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The And Just Like That … Writers Knew Viewers Would Be Team Steve

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“This show has always been a bit of …” Michael Patrick King leans in toward his Zoom camera and tilts his head to the side, “… Did you see what they said? That’s the DNA.” King’s referring both to Sex and the City and to And Just Like That …, its much-debated, contested, meme-d and over-analyzed sequel series, which he runs and which ends its first season with a series of events destined to incite more controversy. In the finale, Miranda, against the advice of her friends, gives up an internship to head to California after her love interest, Che Diaz, tells her they’re moving across the country. She also dyes her hair red. Charlotte takes over her kid’s “they-mitzvah” after Rock reveals they’re neither prepared nor interested in going ahead with it. Carrie flies off to Paris to toss Big’s ashes into the Seine and connects with Samantha via text message (and, it’s implied, offscreen) before moving on with the producer of her new podcast, which is called, of course, Sex and the City. All of this on top of a season that introduced a bevy of new characters, saw Miranda intervene in a Chucky attack on the subway, and had Carrie both pee into a cup while Miranda got fingered in the next room and projectile vomit on a date. It’s a lot to process, both for the show’s audience and the writers once the audience started reacting to the series. “They love the characters,” King said of And Just Like That ’s viewers. “And that’s a blurse — a blessing and a curse.”

In order to understand how And Just Like That … came together, Vulture spoke with some of its writers: King; executive producers Elisa Zuritsky and Julie Rottenberg, who returned to the show from the original series; and newcomers Rachna Fruchbbom (co-executive producer) and Samantha Irby (co-producer). (The show’s sixth writer, Keli Goff, was not available for an interview.) They talked about how and why they wrote some of the key moments of the season, as well as the reactions they expected and didn’t expect to provoke. When the writers decided to have Miranda explore a divorce from Steve, for instance, King told them all to put on their seatbelts and brace for a bumpy road. To that, he said, “In writing something, if it’s not dangerous, fast, and a little bit treacherous, where are you driving to?”

Big Dies via Exercise Bike

In And Just Like That …’s first episode, Carrie’s husband, Big, dies of a heart attack after riding his Peloton, something King had imagined as a key aspect of the series from the jump.

Michael Patrick King: The really clear pitch is “Carrie Bradshaw is single again at 55.” Big had to die. Otherwise, there would be no reason to come back. The Peloton bike was because I wanted to show that, at 55 or 65, Carrie and Big are current. Post-pandemic, everybody was exercising in their houses. He’s not an old guy, like, “You kids today on your Pelotons.” He’s active. His heart’s pumping. It’s a damaged heart, but it’s pumping. People came into the show going “Oh, they’re old,” and I wanted to be like, “Are they? What’s old now?” That’s all up for debate.

Samantha Irby: In my interview for the show, I was like “Big has to die, right? What are they going to do? I guess we could spend ten episodes learning all the context for Big we didn’t get in the original series, but …” Then Michael was like, “He’s going to die,” and I was like, “Oh great! Perfect.”

MPK: The death in the shower felt like poetry on the page. It was like “and then she lifts his body up and the water cascades down the back of her …” Then when we filmed it, it was brutal. Trying to create death in a shower with two bodies getting wet. It was harder to film than to write.

Samantha Lives via Text Message

When the new series starts, we learn that Samantha and Carrie are estranged because Samantha moved to London after Carrie dropped her as a publicist, a cover for Kim Cattrall’s decision to not return to the series. Carrie texts Samantha over the course of the show, and in the finale, it’s implied they reunite offscreen while Carrie is in Paris to scatter Big’s ashes. King has said he does not expect Cattrall to ever appear in the new series. 

MPK: Carrie ends the season taking care of business, letting go of the idea of what was, and claiming what is important, which is Samantha — she’s right there, there’s only a Chunnel between them. Then Franklyn [Carrie’s podcast producer whom she kisses in the finale’s last moments] represents the future. Connecting with Samantha was the present, letting go of Big was the past, and Franklyn’s the future.

Julie Rottenberg: Because Carrie has this history with Samantha, we wanted to honor that. The worst thing that could happen to Carrie already did. Big died. So letting Big go is liberating for Carrie. She’s going to give it one more try, to make this bold invitation. And to have Samantha say yes — we loved that reward.

Introducing Che Diaz

Miranda is hiding her drinking problem from her friends at the beginning of the season, but she abruptly gives up after becoming obsessed with Carrie’s boss, the nonbinary diva comedian slash podcast host played by Sara Ramirez. In episode five, “Tragically Hip,” credited to Irby, Che fingers Miranda while Carrie, recovering from hip surgery in the next room, is forced to pee into a jar because Miranda isn’t paying attention to her. 

