How We Met: Janet Suzman & Kim Cattrall


Janet Suzman, 73

An acclaimed stage actor and now director, Suzman began her career with the RSC in 1963, and became known for her portrayal of Shakespeare's heroines, not least Cleopatra. She lives in London.

I know plenty of grotty, ordinary people in theatre life, but until I met Kim, I'd never become friends with a starry person. We met in a rehearsal room for a production of Peter Hall's Whose Life is it Anyway?, in 2005. At that point I'd never seen Sex and the City, so I had no idea who Kim was. My instant impression was of this casually dressed blonde creature from over the water, dressed in torn jeans, who seemed incredibly young and had this enormous warmth .

You don't always come away from a production wanting to see a person again, and even less do you become lifelong friends. But I loved how she was very much her own woman, a free spirit.

The life of a British [stage] actor is incredibly unglamorous most of the time; Kim glams it up. I'm not keen on the brash celebrity circuit, but she has drawn me into it a couple of times. She invited me to the premiere of the Sex and the City film, which was very unlike me. There were millions of 12-year-olds screaming and having a wonderful time. But what I like about her is she knows how to play the [glamour] game, but she can then drop it like a hot plate.

I had a wonderful time going out for dinner with her in Marrakesh while she was filming Sex and the City 2, but it was terrible. She was scathing about it to me, but she knows perfectly well that those [films], while ghastly, are her bread and butter, and everything else she does is jam; she and I only do jam together.

She was extraordinarily courageous when she approached me to take on the greatest part ever written for a women in English literature, Cleopatra , a part too often overshadowed by the glorious effulgences of Elizabeth Taylor's cleavage. So [as director of a 2010 Liverpool Playhouse production of Antony and Cleopatra], I said to her, "Forget about that [sex bomb] approach, focus on what's really interesting about Cleopatra." I knew she could do comedy, but I wondered whether she'd embrace the tragedy. She trusted my judgement and was terrific; now she's going to get that rare chance of having another go.

Kim Cattrall, 55

Born in Liverpool, Cattrall moved to Canada as a child, and then went to New York to study drama. She appeared in a string of 1980s films, but it was her role as Samantha Jones in 'Sex and the City' that made her a household name. She has since appeared in a number of theatre productions. She lives in New York.

I first saw Janet on stage when I was 11. I'd travelled to Stratford from Liverpool with my great-aunt for an RSC production of As You Like It, with Janet playing Rosalind , and it was my first dramatic experience. She was so strong and commanding with her voice and it had a huskiness to it. She had me on the edge of my seat and I remember thinking, "That's what I want to do."

We met in 2005 when I was doing my first West End play, Whose Life is it Anyway?. Immediately I wanted to say, "I'm so excited to be working with you." But I didn't want her to think I was a crazed fan, so I didn't tell her for a year .

Over the course of the play we became close, and while staying at her house I came upon a picture of her on the cover of a book where she was playing Cleopatra, in 1972. I said, "Do you think I can do that? Why don't you direct me?"

I couldn't think of a better guide [through the production] than Janet. I'd heard so much about her [portrayal] of that role; my main fear was whether she would allow me to have my own Cleopatra, but she let go of the reins and allowed me my own [interpretation].

In career terms, we started in very different directions. I got into the commercial world of television and film early while she was always known for theatre. As a young actress I didn't get to play Rosalind and Juliet and it's only now that I'm getting to play the roles I've always aspired to.

Do I see her as a mentor? Definitely. In fact, I wish I'd had more mentors along the way. It's something that's sadly been left behind in my profession, so I'm so happy to have found in Janet a relationship with a woman I trust and respect, who's not just an incredible actress and director but my friend.

Kim Cattrall will be starring in 'Antony and Cleopatra', directed by Janet Suzman, at the Chichester Festival Theatre from 7- 29 September ( 'Tea with Janet Suzman, Kim Cattrall and Jude Kelly', about the role of Cleopatra, is at the Southbank Centre, London SE1 (, today at 2pm

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own