lot of different writers, but I just didn’t feel the tone was right—they were either too faithful to the original, or they were making it too much of a sitcom, so we decided to part ways, and I got the rights back. Then in 2011, I was in Toronto doing Private Lives. I knew Don McKellar socially, and I asked a friend of mine if there was a production company in Toronto that she would recommend for Sensitive Skin, and she suggested McKellar’s Rhombus Films. They said, ‘Let’s go for it.'”
On Davina’s mid-life crisis “What I love about the series is that it’s entertaining, but you also learn something. You’re exposed to the originality that is a woman’s life. It’s also about a 30-year relationship, and a breakdown of that relationship. But it’s told from a point of view that was completely fresh: this woman is still viable, she’s still growing, still changing, she has still got something to say. I’ve been told tiny bits of that story before, where it’s a gag of a woman having an affair with a younger man—the whole cougar thing—which Sex and the City invented, in a way, and I think I’ve been there, seen that, I’ve seen the menopause, the hot flashes and all that kind of stuff, but what’s really going on? What’s deeper than that? You start to look at what you’ve accomplished and say, well, that’s great, but who am I? I was a great mother or a great wife, but who am I now? And I think that’s a question you keep asking yourself each decade you’re in, but the answers are easier when you’re younger.”
On working with Don McKellar “I met Don, we really liked each other, we were really good friends, and it was instant chemistry. You either have it with somebody or you don’t. I wanted us to really set up a routine as a relationship, because that’s what relationships are, they become part of a routine: he’s always asking for money, he’s always driving to the wrong place, he’s always slow, he’s always exaggerating things, he’s not reliable… That kind of stuff you just have to feel with him, like an old shoe… Especially after 30 years!”
On Davina’s wardrobe “I was very specific because the character was playing a model, and she had very few creative outlets. I hired stylist Marie-Eve Tremblay, and I said to her, ‘I want you to contact every young Canadian designer, young, old, whatever, I want to wear Canadian clothes.’ I don’t want to wear Gucci’s last season. We didn’t have a big budget, but we went out and talked to Pink Tartan, we talked to Roots, we talked to Jeremy Laing, D2, Suzi Roher, Quill & Tine, Ron White for the pumps, lingerie with Christine Lingerie and jewellery was Arielle de Pinto. I said to Marie-Eve, ‘Look, we have an opportunity here, because the show is very visual and I didn’t want to just have Davina wear no-name designers or European designers. We have really amazing talent in Canada and I wanted to incorporate that in a subtle way.’ Davina lives in Canada, why wouldn’t she be wearing a great skirt by Lucian Matis?”