SI: I was really lobbying for Che to have some fuckboy energy. I have a wife, I get it; nobody wants to be the magical gay, the person who swept in and has no flaws. With Che, Michael used to do stand-up, and I have never done stand-up but I have a lot of friends who are stand-ups, and we thought that their comedy could be a light roast of modern stand-up, a little Hannah Gadsby mixed with annoying front-facing video comics — all the ways that comedy is happening now.

I do think one of the least charitable takes is that we’re not in on some of the jokes the internet is making. “Comedy concert” [what Miranda call’s Che’s performance] is an intentional joke, because that’s what your mom would call it! I think it’s interesting, too, to have somebody who’s nonbinary doing the things an asshole man would do. I know the internet is like, “Fuck Che Diaz,” but that’s also kind of the point!

MPK: The thing we understood was that Miranda is ramrod disciplined when she wants to be, so the easiest patch on her drinking was just hard-ass stopping. But she then does get another addiction, which is that she is madly preoccupied with Che. It certainly takes the edge off boredom.

Rachna Fruchbom: Miranda is making choices to be Miranda, and Che is a conduit to that, and making Che not perfect highlights that. Che is not the perfect solution, but the representation is that Miranda is embracing chaotic change. It’s about a woman who was very structured and dogmatic willing to do something very unknown.

SI: I wanted Miranda to have an experience where she is submissive that you would come away from as a viewer being like “I understand why she is hooked on this person.” In the script, because Che is like a walking Twitter thread, I wrote that Che is always asking for consent, and then I wrote that Miranda has a “vibrant orgasm.” I did not elaborate. And when I first saw the episode, Cynthia was like, barking or something. It was unbelievable! I was glad it was a little bit like, “bitch, shut up.” I loved that scene and that fight, the idea that you have incredible sex that made you question your sexuality, and then you immediately have to come down off that cloud and be like, “I just crossed a terrible friendship line.” When SJ spit the straw out, I was like, goddamn, give her an Emmy.

The “Drive-by Facelift”

In episode six, “Diwali,” credited to Fruchbom, Carrie goes with Anthony to a plastic surgeon, played by the unnervingly smooth Jonathan Groff. The doctor suggests she get work done instead.

RF: Michael came in with the idea that we weren’t going to shy away from stuff that might make people outraged or uncomfortable. The idea of aging and faces is very real, and we saw it in a lot of the public commentary about the actresses’ looks that I thought was very unkind. Michael had always wanted to tackle that topic and came up with this idea of a “drive-by facelift,” where it happens to you and you weren’t asking for it.

MPK: Anybody who’s taken a bad selfie has thought, “Do I need a little …?” It’s just what people think about — like when they were 35 in the other series and they were wondering, “Do I need to have a plus-one to go somewhere?”

JR: Elisa and I are 51 and we wanted the women to talk about the things we talk about. We were excited to put that plastic-surgery scene out there.

Elisa Zuritsky: In the old series, the taboo thing was that they were talking about sex in a frank way. For this series, it felt like, what if they talked honestly about aging? As women, we’re told not to talk about it very much. We were excited to proudly embrace the aging process.

When Carrie Met Seema

Of the new characters, one favorite has been Seema Patel, a fast-talking real-estate agent played by Sarita Choudhury, who befriends Carrie after Big’s death and, in “Diwali,” takes her to meet her overbearing parents. 

RF: The Indian community is a vast diaspora, but we made the choice to make Seema what I am, which is Gujarati, and to have the last name Patel, which is my maiden name, and to have her be from Queens, which is where I was born. But as with every character, there’s as much of each of the writers in Seema as there is in me, ultimately. I know that, from the little audience response I had to be confronted with because people tagged me, people were like, “We’re doing the trope where the parents want her to get married?” But a 50-year-old Gujarati woman from Queens, that’s going to be part of her life. We open on her dad watching a Knicks game, which is how my dad was.

The word we settled on for Seema early was “effervescent.” One of the inspirations for having that episode, instead of being Christmas or another holiday, was because Diwali is the festival of lights, and we played with the idea of light and dark, and it being a dark moment in Carrie’s life. Seema could have been friends with Carrie earlier, but it’s important that, in a way, Seema is a person who only knows Carrie after Big, and that’s kind of beautiful.

The One Where All the New Friends Meet

It isn’t until episode nine, “No Strings Attached,” credited to King, Zuritsky, and Rottenberg, that Seema, Charlotte’s mom friend Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker), and Miranda’s professor Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman), all converge on the same location.

