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Living Large

From “Law and Order’s” Detective Mike Logan to “Sex and the City’s” Mr. Big, Chris Noth keeps stretching the boundaries of his acting career.
Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Chris Noth, May/June 2010

It's dusk on a late Manhattan weekday afternoon as actor Chris Noth slides into a booth at the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill in Greenwich Village. The warm, cozy restaurant will soon fill up with the dinner rush, but right now things are quiet.

"They've got great jazz here," says the 55-year-old actor, who's wearing an open-collared blue shirt under a navy blazer. "It's been around-it's got legs. It feels like the old New York, the one you don't see much anymore. I like places with a little bit of history-which must mean I'm getting old."

He laughs and relaxes under an Al Hirschfeld drawing, one of several that decorate the walls.

"You used to be able to smoke cigars in here-now you can barely do it anywhere," he says, throwing a wave of greeting at waiters, who acknowledge him as they walk by. The manager, who stops by to say hello, sends over a complimentary appetizer-a thick, gooey oval with layers of egg, sour cream and glistening black caviar surrounded by toast points.

"This is my neighborhood joint," Noth says, digging into the soft concoction in front of him with a sharp edge of toast. In fact, the restaurant is around the corner from the apartment he shares with partner Tara Wilson and their two-year-old son, Orion. "It's great because I can walk home, which is important when you're stumbling."

He chuckles again. Despite an imposing physicality that rises to a commanding 6-foot-2, Noth has a breezy presence. He may look like the hard-charging police detective Mike Logan of the "Law & Order" series or the prepossessing Mr. Big on "Sex and the City" (and its spin-off films, the second of which opens May 28) or even Peter Florrick, the humiliated (and recently paroled) politician he plays on the new hit series, "The Good Wife." But he's a very different guy.

"It might surprise people to know just how goofy Chris is," says Julianna Margulies, who plays his spouse, the title character on "The Good Wife." "He's a jokester. His character on the show is very serious-his character on ‘Law & Order' was, too-but he is a lot more lighthearted than that. He always has a joke for you."

Sarah Jessica Parker, another of his on-screen wives (as Carrie Bradshaw, she married him at the end of the first Sex and the City movie), said in an e-mail interview, "As originally written, there was a sort of wonderful conventionality about Mr. Big. Chris brought humor to him and a winking delight for Carrie."

That delight, in terms of the ongoing story of Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big, has now extended into the realm of marriage for the characters. Where the first Sex and the City movie dealt with the fallout when Big got cold feet at the altar-until he eventually came around and married Carrie in a fabulously extravagant New York wedding-the second film focuses on what happens after "happily ever after."

While the creative talent behind Sex and the City 2 are exceptionally close-mouthed about plot particulars, Noth says, "My story line is about the growing pains of a marriage. It's interesting because it's actually reversed from which of us people imagine would have a problem with being married. People expect I'd be the one to feel the pressure. I do think it will be a better movie than the first one, just in terms of my storyline. It's not as drastically dramatic.

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