Chris Noth has carved out a handsome career playing something of a cad, from Det. Mike Logan on Law and Order to Mr. Big on Sex and the City to Peter Florrick on The Good Wife. He’s got the indie romantic comedy After the Ball, a new twist in the Cinderella fable set in the fashion-knockoff world which costars Lauren Holly, hitting VOD today — and beginning on May 29, he’ll hit Broadway to make a deal with the devil in Doctor Faustus. Noth explains how Mr. Big continues to influence his fashion sense, why women rule his life and how today’s boys miss out on the joy of Playboy.
What’s the secret to the success you’ve had in Hollywood?
Well, I haven’t had much luck with a Hollywood career. I’ve had a New York career. If you think about it every show I’ve done has been in New York. And I’ve done Broadway shows. This June I’m going to star in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. The funny thing about that is Zach Grenier, who’s in The Good Wife with me, is going to be Mephistopheles, so it’s like we’re taking The Good Wife to the stage and into Shakespearian times.
How have you seen New York grow as a TV hub?
I got the job on Law and Order just when the renaissance of TV was happening in New York City. For the longest time we were the only game in town, really. And then that show kept going and then Sex and the City came and now I’ll be damned if there aren’t 12 TV shows shooting in New York City. I never really went out to LA exploring. I think the Hollywood movie world has eluded me actually. I’m still waiting for one of those. I do a lot of indies, but I’ve never really been in a Hollywood movie that I can think of except for the two Sex and the Citys and they were all shot here. So I’m really a stranger to Hollywood. I see there are more young kids who are Hollywood movies stars. I can’t keep up with the names. I don’t even know who they are. Half of them are Australian.
After the Ball is set in the fashion industry and your characters over the years in shows like Law and Order, Sex in the City, and The Good Wife are always nicely dressed.
Was I well dressed for Law and Order? I was accurately dressed. I looked the part. I often loved those suits, actually. My whole thing about Law and Order was I wore those plaid ties, which were my own ties my mother brought back from Scotland. A lot of people thought they were pretty gruesome. I happened to like them. I also had Logan wear a flag pin. They’re ubiquitous now, but back in 1990 no one was wearing flag pins, so George W got that from me.
What’s your own personal fashion sense and style in real life?
I’m a country boy. I went to school and college in Vermont, Marlboro College, and it was always boots and jeans and flannel and corduroy and stuff like that. My whole education in fashion camp was Sex and the City and part of my deal was I was allowed to keep the suits when the show was over. I don’t have that flair that I see with a Johnny Depp or others with the scarves and everything like that. I like a nice suit, but otherwise I’m dressed for the mountains. I can be a bit of a slob. I clean up really well, but I can be pretty erratic in my tastes and kind of unkempt.
How have you seen the strong female protagonists that Sex and the City established influence shows like The Good Wife and even movies like After the Ball?
I see it as a natural progression of what’s happening in our society and culture. Women are going to rule the world very soon. They already rule my world. I don’t look at it as anything because I grew up with a mom who was a powerhouse. In the ‘60s she was one of the few female correspondents at CBS and she put all her three sons through college and was a single mom. My dad died when I was quite young and she never complained once about it. She was with CBS News and we traveled all over the world. She happened to be very beautiful and men were always falling at her feet when she was in her 40s and I never once heard her say, “Oh, I better get married. I’m getting old.” So to me these examples you’re bringing up seem quite normal.
What was your first exposure to Playboy Magazine?
I must have been 13 or 14. You know to get your hands on one of those was like gold. You couldn’t buy one, really. You couldn’t get one in the store. Someone had to bilch one or something, and that was more of a treasure than the freaking Bible, especially when they did an expose on R-rated movies and showed some pictures from the scene. Jesus. I feel sorry for kids now. They’ve got Internet porn at their fingertips. It’s like they get it all at once. There’s no evolution toward the mystery of the female body. I remember in those days Playboy only showed women’s breasts. They didn’t give you everything, so there was a lot left to the imagination.
What movie scared you the most as a kid?
As a kid? House on Haunted Hill. As a young adult? The Exorcist.
Heaven forbid you end up on death row, what would your last meal be?
Something with a lot of barbiturates in it. It would be strictly liquid booze, actually. Champagne, maybe some vodka, and tons of caviar. It’s like “Fucking kill me. I’m so drunk I don’t know the difference.”
What’s the first song you knew the words to?
“I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
What’s the first car you had?
My first car was a really old Willys Jeep and I actually drove it across the country to Colorado at 40 miles an hour. I may be one of the few people who got a ticket for going too slow. And then it just died when I got there. And then I’ve had a succession of old clunky cars. I had one of the old Saabs in college with the slope back. And that died on 98th Street and Columbus and I just got out, took the plates and walked away. It those days you could leave an old car in the center of the road in New York. It fit right in with everything else.
What do you consider your favorite mistake in life?
I took a movie out of Yale Drama School called Jakarta, which you can’t find anywhere. It was the worst movie in the history of moviemaking. But it took nine months to make and I lived in Asia for nine months in Indonesia. While the movie sucked, living there was one of the best things ever in my life.
What do you consider your pop culture blind spot?
All of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, reality TV and hip hop. Put them altogether and I’m blind to it. That’s why I should be in Vermont somewhere writing fake Robert Frost poetry.