JR: We very much wanted to get them together, but in due time. We wanted to get there organically. Michael, Elisa, and I all have separate lives and friends who haven’t all met.

MPK: It took us a while, because by the time LTW meets Nya, the audience has finally gotten a grasp of who they are. If we had put them together in episode two because of some contrivance, the audience wouldn’t even understand what that means. There’s the idea that Nya is dressed one way and LTW is dressed another, and then you have Miranda judging LTW, but LTW saves the day for Nya. It’s richer because it took time to get there.

RF: There’s a lunch scene earlier in the season where Seema is there with the three other girls, and we knew those are moments where people are going to have visceral reactions, because it’s not Samantha, whoever is in that seat. We also had scenes with just Nya and Andre Rashad disjointed from our main characters, and then the painting scene could pay that off too. It was about giving the new characters their own space in the series, so that as we move forward they are a part of it.

EZ: A scene in Kelli Goff’s episode [episode four, “Some of My Best Friends”] that we worked hard to refine was a motherhood conversation between Nya and Miranda. These new friends would have to bond in a short amount of time, and we had to figure out how to get them sitting at a table, opening up this intimate conversation. We had to come up with the conflict with the host at the restaurant first to destabilize Nya. Julie and I are mothers, and Kelli has chosen not to have kids. We wanted Miranda to give Nya permission and advice about motherhood that we never heard before we were mothers. We wanted Miranda to impart wisdom based on reality.

Charlotte and Miranda Learn a Lesson

Over the course of the season, the show returns to Miranda and Charlotte’s awkwardness in talking about race and gender. Miranda trips over herself trying to prove to Nya that she’s a good white woman who read White Fragility. Charlotte is embarrassed about her lack of Black friends after befriending LTW, and initially doesn’t understand her child Rock’s need to express their gender identity. (She comes around to organizing a “they-mitzvah” by the finale.)

MPK: The idea for us was the human foible of someone trying to do their best. The base code of every faux pas was that everyone was always trying to say the thing they hoped was the right thing, which is why most of the time we stepped into the arena, it had an overview of comedy or of “yikes.” They’re all trying to do their best to stay current in a time when current is changing.

SI: In terms of media and entertainment, we either get that the parent is all in and knows all the terms and does everything right, or the opposite end of the spectrum, where the parent is like, “Get out of my house.” I think for most progressive people, it’s like, Oh, I’ll do it, but I’m sort of annoyed that I have to learn new things. I loved watching Charlotte and Harry slowly get on the level. We always knew it was going to be fine and that Charlotte was going to do the work, but it was valuable to a certain segment of this show’s audience to see someone mirror themselves back to them.

JR: We wanted to let them be human, and I think we were all in the room willing to admit to horrible faux pas, and realizing we’re saying things and having horrible encounters where people were like, “Oh my God, did I just say that?”

SI: With Miranda it’s also her fumbling with having read White Fragility and trying to apply those lessons into her life. That scene in the classroom where you have a well-intentioned white woman regurgitating all the articles or Instagram graphics she’s read and seeing the reaction of the person she’s talking to being like, “Uhhh? You don’t have to save me?”

EZ: The old series was a festival of mortification, these women dating were usually the butt of the joke and stepping into some kind of horror show of their own making. We as writers are most amused by our own foibles, so we gave them foibles in today’s world and had them step in it sometimes, especially as white people tend to do, even when they’re otherwise well-intentioned.

SI: One of the big back-and-forths was a scene where Charlotte wanted to impress LTW and have her kids over for a sleepover, and we were pitching all this insane stuff that could happen. One pitch we landed on was that the kids would give Charlotte’s dog a bath and Lisa’s little daughter was going to get her hair wet. That’s probably a played-out thing, that a white lady doesn’t know how to do Black hair, but it would have been funny. If we get another season maybe we’re gonna have Charlotte watching a YouTube video on how to do little Gabrielle’s hair.

About that Chucky Subway Assault …

They did come up with one wild way for Nya and Miranda to bond: In the show’s second episode, a man dressed as Chucky steals Nya’s purse on a subway platform, and Miranda hits him over the head with her textbooks.

SI: Michael, Julie, and Elisa are New York supremacists. I don’t love New York. Maybe I’m too midwestern. I had seen a video of a person in a Chucky costume attacking people on the subway on Twitter, so I sent it to the writers’ room email, like “this is your precious fucking city?” And the next day in the room, Michael was like, “I loved that Chucky video, do you want to put it in the show?” It almost got cut for time, but Michael was like, “No, we’re doing Chucky.”

