About the closest Kim Cattrall's Sex and the City character, Samantha Jones, ever came to a religious awakening was the 2001 episode in which she lusted after a hot Franciscan priest.
Nearly two decades later, the actress' portrayal of Margaret Monreaux — the wealthy matriarch behind a Christian television empire in Fox's spring entry, Filthy Rich — seems like a distinct departure from the no-holds-barred New Yorker she played for six seasons.
Yet Cattrall sees similarities. "They're both very strong women who know what they want and what they don't," she says from New Orleans, where she's one episode shy of wrapping the show's first 10-episode season. "I was raised by a strong woman. I'm attracted to strength."
The first season of Filthy Rich is all about Margaret's journey. After her husband Eugene (Gerald McRaney) is ostensibly killed in a plane crash, Margaret takes charge of the family business and discovers that, in addition to their son and daughter, her spouse had three children out of wedlock, all of whom want a piece of the family fortune.
"The show is about her education," the actress says. "It's been exciting to see her evolve."
One of the biggest learning curves for Cattrall, who calls herself "more of an agnostic," has been understanding and even embracing Margaret's faith.
"I was taught I could make change in my life," she explains. "I never put that into anyone else's hands." As one of the series' producers (her third time in that role), Cattrall says it was important to have Margaret pray in every episode.
"In those scenes, she says things that she wouldn't say to anyone. You see her vulnerability and her steadfast belief in [a higher power]. This strong woman — who has an iron fist in a velvet glove — asks for guidance. There's something beautiful about that."
Cattrall foresaw a solid collaboration with series creator–executive producer Tate Taylor (The Help, The Girl on the Train) from the moment they met.
"I instantly felt that he's very supportive and loves women." She also liked that he's an actor himself who worked his way up "the old-fashioned way," from being a PA to writing and directing shorts.
The 2011 feature The Help, which he directed and executive-produced, revealed his talents to a broader audience. With Filthy Rich, Cattrall will travel the route of broadcast soaps like Dallas and Dynasty to reach an even wider swath of Americans.
Sex and the City, of course, aired for six seasons on HBO, and her passion project, the black comedy Sensitive Skin, was seen on HBO Canada. Over time, she has warmed to the idea of mass appeal.
"I'm glad that we're on Fox," she says. "It's a good fit." And while Cattrall doesn't mind comparisons to those hit soaps of yesteryear, she notes that, thanks to Taylor's deft hand, Filthy Rich has "the guts and sensibilities of an independent film. The exciting thing about being on the precipice of doing something original is that you don't know how it's going to work."
If the network blesses Filthy Rich with a second season, Cattrall — born in England, raised in Canada and a resident of New York — likely will be on the first flight back to New Orleans. "It feels very much like home."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 2, 2020