06/01/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT
YOU WOULDN'T THINK THAT SOMETHING AS innocuous as bare feet could halt production. But here is Cynthia Nixon curled up on a couch on the New York City set, engaged in serious debate with executive producer Michael Patrick King over whether her character—acerbic redheaded lawyer Miranda Hobbes—would wear socks with her pajamas. No, they decide, but then King spies her grubby soles through the camera lens—and the socks go on. "Miranda," says 35-year-old Nixon, "would never have dirty feet."
She has, however, cheerfully endured a host of other indignities—including wearing metal braces on her teeth and riding a bucking-bronco machine in her bra. None of them—not even the nude scenes—faze Nixon. After all, "you're not supposed to look like a sexual dynamo," she figures. "You're supposed to be a person having a problem." "When she filmed her favorite episode—the one in which Miranda buys an apartment and has a panic attack, terrified she'll die alone—Nixon had the crew in tears. "She manages to find such heart in Miranda," says Sex and the City writer and consulting producer Jenny Bicks. "She really brings such emotion and reality to what she plays."
Which is all the more impressive considering that Miranda's hard-driving corporate world couldn't be further from her own. A natural blonde who prefers hippie-chic skirts to buttoned-down business suits, Nixon spends most of her free time near her Upper West Side home playing in the park or visiting the Museum of Natural History with 4-year-old daughter Samantha, whose father is Nixon's college sweetheart Danny Mozes, a photo-studio owner. The couple have lived together for 13 years but have no plans to wed. "Marriage just doesn't really appeal to me," she says. "I just want my relationship to be more for myself rather than a public statement."
The only child of a radio journalist and former actress, who divorced when she was 6, Nixon grew up in Manhattan, where she made her TV, film and stage debuts by age 14. When she auditioned for Sex creator Darren Star in 1997, he knew he had his Miranda. "She just came in and nailed it," he says. For her part, Nixon wouldn't mind if the show went on for 10 years. "I like to find a cozy niche and stay there," she says. "Work is right up there, but I don't think I'd put it at No. 1." Maybe she could teach Miranda a thing or two.