When Mr Big, the character played by Chris Noth, died in the first episode of the SATC reboot And Just Like That, I felt relief. I’m sure the three women who have come forward in the last week with allegations of sexual assault against Noth felt the same. As a former stand-in who worked on Sex and the City for four seasons, I remember his toxic behavior all too vividly.
The first time the “alpha male” actor slid his hand down my back and over my butt, I flinched. I was in my mid-20’s and had worked as an extra on movie sets for over a decade; I had never been manhandled. “That’s your spot, sweetie,” Noth said, inching even closer.
I was Kristin Davis’ stand-in, hired to stand on a colored strip of tape on the floor to help set up the scene with the cinematographer. I was grateful to work a 16-hour day. I’d finally qualify for Screen Actors’ Guild health insurance and be paid more than the almost-minimum wage I had received as an extra.
Davis and I shared the same height, hair color, and big, round eyes, though we didn’t look identical. I was known in the industry for being a consummate professional, showed up on time, was respectful on set, and remained silent and still while the crew set up the lights and the actors were outfitted in their dressing rooms.
I tried to pretend that Noth’s glossy, dark eyes didn’t creep me out, but I couldn’t help but feel his behavior taught others how to treat me. My gut said to quit that first day. Instead, I stayed too long, like staying in a bad relationship for far too many years, hoping I’d persevere and land my big break.
After that day, I did my best to stay out of his path. When the assistant director dismissed me and yelled for first team, I headed to craft service. The table was loaded with all-you-could-eat Nutter Butters, Oreos, and bananas. A costumer spotted me and said, “Careful. You’ll put on weight!”
Having grown up in New York City bouncing on and off welfare, playing my violin on street corners for money and being made homeless at age ten with my single mom and twin sister, I still had major food insecurities. Even though I was a grown woman, I still felt every day I could lose everything and have nothing to eat.
Within a few months, I gained 15 pounds on top of my small 115-pound frame. The crew commented on my expanding hips and breasts. I began wearing overalls to hide my new curves and chain-smoked in the bathroom to avoid eating. The atmosphere was toxic.
About a year later, Chris Noth pointed to another stand-in and said, “I want that one tied up, gagged, and brought to my trailer.” When he got near me, I balled up my fists, squared my shoulders, and said, “This is my and her space.” He backed up, dramatically putting his hands up in the air and said, “Whoa, there, little lady!” He didn’t even know my name. I clenched my jaw and didn’t respond. The crew laughed. But I had had enough; I finally stood up for myself and for the other stand-in.
Over twenty years later, as an avid fan of the show, I scrolled through the red-carpet shots of the reboot And Just Like That and recoiled. How could Sarah Jessica Parker, stunningly dressed in gray chiffon, cuddle in photos with Chris Noth? She practically glowed as she smiled up at him.
Some members of the crew must have been aware of the star’s behavior and the sexual harassment on set, especially after my essay went viral in the Independent in February. Just five days after my essay was published, it was reported that Noth wasn’t returning to the show. I texted friends: “Quickest reaction to my #MeToo moment or coincidence?” Imagine my surprise when months later, he was hired for the reboot.
I felt betrayed yet again.
By June, I had moved on. I contacted the casting director and asked if I could have my old stand-in job back. Silence. I reached out again and emailed updated photos. More silence.
I requested to be an extra (a demotion in pay and status) because I loved working with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and the other talented and smart woman in the cast. I couldn’t wait to be reunited with them. Casting ignored my repeated inquiries. I found myself wondering whether I was being blacklisted for speaking out. Was Big killed off in the first episode because the producers knew of his troubles?
My experiences are small compared to the brave woman who have come forward. I applaud and support them. And to those who aren’t ready to share your stories, I support you too. It’s not easy to allow yourself to acknowledge trauma that happened years ago or even last week. But if you do, you can begin to heal.
I’m putting myself, future jobs in the entertainment field, and my reputation at risk by using my name and exposing these truths once again.
I’m not naive: I know how women who report sexual misbehavior are treated, and I know my intentions will be questioned. Alleged victims of sexual crimes are all too often vilified, accused of seeking attention, monetary gain, and having distorted memories. The treatment of women involved in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial is testament to that.
I don’t want my young daughters to randomly Google me one day and find my name associated with Sex and the City and those traumatic experiences. I want to be associated with the good times on set, the laughs we shared, the glamorous locations, the lifelong friendships that were made, and the family-like atmosphere when we all ate at the communal tables at Silvercup Studios.
But I want the nightmares to end for woman who have been traumatized. And I’m glad that the main cast of And Just Like That have responded with their support for those women, because solidarity matters.
The Independent reached out to Chris Noth for comment on this story and his representatives were not immediately available. Noth denies all allegations of wrongdoing against him.
In response to the claims of rape made against him by other women, Noth told The Independent: “The accusations against me made by individuals I met years, even decades, ago are categorically false. These stories could’ve been from 30 years ago or 30 days ago – no always means no – that is a line I did not cross.
“The encounters were consensual. It’s difficult not to question the timing of these stories coming out. I don’t know for certain why they are surfacing now, but I do know this: I did not assault these women.”
Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organizations. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 802 9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html
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