We must confess: Sex and the City's decision to cast 55-year-old dance legend Mikhail Baryshnikov as Carrie's new artist-boyfriend caught us way off guard. When exec producer Michael Patrick King told TV Guide Online he snagged a "big name" for the plum part, we were thinking Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Sean Penn... you know, movie stars. Not a freakin' ballet dancer. That said, given that it was Carrie's portrayer, the delightful Sarah Jessica Parker, who hand-picked the sometime actor (who debuts this fall), we're inclined to give the risky experiment the benefit of the doubt. Still, Ms. Parker has some explainin' to do...
TV Guide Online: We were a little surprised you didn't go with a more, um, mainstream name for this role. I guess what I'm asking is, why Mikhail?
Sarah Jessica Parker: Umm... I think because in my head, first of all, there is no bigger name in the field of dance than him — not that it is at all germane to the storyline. But I wasn't thinking about who was necessarily on the radar, because I'd like to think that we don't think like that. When I understood the general description of the part, it was very hard to find anybody that could bring that sort of myth and legend. And while there are enormous movie stars who are extraordinary and obviously thrilling to watch on screen, people don't necessarily just fit the bill because of their name recognition. [Mikhail] is extraordinary, and this character is not like anyone we've ever had on the show before. And this person has to bring with him culture and style and complication and depth and a brand new point of view about the city. And it is thrilling to think that there is this whole other city [out there] that Carrie doesn't know [about].
TVGO: But let's be real: You're not fooling anyone into thinking Carrie won't end up with Mr. Big in the end.
Parker: I don't know, perhaps you know something that I don't know. I'm not at all being arrogant to think I'm fooling... you are putting words in my mouth. I think you are being slightly argumentative. I never once said that we were trying to fool anybody; that storyline isn't written yet.
TVGO: I was just being tongue-in-cheek, because when I spoke to Michael Patrick King he said, specifically, that he wanted to bring in a major name so viewers wouldn't think Big was the clear winner.
Parker: I really don't think that we write result-oriented. I think we are really careful to honor the sort of commitment from the people that have watched the show for this number of years. I honestly don't think that we are trying to fool anybody. I think we are doing what is authentic. In New York City you can walk out the door and bump into the person that you might spend the rest of your life with. That's the beauty of living in a city — in an urban environment — where there aren't cars, where you step out the door and you are pressed up against humanity. Carrie walks out her door and, lo and behold, this extraordinary thing happens to her. Her world is revealed to be smaller than she thought, and a whole new world, literally a whole new culture — smells, sounds, sights, textures — [is presented to her]. Is [Mikhail] who she ends up with? Frankly, I don't know. I really don't know. And I think that this story remains unwritten. John Corbett(Aidan) came on the show for supposedly five episodes, [but] we found ourselves with him a year and a half later; we simply couldn't let him go. His performance dictated something to us that we had never expected. And [with Mikhail], we have a really exciting person, and someone who is a great privilege to work with. He shot yesterday and it was really fantastic. It took a long time to make this come together. It was complicated and I was terrified the whole time, and yesterday was his first night he shot and it was really lovely.
TVGO: Could you see Carrie spending the rest of her life with someone like him?
Absolutely. Because he is filled with complexity and color and he is inspired and he is an innovator and he is in the future — he is not in the past. He is thinking, he's moving, he's forging, he's mining, he's beautiful on a superficial level, he's sexy, he's a legend. And I'm talking about the person that he is playing. He's smart and he's complicated and he's aloof and he's withholding, he's dear and he's generous, he's austere and he's spare, and these are all the things that we are going to see from him. And he's odd too. That's the kind of person you want to be with. You want to be with somebody who is endlessly unpredictable and exciting. And those are the qualities that Mr. Big possesses too. I just think that we don't know yet [who Carrie will choose in the end]. And I think that it is nice for the audience not to know and not to be too sure.
TVGO: How do they meet?
They meet at a gallery in New York City.
TVGO: Can you describe the encounter?
I don't want to, because if we get to a scene in a gallery, I don't want [viewers to start] projecting what is about to happen. Revelations and events can be small and big, and they can be subtle and super demonstrative. So I'll just say that they meet in a gallery in New York City.
TVGO: Will you wrap the series on an open-ended note, just in case you want to revisit it in a possible feature film or TV movie?
That's a very good question. I think it is a fair question. I would ask the same thing. I don't know. I think I have an idea about what we're going to do, but I'm not sure. I like the idea. And when we talk about revisiting... it is one of the reasons that I felt it was important for us to stop now. People have been so receptive and so good to us, and we've had such an incredible experience and I want to be able to ponder the idea of revisiting because I feel if we stay longer the show will have to tell a different story next year. It must. It is incumbent upon us to tell different stories because of the age we are and the stories we've told. I don't know if it is so much the ending that allows us to revisit, or when we leave that allows us to revisit.
TVGO: But you would be open to maybe doing a feature film at some point?
I don't even think about that right now. I have such a daunting amount of work ahead of me. I really can barely manage to keep the days' events straight. I've never been someone that reads the scripts. I can't bear to read the scripts for the next episode until my work is complete, because I don't want to know what is going to happen next with Carrie until really close to the actual event. So, I don't know. I don't know. Feature film, reunion movie... I don't know there is something odd about that. It makes me sound sad; that sounds sad. 'A very special Sex and the City.' (Laughs) I don't know what the future holds. I just know that we have to be the best we can be until we go off the air. I take that extremely seriously, and I expect our audience to take that seriously. I like the standard they've set for us, and I want to meet that standard. And I think that [Mikhail] allows us to reach for it. He gives us another leg up. Plus, we now have to keep him interested, too.
TVGO: More pressure.
Yeah man — just what I like.