Kim Cattrall's "Private Lives"

Actress Kim Cattrall could always grab our attention in the cable series "Sex and the City." Now she's BACK IN THE CITY . . . only this time in person on the Broadway stage. Tracy Smith offers this Sunday Profile:

To millions of people Kim Cattrall will always be the one who put the sex in "Sex and the City," as the uninhibited 40-something Samantha Jones.

"To be part of that was amazing," Cattrall said. "It gave me the career. I would not be sitting here with you today if that had not happened to me. I pinch myself!"

And in her most recent project, 55-year-old Cattrall still looks, well, pinchable - making her entrance in nothing more than a bath towel.

"I thought, why not? Why not embrace it? And at this age, I'll take it!" she laughed. "At any age, I'll take it!"

Cattrall is drawing crowds and praise for her role as Amanda in Noel Coward's "Private Lives."

Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross in Noel Coward's "Private Lives."

Written 80 years ago, it's a timeless romantic comedy about a sharp-tongued divorced couple who can't keep their hands off each other, even though they know better ...

It's a physically and emotionally demanding role, and she does it eight times a week.

"A lot of people say, 'Why are you working so hard?' I don't feel I'm working that hard. I'm having a great time. What would be really difficult is to be sitting on a beach," she said. "There's vacations, and there's vegetations. I don't do well vegetating."

On her one day off, we found her at her friend chef Jamie Kennedy's restaurant - not at a table, but back in the kitchen getting cooking lessons.

"It's like a meditative state, isn't it?" Cattrall said. "I mean, last weekend we did roast peppers. We bottled them. And then we're doing a tart. So on my day off, that's sort of what I like to do."

"Private Lives" begins previews on Broadway today, after a run in London and Toronto ... a fitting trajectory for Cattrall, who was born in the U.K., grew up in Canada, and now lives in New York.

"We moved around a lot, you know? We were immigrants," Cattrall said. "It was really tough. Very, very tough, especially for my parents. I didn't grow up with heat in the house."

She was bitten by the acting bug when she was ten years old, playing a cold germ in a school play. And believe it or not, she still remembers the lines:

Hooray, hip, hip. I'm post-nasal drip.
I am his highness, the head-aching sinus.
I woo with fluenza and rhapsy cadenza.
And I think it's so much fun to make your nose run.

"It's not Noel Coward!" Smith said.

"It was not Noel Coward, but it IS rhyming couplets!' Cattrall laughed.

Four decades later, Catrall has a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

"I mean, it's sort of a emigrants dream, you know? I mean, to come to a new country and to be successful in what you're dream is. I mean that's pretty good!"

She moved to New York City to study acting when she was just 16 years old, and was quickly snapped up by Universal Pictures - one of the last actresses signed to the old Hollywood contract system.

After a series of TV roles, she landed a part in the 1980 movie "Tribute" with Jack Lemmon.

Actress Kim Cattrall.

Lemmon gave her some advice she carries with her to this day: "'Take things that scare you, kid, and it'll pay off, 'cause you'll learn.' And I always remembered that."

Perhaps the movie "Porky's" wasn't exactly what he was talking about.

Cattrall said she took the part of Honeywell, the sexy, sex-craving cheerleading coach, to pay the rent.

"It became this huge hit, and then suddenly I was The Sexy Sidekick Girl. But I thought to myself, 'That's fine. I can work.'"

And work she did - in "Police Academy," "Mannequin," "Masquerade." By the Nineties she was pretty sure her days as a sex siren were over.

And then along came Samantha. Yet when they first came to Cattrall with the "Sex and the City" role, she turned it down.

"Yes, I did. I was in my early 40s, and I thought to myself, 'I can't do the sex bombshell any more.'"

The producers begged her to take it.

"They said, 'This is your role. You're scared. You're scared of being sexy in your 40s. You're scared what it -' I said, 'I'm not scared,' which means I was terrified."