Julie Halston knows her socialites. The stage and screen actress named names including Nan Kempner, Judith Peabody, Mavi Potter Aston, and Beth Roden Dewdy while discussing her revenge on Betsy von Maefling, a perky lunch lady, in “And Just Like That, Reboot City”.
“Let’s face the facts: there will always be a three-name socialite!” Ms. Halston, 68, said in a video call July 12.
Although Bitsy didn’t appear on “Sex and The City” until the show’s fifth season, she has been an intermittent participant in “And Just Like That” since the beginning. In the first episode of the first season, Betsy runs into Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), and asks them a question on countless minds: “Where’s Samantha?”
She was referring, of course, to Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), whose absence loomed large throughout the series’ first and second seasons. Last month, streaming service Max, which streams “And Just Like That,” confirmed that Ms. Cattrall would appear briefly before the season two finale on Aug. 24.
Although several new characters have effectively replaced Samantha on “And Just Like That,” few recently have channeled her delightful candor about sex, plastic surgery, and aging in as wonderful a way as Bitsy has.
In Season 2, after bumping into Carrie at a salon, Betsy tells her about the healing power a facelift can have for a widow, explaining that few things look as good as spending six characters on a procedure after the death of her husband, Bobby. Fine (Nathan Lane), a lounge singer who is widely understood to be gay.
Bitsy later tries to impress Carrie’s potential suitor by sending her a picture of his penis.
“When you think about it, yeah, it kind of is,” Ms. Halston said of the resemblance between Bitsy and Samantha, which also extends to the clothing. Like Samantha, Bitsy often appears in bright colors (a warm pink Thierry Mugler jacket) and bold prints (a sparkling Pucci top) that add to her on-screen fizz.
In an interview from her home in Brooklyn, Ms. Halston spoke to The New York Times about that picture; her relationship with Michael Patrick King, the showrunner on “And Just Like That” and the executive producer of “Sex and The City”; and how the death of her husband, radio host Ralph Howard, in 2018 affected her revenge on Betsy.
The following interview has been slightly edited and condensed.
How did the role of Betsy originate?
Michael Patrick King has been a huge fan of me, Charles Bush, and our Theater-in-Limbo company for many years. Then in 2001, he saw me in Women on Broadway with Cynthia Nixon. Michael said, “I’ll write something for you,” and I thought, “Yeah, okay, okay.” I auditioned for “Sex and The City” a few times and didn’t get it. One part was a healer, the other was like Marian Williamson – a healer, a “course in miracles” sort of thing. Michael kept saying, “One of these days.”
Two years later, Bitsy is born, along with the character Nathan Lane. People were really excited about this woman who was older, who married a gay man, knowing he was gay. It doesn’t matter. adoration I adore him. I think that really resonates with a lot of people.
Like Bitsy, you lost your husband, so presumably the conversation with Carrie about grief at the salon came from a real place.
Five years will pass in August. Michael knew a lot of what I went through, and he’s a smart fellow. He also wanted Bitsy to be a little more than a funny lady in fun clothes, getting in and out of the girls’ lives. What she said to Carrie – “The hole is never filled, but new life will grow around it” – is absolutely true. It’s awful. And you have to fake it sometimes.
Then, a few scenes later, Bitsy sends Carrie a penis pic while Gloria Steinem talks. What a run!
I totally will. Bitsy isn’t trying to be awful and terrible. She slept with this guy, and now she’s passing it on to Carrie. She is doing a mitzvah for her. “Get out in the world. You need to lie down,” she says. This is very jolly and very bitsy. Sexual health and sexual satisfaction are what I want more women to be around. I tell you, there would be far fewer wars in the world if people were more sexually satisfied.
Do you also share Bitsy’s appreciation for plastic surgery?
I’m doing Botox, which is what I need right now. Dr. Douglas Steinbrecht is how I prepare for this role. It’s funny, but it’s the truth!
As someone who appeared with the original cast of “Sex and the City,” how do you feel about the news that Samantha will be appearing in “And Just Like That?”
I’m sure there are a lot of people who want to know something about her story line. I’m speculating, but maybe the creators thought, “Why don’t we just take this up?” I don’t be shy. I honestly don’t know anything. I know what other people know. nothing.