Forget Sex And The City, Sarah Jessica Parker has a new HBO series

Quit equating Sarah Jessica Parker with Carrie Bradshaw in Sex And The City because it was just a role, says the actress, who stars in new HBO series Divorce

Sarah Jessica Parker makes it clear that even if many viewers - you, us - continue to confuse her with her famous character, Carrie Bradshaw from Sex And The City, she has never made that mistake.

She says of her newspaper columnist character in the television series and movies: "I was Carrie on screen, and in life, I'm me. I was never confused by it. It's not a burden, it was a privilege, but I've always dressed like me. I could never have dressed like Carrie in real life.

"She had a sort of liberty I've never felt, a sort of unabashed kind of lack of modesty in certain ways. That was a thrill for that very reason to play her."

Even if Carrie questions are not banned at this press event to promote her latest series, HBO's comedy-drama Divorce, it is not difficult to surmise that the topic is not one of the actress' favourites.

I was Carrie on screen, and in life, I'm me. I was never confused by it. It's not a burden, it was a privilege, but I've always dressed like me.

SARAH JESSICA PARKER, on the role of newspaper columnist Carrie Bradshaw she played in the Sex And The City TV series and movies

If anyone thinks her Sex And The City role is so iconic that he continues to associate her with it, the problem - it is implied - lies with you, not her.

Parker, 51, is dressed in a black and white ruffled dress and sports an assortment of accessories from necklace to rings at this junket in Beverly Hills.

It is hard not to see a trace of Carrie in Parker.

But the actress says firmly: "No, it's me, you're confused. I think this is rather chaste for Carrie."

The message: Quit living in the past - she certainly is not.

For six seasons on the comedy series Sex And The City from 1998 to 2004, Parker was Carrie Bradshaw, the newspaper columnist in New York City with a string of colourful dates and an even more colourful wardrobe.

The show was groundbreaking for its honest depiction of how women talked about sex and intimacy and it won both popular and critical acclaim. Its haul of seven Emmy Awards included one for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2001 and one for Parker in the category Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2004.

She reprised the role in two movies, Sex And The City (2008) and Sex And The City 2 (2010).

My position on marriage is that I chose to do it. It's not without complication, but that's the beauty of it.

SARAH JESSICA PARKER, who has been married to actor Matthew Broderick (both left) for almost 20 years

With her new television project Divorce, her first full-time series since Sex And The City, she plays Frances, a wife and mother of two who is negotiating the fraught process of separating from her husband Robert, played by Thomas Haden Church.

The series premieres in Singapore on HBO on Monday, at the same time as the United States.

While Parker is keen to remove herself from Sex And The City, she cannot seem to remove herself from New York City.

Divorce is also set in the Big Apple, which was practically another character in Sex And The City.

Parker says she had to literally tread carefully around this issue. "The one thing I was mindful of was I didn't want Frances walking around the streets of New York in a certain way. The city is a completely different relationship for her."

She had worked on the new show, originally called The Affair, for several years, but only as executive producer.

  • Post-Sex And The City career

  • The TV series Sex And The City (1998-2004) is the biggest thing that actress Sarah Jessica Parker has done. After it ended, she did several film projects, but most, well, failed to launch.

    Not surprisingly, the Sex And The City movies were her biggest success at the box office. The first film in 2008 grossed US$415 million worldwide while the sequel in 2010 earned US$288 million.


    Gross takings: US$92 million Casting was done during the final season of Sex And The City and Parker plays Meredith, a Manhattan career woman.

    The actress pointed out that this was different from her previous roles - in other words, Carrie Bradshaw - as Meredith was controlling and tightly wound.

    She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best actress in a musical or comedy.


    Gross takings: US$128 million

    Featuring her pairing with Matthew McConaughey during his romantic-comedy phase, this film opened at No. 1 during its opening weekend in the United States, but was mostly given a drubbing by critics.


    Gross takings: US$85 million

    Yet another rom-com with bad reviews, though perhaps the story of a New York couple on the cusp of breaking up might also have helped to sow the seeds for her new HBO series, Divorce.


    Gross takings: US$31 million

    In this little-seen ensemble cast adaptation of Allison Pearson's 2002 novel of the same name, Parker plays a woman juggling motherhood and a high-pressure career as a hedge-fund manager.


    Never heard of this? You are not alone. This obscure romantic comedy co-starring Italian actor Raoul Bova went straight to DVD.

    Boon Chan

Drawing power of Divorce

She says: "It was based on this idea of this story I knew, of real people who'd been having this very long-term affair. It functioned like an alternate universe, nobody was being hurt and it was very loving and they were both married and marriages were good.

"It confounded me, but I thought it was probably not unique. And so I wanted to explore the idea of marriage in a real way."

Initially, she had imagined "many other actresses" as Frances, but she became increasingly drawn to the character.

"I like that she was difficult. I like that she isn't even remotely like me. I like that she can be withholding and maybe unfriendly, short and not buoyant. There's a kind of rigidity to her, but there's also a surprising freedom. She's strong, but she's also in a purgatory of her own making."

It was a different portrayal of women in marriage from what Parker had seen before.

She adds: "That's the beauty of television, how long a life you get to live that's not your own. It's challenging, but it should be."

Divorce is not a reflection of her private affairs, though it is tempting to parse it for clues as to the state of her near-two-decade marriage to actor Matthew Broderick, with whom she has a 14-year-old son and seven-year-old twin daughters.

A journalist tries to gently pry, asking if she is afraid that one day she might wake up and find that the love has gone. Parker says: "You keep trying to get me to talk about my own marriage. No, it doesn't. Because it's not where I am. Everything is possible, but do I lie awake in bed and worry about it? Absolutely not."

A key consideration for her in returning to television was the huge time commitment required for a full series. She had appeared in a few episodes of season 4 (2012-2013) of the musical comedy drama Glee.

"I was at first more concerned about what it meant for my family. I know how I work," she says.

This is how she works, says her co-star, Church, 56, in a separate interview: "She's there usually before everybody and she's there till the end."

The actor, who worked with her on the 2008 comedy-drama Smart People, adds: "She's very smart and she could run any multinational corporation if it gave her a little bit of time to gear up on what they do.

"She's just multi-tasking all the time and she knows so much about so many different areas of production."

It helps that she had a head start in show business. She made her Broadway debut at the age of 11 in the revival of the play The Innocents in 1976. Roles followed in films such as musical drama Footloose (1984) and comedy Honeymoon In Vegas (1992).

Sex And The City, of course, turned her into a major star and Carrie's fashionista credentials led to Parker scoring endorsements with the likes of clothing label Gap. She also successfully launched her own perfume, Lovely, in 2005, followed by fashion line Bitten in 2007 and footwear line SJP Collection in 2014.

She has balanced a multi-faceted career with a stable personal life. That her marriage to Broderick, 54, has lasted almost 20 years is no small feat in an industry where relationships do not typically last.

She says: "Marriage is something I want to be part of, but it's not for everybody. My position on marriage is that I chose to do it. It's not without complication, but that's the beauty of it."

•Divorce premieres on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) on Monday at 10am, at the same time as the United States, with a same-day encore at 10pm. It is also available on HBO On Demand (StarHub TV Channel 602/ StarHub Go).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'I am not Carrie Bradshaw'. Print Edition | Subscribe