To anyone who tunes into HBO on Sunday nights, Chris Noth DRA ’85 is one thing: Big. Judging from the attendance at his Master’s Tea Thursday, so is his following on the Yale campus.
Noth, best known for his current role as Mr. Big on HBO’s “Sex and the City” and for his five-year stint as Detective Mike Logan on “Law and Order,” came to Berkeley College for a Master’s Tea Thursday afternoon. Noth prepared no remarks, inviting attendees to participate in a question and answer session that lasted just under an hour.
While the audience was at first eager only to discuss the details of Noth’s role on HBO, the discussion eventually opened up to a wider discussion of his earlier career, his views on the craft of acting and reactions to the pressures of celebrity.
Noth first addressed the future of his character, Mr. Big, as a love interest for Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) during the sixth and final season of “Sex and the City.”
“[HBO] is very uptight about giving me details, so I really don’t know if there will be any closure for Big and Carrie. I think it’s a good time to have that whole thing over with, though,” Noth said.
Mostly, the 48-year-old Yale School of Drama graduate communicated puzzlement as to why the HBO series has developed such a cult following.
“I have never been able to figure out what it was about ‘Sex and the City’ that has given it such an intense following,” Noth said. “Other than that the writing is very clever, and I think it is the first show to be honest about sex. Except maybe ‘Oz.'”
Noth, addressing the large audience with droll candor, went on to answer questions about his other career highlights and his time at Yale between 1982 and 1985.
“I spent three of the grandest years of my life here,” Noth said. “It was a terrible time to be working as an actor in New York. At Yale, I was in ‘Three Sisters,’ ‘The Hostage,’ ‘Pericles’– parts I would have never gotten in Manhattan at the time.”
Throughout the question and answer session, Noth stressed a clear preference for theater over television and film, a partiality that he attributes to his training at Yale. He said this has informed his decision to live in New York instead of Los Angeles. Noth said he tries to do at least one play per year, and appeared most recently in “The Best Man.” He cited Olivier as his greatest theatrical influence.
“With theater, you put more in and you get more out,” Noth said. “It is emotionally draining in a way that TV will never be. When a play goes down it is an emotional thing, but I don’t foresee that happening at the end of ‘Sex and the City.'”
Above all, Noth stressed that anyone considering a career in acting must have a genuine love of the craft, not just a desire for celebrity.
“You can’t just pick up a celebrity magazine like Entertainment Weekly and say ‘hey, that looks like fun’ and decide to be an actor,” Noth said. “The career means 15-hour days, working with difficult people — and someday you won’t want to be in those magazines or being recognized on the street but you will be anyway.”
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