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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

(continued from page 3)

"People never went, ‘Hey, Mike Logan!' " he says. "But they do go, ‘Hey, Big!' They get a lot more excited about Mr. Big. I guess people are desperate for a certain kind of romance and they think I'm that guy. I'm so not invested in that world. And I'm not going to give up riding the subway because people call me ‘Big.'

"A few weeks ago, a woman started yelling at me in a Starbucks. She came up to me and demanded that I take a picture with her. When people present themselves in an offensive way, I won't do it. And sometimes you just don't feel like it. For her, I didn't. And she's yelling, ‘Why are you being such a jerk?'

"I mean, I usually do it. So I sure hope it's not true what the Indians say about having your picture taken."

Los Angeles, where he also maintains a home, is a different story: "In L.A., it's easy to know the places not to go. There are some good restaurants I won't go to because I think it's nonsense to have to enter through a gauntlet of flashbulbs. There are parks in L.A. I won't go to because of photographers. There's a way to do things out there.

"But these days everybody is a paparazzo because everybody has a camera in their phone. Everybody is taking pictures. I don't know what the hell they're doing."

Noth didn't become an actor for the fame or glory. Indeed, when he started, he was still searching for just what it was that he did want to do with his life.

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, he and his family moved to Stamford, Connecticut, when he was young ("My mom was on the cover of Life magazine in 1947 for a story called ‘The Good Life in Madison'," Noth notes). His father, an insurance executive, died when Noth was still a child. So his mother-CBS News correspondent Jeanne Parr-raised Noth and his two brothers.

High school in Connecticut was rough. Noth found himself enrolled in an experimental school that didn't particularly suit him: "It was a very free high school-no grades, coed," he says. "It was hell on academics, a very bucolic experience."

He went to Marlboro College in Vermont, where he challenged himself scholastically: "Hey, I even took Latin, and that was painful," he says with a humorous raise of the eyebrows. "I was thinking about writing but didn't really know what I wanted to do.

"I was kind of lost and wanted to find something for me, something I could do. Marlboro had this summer repertory theater and I joined. And I found a freedom in acting that was suited to who I was. Acting uses one's own impulses; it uses the things you don't like about yourself, takes them and makes them useful. It blends body, mind and spirit-your fears and insecurities can be a fuel, an impetus, because you have the ability to draw upon yourself. It was very cathartic for me. Finally, here was something I could do, something I could take and build on."

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