Can They Really Recast Samantha This Late in the ‘Sex and the City’ Game?

samantha-jones-1920A public blowup over negotiations for a third Sex and the City movie has all but assured that either movie plans are dead—or any movie made in the near future will not feature Kim Cattrall in her iconic role as Samantha Jones. “I played it to the finish line and then some and I loved it,” she said in a recent interview with Piers Morgan. She then went on to suggest that someone else take it up, particularly an actress of color.

I long for diversity in Sex and the City as much as anyone, but, as Carrie loves to say, I couldn’t help but wonder: Would a recasting work in a beloved franchise that has remained consistently cast for 20 years now? And would modern movie audiences embrace the idea, which predominantly comes from television—and usually old television at that?

On the one hand, even a movie franchise as recent as Twilight swapped out Rachelle Lefevre for Bryce Dallas Howard as evil vampire Victoria. But perhaps that switch works because it’s a fantasy movie, and she isn’t one of the main characters. (Imagine the fan uproar if Edward were suddenly played by, say, Andrew Garfield instead of Robert Pattinson.) And our endless slate of superhero movies features new actors as the title characters all the time, but those feel like genuinely different versions; similarly, James Bond is a famously rotating role.

Television has long leaned on the recast, allowing shows to continue whether or not their stars wanted to. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air‘s Aunt Viv, Roseanne‘s Becky, and Bewitched‘s Darrin are among the best-known examples. But vintage television was different; no one at the time expected people to be able to rewatch episodes at will or view a series in its entirety. Inconsistency was a hallmark of earlier TV decades. In fact, as television approached more modern times, more attention was paid; when Seinfeld recast the role of George’s father from John Randolph to Jerry Stiller, the crew reshot Randolph’s early scenes with Stiller to use for the syndicated reruns. (They couldn’t do the same when Jerry’s show dad switched from Philip Bruns to Barney Martin, because Bruns’s scenes took place in a noticeably different apartment set with a noticeably younger Seinfeld.) Game of Thrones has pulled off a few mid-show recastings of ancillary characters, most notably the Khaleesi’s lover, Daario; but this sleight-of-hand is aided by costumes and the show’s overwhelming number of characters.

A new Samantha would take Sex and the City 3 into uncharted territory, with characters we know very well pretending not to notice that Samantha has turned from Cattrall to, say, Jane Krakowski. And though I’d love to see that or, even better, Vanessa Williams as Samantha, it would also feel potentially jarring in a (sort-of) reality-based world like that of Sex and the City. Then again, the right actress and script could surprise us.

Or a bit of a script revise could simply send Samantha off to launch a new PR firm in Nova Scotia while the other three keep the Sex and the City fires burning back home in New York … perhaps with their new friend, played by Vanessa Williams.

What do you think?

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