Julie Halston knows her socialites. The stage and screen actress ticked off names including Nan Kempner, Judith Peabody, Muffie Potter Aston and Beth Rudin DeWoody while discussing her reprisal of Bitsy von Muffling, a chirpy lady who lunches, in “And Just Like That,” the “Sex and The City” reboot.
“Let’s face facts: There will always be the three-name socialite!” Ms. Halston, 68, said on a video call on July 12.
Though Bitsy did not appear in “Sex and The City” until the show’s fifth season, she has intermittently been in “And Just Like That” from the very beginning. In the first episode of Season 1, Bitsy runs into Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), and asks them the question on countless minds: “Where’s Samantha?”
She was referring, of course, to Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), whose absence has loomed large over the series’ first and second seasons. Last month, Max, the streaming service that airs “And Just Like That,” confirmed Ms. Cattrall will make a brief appearance before Season 2 ends on August 24.
Though several new characters have effectively replaced Samantha in “And Just Like That,” few have lately channeled her delightful candor about sex, cosmetic surgery and aging fabulously the way Bitsy has.
In Season 2, after running into Carrie at a salon, Bitsy tells her about the healing power a face-lift can offer a widow, explaining that few things felt as good as spending six figures on a procedure after the death of her husband, Bobby Fine (Nathan Lane), a lounge singer widely understood to be gay.
Bitsy later tries to impress a potential suitor upon Carrie by sending her a picture of his penis.
“When you think about it, yeah, that’s kind of there,” Ms. Halston said of the parallel between Bitsy and Samantha, which also extends to clothes. Like Samantha, Bitsy often appears in bright colors (a hot pink jacket by Thierry Mugler) and bold prints (a kaleidoscopic Pucci top) that add to her effervescence onscreen.
In an interview from her home in Brooklyn, Ms. Halston spoke to The New York Times about that picture; her relationship with Michael Patrick King, the showrunner of “And Just Like That” and a “Sex and The City” executive producer; and how the 2018 death of her husband, the radio anchor Ralph Howard, influenced her reprisal of Bitsy.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
How did the role of Bitsy originate?
Michael Patrick King had been a big fan of me and Charles Busch and our company Theatre-in-Limbo for many years. Then in 2001, he saw me in “The Women” on Broadway with Cynthia Nixon. Michael said, “I’m going to write something for you,” and I thought “Yeah, right, OK.” I auditioned for “Sex and The City” a few times and did not get it. One part was a therapist, one was like a Marianne Williamson type — a healer, “A Course in Miracles” kind of thing. Michael kept saying, “One of these days.”
A couple years later, Bitsy was born, along with Nathan Lane’s character. People were really excited about this woman who was older, who married a gay man, knowing he was gay. That didn’t matter. He adored her; she adored him. I think that really resonated with a lot of people.
Like Bitsy, you lost your husband, so the conversation with Carrie about grief at the salon presumably came from something of a real place.
It will be five years this August. Michael knew a lot of what I had gone through, and he’s a smart fellow. He also wanted Bitsy to be a little more than just a funny lady wearing fun clothes, skipping in and out of the girls’ lives. What she said to Carrie — “The hole never fills, but new life will grow around it” — is totally true. It is awful. And you do have to fake it sometimes.
Then, a few scenes later, Bitsy sends Carrie the penis picture while Gloria Steinem is speaking. What range!
I would totally do that. Bitsy is not trying to be crass and horrible. She has slept with this guy, and now, she’s passing him on to Carrie. She’s doing a mitzvah for her. “Get out in the world. You need to get laid” is what she is saying. That’s very Julie and very Bitsy. Sexual health and sexual satisfaction are what I want more women to be about. I’m telling you, there would be a lot fewer wars in the world if people were more sexually satisfied.
Do you also share Bitsy’s appreciation for plastic surgery?
I do Botox, which I need right now. Dr. Douglas Steinbrech is how I prep for the role. It’s funny, but it’s the truth!
As someone who appeared with the original cast in “Sex and the City,” how do you feel about the news that Samantha will make an appearance in “And Just Like That?”
I’m sure there were so many people wanting to know something about her story line. I’m speculating, but maybe the creators thought, “Why don’t we just address this?” I’m not being coy. I honestly know nothing. I know what everyone else knows. Nothing.