As Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That rolled out its final episode this week, it was met with a flood of mixed opinions like never before. The series has been divisive from the very start—some fans saw promise in its diversified cast, others found its attempts to engage with current sociopolitical issues hollow. It has been a hit for some and a miss for others, but one thing was for sure: no one can stop watching.
Amongst the several new additions to the original cast is Chinese-Filipino actor Cathy Ang, who plays the role of Lily Goldenblatt, Charlotte and Harry’s daughter. Ang is one of the few Asian faces seen in the Sex and the City extended universe, but Lily’s character has always been an integral part of the show, whether she was foiling Big and Carrie as a four year-old in the original series, or indirectly causing (spoiler alert, but it has been months since the release of the first episode, so this one is really on you) the love of Carrie’s life to die alone after suffering a heart attack on a Peloton.
Ang’s character also opened up conversation about transracial adoption on the show, and explores the nuances of Lily’s relationship with her mother. It is a sensitive, loving dynamic—one in which Lily gently corrects Charlotte on issues of cultural appropriation and fiercely advocates for her sibling as they navigate their gender identity.
“Lily is on a journey of empowerment to be every part of herself. She is a Goldenblatt and loves her family so much, but her racial identity and culture are different sides of her. And I think that tension is behind why she is so supportive of her sibling’s journey with gender identity,” shares Ang.
“Lily is an American teenager like I was. We are constantly learning and hoping that we’ll be on the right side of different issues”
Before landing her role as Lily, Ang had voiced the character Fei Fei in Netflix’s animated film Over the Moon. While this current role is a departure from the former in tone, the two are similar in that they both add to the fabric of representation in Hollywood, which Ang is grateful for. Here, she chats about her character’s development, Asian representation and the iconic fashion in And Just Like That.
As one of the newer and younger cast members, what has it been like to work with experienced colleagues like Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis?
I’m always a little bit starstruck when I arrive on set. TV acting in general is new to me—as you know, I was doing voice acting for animation before this. So there’s a lot that I have to learn. What is wonderful about this group of people is that they want to teach you everything they know. They just want to nurture you and give you tips and tricks. Being able to stand in a room full of women who have been doing this for so long and truly understand the craft—they are aware of every camera movement—is just incredible.
You share most of your scenes with Kristin Davis, who plays Lily’s mother, Charlotte. Is there anything in particular you have learnt from her?
The most interesting thing going into it was that Kristin already knows Lily. In her head, she has already raised her up to this 15 year old mark. There’s a lot she could share about the past she had crafted for their relationship. It was very exciting to be able to discuss the family dynamic and collaborate on the character with her.
I have also never worn such expensive clothing before, so Kristin would tell me how to make sure I’m catching my light or how to hold this little purse so that the paparazzi will catch it in their photo. [Laughs] She has just experienced every aspect of how to succeed and exceed expectations in this industry. So it’s a wealth of information that I get to absorb from her.
How similar is Lily’s upbringing to yours? Which parts of the character do you most relate to?
The things that I relate to her most on definitely have to do with art. You get to see in this season, from the very first episode, that Lily has a very strong connection to music. It is a way for her to express herself. There are also other artistic ventures going around in her head, and I think I relate to that greatly. But I will say that we have fairly different upbringings. I was not a city girl, I grew up in a suburb. My parents are Chinese-Filipino immigrants, they immigrated from the Philippines. At home, we are very culturally Chinese.
So it’s actually been a little bit of a struggle sometimes to really understand Lily, especially in the beginning. But at the end of the day, she’s an American teenager like I was. We are constantly learning and hoping that we’ll be on the right side of different issues and asking the question: “Who am I?” And if this show is teaching us anything, it is that you can be asking that question your whole life, whether you’re a teenager or a woman in your 50s and 60s.
The reboot centres on several different themes like womanhood and ageism. For Lily, race is a big one. What has your personal relationship with race been like?
Speaking from Lily’s perspective as a transracial adoptee, her journey with her racial identity is particularly difficult. She will always struggle to know exactly where she belongs, who she is, where she comes from. I do feel that a similar line of questioning exists in my head as an Asian American, about what my culture is and how I can connect to my roots. And so conversations about race have always been very meaningful to me. Whenever I can talk with my family back in the Philippines, or when I can actually visit and be on the land, be surrounded by the culture, it’s been incredibly beautiful.
Did you see much Asian representation on screen while you were growing up? What does it feel like knowing that you are now serving as representation for audiences around the world?
You know, when I was growing up, my favourite Disney movie was Mulan. She was a strong, fierce warrior, and I felt like, oh yeah, I understand that. I had seen versions of her in the women that I knew, like my mother and my aunts. I feel very lucky that I get to make a career out of this, because as an Asian kid in America, you are told that careers like these are not necessarily viable for you. But that is not true anymore. I feel really proud that in this one instance, I hopefully get to inspire some kid to play the piano or get into fashion. Or to help someone understand what is culturally inappropriate or not. There is so much that Lily represents and it’s a real honour to be able to bring her to life. And I know that there’s going to be more representation in the future. So I want to tell Asian kids out there: if you’re interested in the arts, go for it. Because we are going to hold your hand and we are going to make sure your story is told.
That is so heartening. On that note, as someone from a younger generation than the original show’s target demo, how do you think And Just Like That has done in terms of reinventing itself for its current era?
It’s a difficult thing to do, in my opinion. What I find amazing is the way that the show-makers have just attacked it. The team is so excited about making this better, and it’s beautiful to watch these writers and directors be so open and want to grow the show. I think they are doing a wonderful job of bringing more people into the fold and thinking about the issues of today.
I myself am learning a lot by watching and working on the show—working alongside actors of different colours, gender identities and sexual identities. I personally am proud of the fact that we are also giving so many people across the world the opportunity to learn something new.
Let’s talk fashion—Sex and the City is known for its fabulous wardrobe. Could you tell us about your experience with fashion on the show?
The things that I wear on this show just blow my mind. There are so many items that I’ve gotten to try on in my fittings that you’ll never see, so I just have it as my own little secret that I got to put on this and that by this designer and that designer. [Laughs]
I think the fashion on the show is just visionary. I personally didn’t know much about fashion going in, so this gave me an opportunity to learn so much and really appreciate what it means to be able to wear art. Wearing the Oscar de la Renta dress—I mean that piece is classic and just beautiful. The team who was dressing me made every piece feel like it was made for me. I’ve worn a lot of Chanel and Miu Miu. There might be a few Valentino or Gucci things showing up. Lily has grown up with Charlotte, who is a wonderful fashion icon, and so she has gotten to experiment a lot and it has informed who she is. She’s embraced the Charlotte within her, and I think that largely comes from fashion. It has been a treat for me as an actor to understand that a little bit more.