June 2004 By Philip Berk
Was there life before Sex?
In Sarah Jessica Parker’s case I’d have to say no.
Over the years I’ve interviewed her numerous times, reviewed many of her films (the only one I admired was Cuban Rhapsody) but I’ve never had the compulsion to write about her.
Although I was fascinated by her unusual upbringing in a poor Jewish family with eight children and an activist mother who campaigned against Apartheid in South Africa. I remember asking her if her mother campaigned for Roe v Wade (the abortion rights law in America) or if she believed in planned parenthood.
But all that changed magically four years ago when she became part of the zeitgeist as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City.
The show airing late at night on HBO shocked everyone, not just the premise but the language. Ouch.
Today it’s even watched by clerics, and in fact next season it’ll be syndicated minus a few awkward moments of course and all those four letter words.
Can anyone deny the show has raised the bar for all sitcoms.
It’s not just smartly written and directed, it’s a joy to behold.
And of course the linchpin of the show is Sarah Jessica, who’s not only the voice over of the show, she embodies the sophistication, the intelligence and the fun of living in New York.
And here’s the real kicker!
After years of playing ugly ducklings, she’s become drop dead beautiful.
Not that other girls on the show don’t count. Don’t get me wrong I love them all, but it’s Sarah who makes it happen for me.
When I meet her on the set of the show in New York I can’t contain my enthusiasm.
“You’re so divine in the show,” I tell her, “do you ever watch yourself and see somebody you don’t recognize?”
Thank goodness she understands my question because she starts off by thanking me.
“That’s so nice of you to say, but the only person I don’t recognize is Carrie because her behavior is different than mine. Her life is so radically different from mine.”
And yet she sounds just like you?
“I guess the lines have been blurred so much. I am probably not even aware of it.”
Particularly the voice overs, they sound as if you wrote them yourself?
“Geez that is a lovely thing to say. I’m embarrassed I don’t know what to say.”
So let’s change the subject.
Living in New York she obviously gets a lot of attention from adoring fans. How does she deal with it?
“Sometimes it’s intrusive if at that moment you need your privacy, but for the most part people have been extremely nice to us and extremely generous with their support; so it’s hard to feel put upon. What I do find intrusive are the paparazzi.”
So if she’s in a restaurant with Matthew and the baby?
“When I’m with my child I would rather not have my photograph taken by anybody. But when I’m with my husband or friends and someone wants to take a picture, I’m embarrassed, but I don’t mind, although there are times when it feels inappropriate, but that’s only a small percentage of the time.”
It’s become a cliche to say, but in her case it’s the truth. She’s truly is blessed — a beautiful son, an adoring husband with a successful career, and a hit show that is an international success.
But come next June, Sex and the City ends its six year run.
How hard will that be for her?
“It’s so hard. It will be extraordinarily sad. But I feel lucky that I feel sad about leaving a job knowing we will have produced twenty of the best shows we’ve ever done. Most people don’t feel that way about their work. But I think we made the right decision. I don’t know that we could produce another season that we’d really feel good about.”
Was it her decision?
“Michael Patrick (King,the producer) I’m sort of tied to him, and he’s sort of tied to me — he and I and HBO made the decision. So come February of next year we’ll all be hugging each other, clinging to one another, having a very hard time of saying goodbye.”
So why do it?
“It’s been one of the great experiences of my life, but you must move on, try new things. I’m excited about going back to work in movies, going back to work in the theatre, or having time to be a mother again and maybe producing a movie.”
What about spending more time with her son? I suggest.
“My son is here (on the set) every day. I’ve built an eight week break in the middle of our shooting schedule, from August 8th to October 8th, so that that I can spend every day with my son. I worked very hard to do that.”
And to counteract the implied criticism, she adds, “I put my son to bed every single night. I’m all night with him, and I’m the best mother I can be and still be responsible and complete my contract with HBO. For most working mothers in this country they cannot have their kids come to the office. My son comes and visits me. He doesn’t spend all day here, but he spends a nice part of the day with me. I hope I’m a good mother and I hope my son feels that I made the right choices.”
But isn’t she planning a movie next year?
“I think I’ll be doing a movie February or June, but I won’t be working in television for a while, that I know.”
And her agent isn’t lining up her new projects?
“I honestly have to say that I don’t have a blind ambition kind of bone in my body. I read scripts, I get excited about a script or the people involved. I pursue it to a degree, and I’m comfortable doing it, but I’ve never fought tooth and nail to get a part. It’s just not in my bones. I want to do good things and interesting things, but I’m not that ambitious. I do the best I can and no one demands more of me than me, but you won’t hear stories that Sarah Jessica went to the director’s house, parked in front, sent flowers, videotapes. I wouldn’t do it. I’m shy that way.”
Was it difficult breaking the news to the other girls?
“It wasn’t for me to break it to them. I think it came from business affairs. I know it sounds crazy but we all haven’t talked about it a lot. We just know that this is our last year but (brightening up she adds) that doesn’t mean we won’t work together again.”
Her son James was named after Matthew’s father, James Broderick, a respected actor who died suddenly and prematurely when Matthew was 11.
Has becoming a mother been more or less than she expected it to be?
“I couldn’t really describe how stunningly different it is from anything I had ever imagined it would be. It’s transforming, magnificent and complete.”
Did it change her perception of sex?
“I don’t think those sensibilities change. Having a child has changed the way I feel about work and the hours, but it hasn’t really affected the content of the show or what I feel is right or funny or inappropriate or vulgar.”
Does she miss her sleep?
“He was sleeping through the night, but lately he’s been waking up. But then I have to say he’s so cute and asks for so little. Maybe he wants to be with me. And when he wakes up, his eyes are are so big and he smells so good. I love him so much. You walk in the door after a day’s work, and you just run to him.
And Matthew, what kind of a dad is he?
“He’s a wonderful daddy. But I always knew he would be because he’s a very shy person. But he’s also very wise and curious and loving and interested in people. He’s very tender with our son. He’s in love with him. He was away working, but he’s home now, and he spends time with him, and he’s a wonderful father.’
Does he help her make career decisions?
“It’s a good question. He played a big part in my deciding to do the show. He was one of three people I gave the script to when I wasn’t sure I should do it. He helps me make decisions, asks provocative questions, but ultimately I make the decisions myself.”
As executive producer on the show how hands on is she?
“My job is making sure we’re not producing a show that we think people want to see. The lucky thing that happened the first year when we did twelve shows and then went on the air in June, we didn’t know how people would respond. We just produced the show we wanted to produce and that was a great lesson; we should listen to the story and let it tell us, not try to second guess the audience. By the end of the second season, women and men were stopping me in the street telling me how they felt about the show good and bad; so that’s part of my job keeping the show on track.”
Because she has become an icon on the show, people must confuse her with the character she plays.
What are some of the misconceptions people have about her?
“That I have frank and open discussions about things of a sexual nature which I never have, never will, and that I’m accustomed to intimate conversation. My friends and I don’t talk that way. I know women who do. I don’t talk about my personal life. I might talk about it in general terms, but I’ve never been someone that has shared intimate details of my life.”
Even among her closest friends?
“I still don’t talk about those things. It would embarrass me to discuss intimacy things with even my women friends.”
Any beauty tips for your fans?
“Just one. When I was a little girl, I worked with Claire Bloom and she’d let me sit in her dressing room while she was getting ready to go on stage. She had little wee bottles of Evian atomizer sprays, and she would spray her face. I don’t use Evian because it’s very costly, but there’s a little product at the place where I get facials, it’s rose water — I have it in my purse — and I always use it. It makes you look — even on a really bad day — fresh.