Actor Kim Cattrall is best known for playing the confident, empowered public relations expert Samantha Jones on HBO’s Sex and the City. Over the course of the series’s six seasons and nearly 100 episodes, Cattrall was nominated for several Emmys and Golden Globes, plus numerous other accolades. Despite Cattrall’s very public persona and more than 50 years on film and TV, many fans are still surprised to learn about the celebrity’s secret background and the surprising truth about her real-life accent.
Fans are surprised to learn that Cattrall wasn’t born in America
Despite the all-American backstory of Cattrall’s Sex and the City character — Jones is said to come from a working-class background, worked at Dairy Queen as a teenager, and has lived in New York City for decades — the actor wasn’t actually born in the United States. In fact, up until recently, Cattrall wasn’t even an American citizen. “Cattrall was born in Liverpool [England], moved to Canada when she was a baby, and holds dual [British-Canadian] citizenship,” reported The Guardian.
According to Cattrall herself in an Instagram post, she didn’t hold any citizenship in the U.S. until the fall of 2020. Cattrall lived in Canada from age three months to age 11, explains IMDb, after which the actor returned to the United Kingdom to go to school at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. When Cattrall was 16, she graduated from high school.
Cattrall had won a scholarship to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. The celebrity’s constant travels between Canada, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. may explain why so many fans never knew her real background. And it may also explain Cattrall’s real accent, which ebbs and flows depending on her roles and who she’s talking to.
Cattrall says she had to practice her American accent
“Cattrall has maintained very close ties to Liverpool and her family there and she does a great scouse accent,” notes The Guardian. Scouse is the specific English dialect and accent used in Liverpool, with the BBC explaining that it’s a very distinctive, “instantly recognizable” accent that’s a mixture of Irish and Welsh influences.
Yet in most of Cattrall’s roles, she hides her British accent. And she says to do this successfully required a lot of practice. “I’m not calling home as much as I used to because I start sounding American again,” she’s quoted as saying in the Digital Spy. “I’ve been around British accents all my life. But I’ve worked quite hard to get it right. […] As you can see, I don’t talk like Samantha or act like Samantha unless I’m paid to.”
Cattrall’s British accent comes out in her British films
In her interview with The Guardian, Cattrall says she wishes some directors would have asked her to use her real accent. But you can still hear it creeping into her film and television personas, especially if she’s working with a British cast. A prominent example is 2010’s The Ghost Writer, a British film directed by controversial European director Roman Polanski.
In it, Cattrall plays a personal assistant to former British Prime Minister played by Pierce Brosnan. “To see [Cattrall] in a political thriller, speaking with a British accent … is initially shocking,” points out the Wall Street Journal. Another European film where you can get a glimpse of Cattrall’s British roots includes 2006’s The Tiger’s Tail.