Cynthia Nixon wants to fix the subways. And to legalize marijuana. And to enact single-payer health care. But first, she needs to be elected governor. The longtime actress and education activist announced that she was challenging incumbent Andrew Cuomo in this year’s Democratic primary back in March, setting off a whirlwind campaign that’s been further invigorated by the recent surge in support for progressive candidates. Here, she tells the Cut how she gets it done.
On a typical morning: I get up around 6 a.m. I try to drink a lot of water as soon as I get up. As with everybody else in the world, I turn on my phone and I go through my emails and look at the news. Then, our son comes into bed generally around 6:30. He’s 7. And so we snuggle with him and the cat. I would not have picked this name, but our cat is the world’s best cat and her name is Aurora — my wife’s allergic, so she’s a Siberian. So everyone gets into bed, we snuggle a little bit, and then eventually I’m the one, always, who’s like, “We gotta get up!” I make my wife’s and my oatmeal — we don’t cook it, we eat it raw. We might read a little bit, often my son will draw. By eight, we’re all out the door.
On her biggest subway frustrations: Getting stuck in a tunnel is what I hate, which happens every week. And also, having allotted the right amount of time, getting into the station, looking up and seeing it says “23 minutes until the next train.”
On her pantsuits: I like a dress, personally, because it breathes more. But I have a lot of pantsuits and, I have to say, people respond very positively to that because I think we’re still in an era when an elected leader is a person who wears a suit. I think it helps people imagine me in office.
On her evening routine: I’m usually coming home after dinner has already happened. On those rare instances when I get to make dinner or my wife gets to make dinner, we get to sit down as a family, and that is enormously restorative. But at least I want to see Max, the 7-year-old, before he goes to bed. We read and I find out a little about his day and we cuddle, and then I sing to him every night. It’s funny, when my wife puts him to bed — she’s not the singer — she tries to sing for him, and he’s like, “No, Mommy does that, you don’t do that.” We always sing two songs and one of them changes and one of them doesn’t — the one that doesn’t is a song my mom used to sing to me, “Moonshine Lullaby” from Annie Get Your Gun. Then I try to spend some time with my 15-year-old who is a teenager, so he’s in his room a lot. But he always has funny things to show me on the internet. He’s very into Eric Andre — he’s very funny, so he’s been showing me a lot.
On how many hours of sleep she gets a night: Five. It’s not terrible. But think about ship’s captains, they only do three or four, right?
On her most unexpected moment on the campaign trail: My parents both moved to New York in the ’50s: my dad from Texas, my mom from Chicago. They were bohemians and war protesters and involved in a number of social movements like that, and they had a great bunch of counterculture friends. An old friend of ours threw an event in Brooklyn in her home as a fundraiser, and there was an older woman there who was collecting signatures when we were petitioning to get on the ballot. Finally, I said hello to her and she said “Cynthia, it’s Norma Sue.” She was a great old friend of my parents who I hadn’t seen in decades. She had actually come all the way from Staten Island and she was collecting signatures for me.
On handling criticism: For me, criticism on social media or criticism in politics, it seems different. It’s par for the course. If you play baseball, you’re going to get sunburned. I think it bothers me a lot less than it might. The important thing to know is that it’s a war and they’re going to shoot bullets at you. You just have to remember why you’re running and the vision of the New York you want to bring by being governor and you have to remember all the people who you’re fighting for.
On her preferred entertainment: I go to the theater a lot. I mean, not at the moment. I’ve seen three plays since the campaign started. The first one, I went to see Three Tall Women because I had worked with Glenda Jackson when I was 22 and I’m such a fan of hers and I really hadn’t seen her since then, but also she spent 25 years in British Parliament. The job that I did with her was the second-to-last job she did before she went into politics, so I wanted to literally touch her — I wanted to go and see her after all these years and tell her how she inspired me and what I was up to.
On whether she smokes weed: I do not. I tried it twice when I was in college. It wasn’t for me, but I promised a number of people that when we legalize it in New York, I will give it another shot.