Miranda goes to Che-lifornia

By way of an impromptu performance of “California Girls” in a crowded club, Che suddenly reveals to Miranda in the finale that they’re moving to California to shoot a pilot. Against the advice of her professor Nya and even after an argument with Carrie, Miranda decides to give up a competitive internship and follow Che there. And after announcing she’d never dye her hair in the premiere, Miranda emerges from her brownstone with her hair dyed red in her final scene of the season.

MPK: We moved the pieces of this decision up to the very end. We actually had the very fast, last-breaking thought that Miranda would go to California. It became part of the writing to decide, “does Miranda claim her old self or her new self?” The old self would have stayed and taken care of Brady and chosen the internship. We even had a line where Miranda went, “I just remembered I’m Miranda, not Rambo.” But we looked at it and went, “Why?” We built the entire season around the fact that she’s feeling something out of her head and in her body and heart. Why would we change that? That opened up the conversation to the last speech, and the choice of red hair.

EZ: The three of us [Michael, Elisa, and Julie] realized that she didn’t have a punctuation mark on her story, and I threw out on a last minute meeting we were having on location: What if she dyes her hair back? We had a debate about what messages that would send to the people who have natural gray hair, and if we were betraying her real roots, so to speak.

MPK: Why are you bringing that line now to Vulture? We could have used that!

EZ: But I felt strongly that she shouldn’t always have to be judging herself. I felt like we were suddenly the voices in her head going, “What message are you going to send?” I feel like part of adulthood and growth is throwing off those voices that are keeping you from doing what might be the thing you have the right to do.

JR: In a way, choosing to have her go to L.A. and change her hair back is messy, and these women’s lives are messy, and that is what we wanted to embrace — to not have it follow a clear linear step A, step B, step C. That is also why it’s a heated conversation around these characters.

MPK: In the other series, a lot of the knock-down, drag-out Carrie-Miranda fights were about Miranda’s opinion of Carrie throwing herself away for Big. The exciting thing for us now is that she’s using Carrie as a mirror to beat herself up about what she’s choosing to do.

Team Steve

Before Miranda goes off with Che, she breaks up with Steve. As the state of their marriage became one of the most hotly contested storylines of the season, it spawned a sizable contingent of pro-Steve support online. Miranda tells Steve everything in episode eight, “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” credited to Fruchbom.

RF: I’m amicably divorced and have feelings about how divorce can be portrayed in the media. It was heartbreaking to write the scene where Miranda breaks things to Steve. We wanted to give Steve his strength and his comedy in it, and Miranda hers, and make it feel two-sided. We wanted to give Steve the agency to be like, “I thought this is what we were doing,” and to have Miranda be like, “There’s 30 more years of our lives.” We put into each of their mouths — to me, and I know other people didn’t feel this way — valid points. We wanted to balance it out so that Steve doesn’t feel like a meek mouse that got run over by a truck.

JR: The Steve-Miranda breakup was going to be a biggie. I believed what we were doing was true to the character in the moment, where she’s getting in touch with the fact that she’s unhappy with her marriage. I believed in that, supported it, thought I was ready for the response, and definitely was not. People were invested in them as a couple. Elisa and I were joking recently that it was like they were all the children of Miranda and Steve.

EZ: They were all babies! It’s not like it’s their fault.

JR: It was like, “mom and I have come to a place where we just don’t make it. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re disappointed, we know.” That desperate outrage, and the “justice for Steve” and all that, I love how heartfelt that is, but I was not fully prepared.

EZ: I will say there are viewers out there who are really happy about that too.

RF: I had a really strong drive to be as clear as we could that Miranda deciding to leave Steve wasn’t about Che, but was about her trying to make a change in her life. Che was a symptom of where she was, but not the reason for the action, necessarily. Miranda was already in a place where her marriage was not feeling full.

SI: With Miranda and Steve, what would we watch them do together? Steve already had an affair. He was already a loser who didn’t have money. What would you tune in for next week? I understand reacting to beloved characters doing things you don’t want, but I think that people also don’t want the alternative, which is just a show of people eating food and being like, “My life’s great.”

MPK: When we were in the original series, that was bumpy too. The first two seasons, people were like, “No!” At first they were just dating the show. But there were small devoted camps that eventually became a love affair. There are all sorts of bumps if you’re doing something you haven’t said before, or you’re doing something that people care about. But if you’re with the right group of writers, you get a feeling that has nothing to do with a critical eye. For us, the outside wave is not a part of the process, but we allow the wave to do its thing. There’s supposed to be a certain amount of danger to writing, if you’re trying to do something that has not been done.

And Just Like That… Writers Knew Viewers Would Be Team Steve