Cynthia Nixon on running for office: "People can have a lot of careers in their life"

These are partisan times in THESE UNITED STATES. We'll be tracking some of the candidates and the issues throughout this election year, starting with a well-known dark horse our Erin Moriarty has been following:

Cynthia Nixon's face is instantly recognizable thanks to that hit TV show "Sex and the City," and 40 years of appearing on stage and screen, but that may not help her win the role of a lifetime.

The woman who once played Miranda, the career-driven lawyer on "Sex and The City," has now joined the ranks of more than three dozen women across the country who are running for their state's highest office. "Because, what are we waiting around for? What are we waiting around for? There's no cavalry coming!" she told Moriarty. "We have to be the cavalry ourselves. We have to lead the charge."

It's a surprising change of career for a woman who didn't need one. Fifty-two-year-old Cynthia Nixon has won two Emmys, a Grammy, and two Tonys, one just last year for Best Featured Actress in the Broadway revival of "The Little Foxes."

She's been acting since she was nine, beginning with the game show "To Tell the Truth," where her mother worked. At 12, she was cast in the feature film "Little Darlings."

When asked what she likes about acting, Nixon described it as "a wonderful piece of literature, but it's a piece of literature made flesh. It's also a chance to try on different personalities and see different people's lives. And for me, I don't know, particularly when I was an adolescent, it was a way to get all my powerful feelings out!"

And it also helped pay the bills. She was raised by her single mother in Manhattan after her parents' marriage broke up. "My dad has some real troubles, and our home could really be a scary place sometimes," she said.

"Was he abusive to your mom?" Moriarty asked.

"He was not physical, but a lot of screaming and a lot of crying and a lot of upset."

So, when Nixon was six, her mother walked out, taking her daughter with her.  "For me, all the times in my life that I found strength and courage to stand up, including now, are from what she showed me that I could do," Nixon said. 

With her mother's encouragement, Nixon's career took off.  While in college, she was cast in two Broadway plays directed by Mike Nichols – "Hurlyburly" and "The Real Thing."

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Cynthia Nixon in two Broadway plays at the same time - with Christine Baranski and Jeremy Irons in "The Real Thing" (left), and opposite William Hurt in "Hurlyburly": "They were two blocks from each other. And I was in the first act of one and the second act of the other, and then the third act of the first one again! I was running back-and-forth!"

Martha Swope/NYPL, Billy Rose Theatre Division

But in 1998, along came "Sex and the City," and Cynthia Nixon became a star.

"We certainly could never have imagined the success and the popularity and the longevity [of the show]," she said. "But I think it really was ahead of its time. And I think Miranda, in particular, was so ahead of her time."

Nixon says that twenty years ago she didn't have a lot in common with the lawyer Miranda Hobbes. 

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Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker in "Sex and the City."

HBO

"I loved Miranda from the get-go, but certainly she was far more confrontational than I was. She was far more of a kind of gladiator. But I found that, by the end of the show, that I had definitely become more like her."

It seems to have given her the drive to run for New York Governor, taking on another Democrat, Andrew Cuomo, the two-term incumbent, in the primary. In the most recent poll, however, he's more than 30 points ahead of her.

"Everybody assumes that the bigger, more establishment, better-funded candidate is the person who's got it in the bag," Nixon said, adding, "I wouldn't write me off so quickly. This race, as with so many of the races around the country, I think are really a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party. We need a Democratic Party that is giving people something to vote for, not just something to vote against. You can't just say, 'Vote for me because I'm not Donald Trump.'"

Her celebrity does gets her more attention than a lot of other first-time candidates – but it doesn't protect her from tough questions:

Stephen Colbert: "Do we need another celebrity in office? Because we've got one in the White House, and that's not working out very well. … Political amateurs maybe aren't the people, no offense, but you do not have experience in public office. Should Governor of New York be the first job you have?"

Nixon: "I don't think that … I think that first and foremost, Donald Trump is a real estate developer, and he has inherited his money and his company from his father. That could not be more different from me."

Cynthia Nixon Isn't Just Running To Make A Point by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on YouTube

While Nixon has worked for years as a public school activist, she has never held public office. 

Moriarty asked, "If you really want to make change, shouldn't you start on a more accessible office? Why governor?"

"Because the governor is what's wrong with New York State," she replied. 

"How are you gonna pull this miracle off? You don't have the money, you don't have the polls right now?"

"It is totally a David-and-Goliath thing, that's absolutely true," Nixon said. "But we've got three months. And if you look how far we've come in the three months since I've started running, we just need to keep talking about the issues."

If Nixon could pull off an upset, she would not only become the first female, but the first gay Governor of New York State. She is married to Christine Marinoni, a woman she met when she first became involved with public education advocacy.

Nixon had never dated a woman before. "I had such admiration for her from the very beginning," Nixon said. "But you know, there was a lot going on in my life. I was doing 'Sex and the City,' I was raising my family, and it wasn't until my – we weren't married, but my relationship with my children's father broke up, and I was at such a low point that she was really, she was there for me in an incredible way."

The two have a young son, Nixon's third child, and share a home filled with reminders of the world she left behind.

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Actress Cynthia Nixon with correspondent Erin Moriarty.

CBS News

Moriarty asked, "It's not hard to put this behind you? This has been your life for so many years."

"You known, look at Glenda Jackson. I mean, she served in Parliament for, what was it, 23 years? Look, she's back on Broadway, just won a Best Actress Tony. People can have a lot of careers in their life." 

This time around, Cynthia Nixon has chosen to write her own script, for a role she says she's ready to play. 

Nixon said, "Women have as much right to lead as anybody, and our voices have been too few and far between. And it's why I am so inspired by all the women who are running for office for the first time. It's one of the things that really clinched my decision to run, too."

       
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Story produced by Gabriel Falcon.