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Kristen Johnston on now being the 2nd most iconic death in 'Sex and the City' history

The actor is opening up on her 2004 guest starring role in "Sex and the City" that ended up becoming a standout moment in her career.

And just like that ... we were at another funeral.

After the "Sex and the City" reboot's creators killed off Mr. Big in the "And Just Like That..." premiere last week, diehard fans of the show couldn't help but think of another iconic death in the original HBO series: Lexi Featherston.

In an episode aptly titled "Splat!" — the 40-year-old quintessential New York party girl meets her end by falling out an open window 18 stories high after a dramatic tirade lamenting the city's cultural demise. Played by "3rd Rock From the Sun" star Kristen Johnston, the brash and brazen character firmly cemented herself into the zeitgeist; the brief moment is still quoted to this day. So we couldn't help but wonder: What does Johnston have to say now that she may have been replaced with a more shocking death?

"I heard there's a huge death and a Peloton," Johnston, 54, told TODAY on Friday. At the time, she still hadn't seen the reboot's premiere. "Unfortunately, I'm on Twitter so all the spoilers were released. I am gonna watch it this weekend."

TODAY caught up with Johnston to reflect on the obnoxiously lovable character, beloved scene and the moment's backstory.

TODAY: How did you get involved with "Sex and the City"?

Kristen Johnston: So I'd been friends with Sarah Jessica (Parker) for years. We were both in the Naked Angels Theater Company together during our early days in New York. So I've known her literally since we were in our 20s. She and I had always talked about me one day doing it. Also through her, I knew Michael Patrick King and that whole crowd. They had asked me a couple times to do (the show) and for whatever reason, I just could never do it and it sucked.

So finally, it's the last season and I'm like, 'I can't believe I'm never going to do your show after all this.' Then Michael actually called me and was like, 'We have this little turn we want you to do. It's just two scenes. Shoot it in one day. Be in and be out. It's the second to last episode.' I was, like, totally. I was so psyched. I was just gonna do a show with a friend and do a little guest star turn. We shot it in just one day. I was in a play at the time and moved on from it.

Kristen Johnston as Lexi Featherston.

Then when it aired, I was living in New York. I mean, I was like, 'Oh my God, this must be like what really being famous is like' because the next day, I live in the Village and it was like, everybody was shouting, 'Hey queen! Can you do my outgoing message?' This is back when we had voicemail. They were like, 'Can you be my outgoing message and say 'New York is over!' And that went on for like three months. I felt a little bit like I was the Beatles or something. I had never had a reaction to anything like this.

"I think New York was transitioning and people were feeling nostalgic for the sort of edgier New York and she sort of captured that or the writing did."

TODAY: Yes, I had a roommate in 2007 who repeated the 'Ooh, a candle' line daily to me. Is it weird to have been on one of the most long-standing sitcoms of the '90s and then this is the thing that gets you recognized?

Johnston: (Laughs) "It's great because the only thing I mean, I've been around this business for like an embarrassingly long time at this point. The only thing I know for sure is whatever you think is going to be successful and change your life won't. And then whatever you're like, Oh, whatever, I'm just gonna shoot this little thing with a friend of mine all of a sudden becomes this iconic thing for the ages. So I guess the lesson is just never assume.

Everything that's gonna happen is probably the opposite. But it was fun. Anytime something like that hits the zeitgeist or a little, it obviously hit a lot of people in this real way. I think New York was transitioning and people were feeling nostalgic for the sort of edgier New York and she sort of captured that or the writing did. And so whenever you're lucky enough to be a part of something like that, it's just great. So you just sort of take it like, that's so awesome that I got to be able to do that.

I'm so bored I could die.


TODAY: Were there any things that were kind of happening behind the scenes?

Johnston: I know people know Sarah as a producer and whatever but I was amazed. They were in pre-production for the finale, the two parter shot in Paris, and she was in between takes with her baby. James Wilkie was just a baby then and she was hanging out and dealing with costume design and production design and choosing the wallpaper that would go in the suite where she was staying in Paris. She was so into everything producer-wise, with the most quiet, kind of chill, 'Let me just tell you how it's gonna be,' sort of the attitude focusing on the look and feel of every episode. I have to say, I had a total Mary Tyler Moore moment with her like, 'I admire you so much.' It was embarrassing, but she really, really ran that. She ran that whole thing and in the most elegant way. I was so impressed with her.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristen Johnston in 2003.Sylvain Gaboury / FilmMagic

TODAY: Are you guys still friends today?

Johnston: We are. I live in Los Angeles now so you know, that sort of opposite coast thing but yes. I mean, I love her but we don’t see each other very much.

TODAY: You have been so open with your own addiction, recovery and sobriety. What was the experience of living whatever your truth was at that time with your own addiction and then playing this character that obviously has some addiction stuff going on as well. Was it fine or was it weird?

Johnston: No, I mean, looking through now sort of 20/20 Goggles, obviously there were some parallels in my life to Lexi at that point. At the time, it was very much a performance. I was not showing up on set high or anything. I was like, Oh, I get to play like this girl and I know this girl and I party with this girl, so I’m just going to do that. But obviously later looking back on it, I’m like, OK, yeah, that might have been a little uncomfortably close to who I really was. You know? But at the time, I literally was like, 'Oh, you know, it’s a performance.'

"When did everybody stop smoking? When did everybody pair off? This used to be the most exciting city in the world and now it's nothing but smoking near a f---ing open window. New York is over. O V. E. R. Over. No one's fun anymore! Whatever happened to fun? I'm so bored I could die." — Lexi Featherston

T: Was there anything improvised or was that scene heavily scripted?

Johnston: It was totally 100% scripted. I didn’t improvise at all. They were very on that. But the one thing that’s funny is that you mentioned that 'Ooh, a candle!' line that was actually done in looping because afterwards they saw the scene and were like, ‘Wait, how did she ended up getting the cigarette lit?' Somehow there was never anything to cover for that. So they had me come in and just say, 'Ooh, a candle!' into a microphone and then they put that in the scene.

TODAY: I feel like this scene and character has been revitalized because during the pandemic, the "Is New York dead?" question definitely came back.

Johnston: Everyone in New York gets this, it's like staying too long at the party. I always used to be jealous of those people who could leave at 2 a.m. and then of course I'm there 'till noon three days later. So I just was always that kind of person, too. There's a thing of just staying too long at the party and unfortunately, Lexi stayed a little too long at the party.

TODAY: I just re-watched the episode and after your death, it then goes into this beautiful moments when the the snow falls and there's this montage. It stands out in my mind as being a little more endearing than what we actually remember the show to be.

Johnston: That is what that show did that was so avant-garde at the time. It wasn't one or the other. It was funny and super-heartbreaking and dramatic. At the time, you had to be one or the other on television, or at least it felt that way. And so just to see a show that was able to swing in the same scene even between both, I think was really new and really hard to do writing wise and tone-wise but they always nailed it.