A Woman of Character
Though she may be best known for her role as fashionista Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker had already starred on stage and screen for more than 20 years before she slipped into Carrie’s beloved Manolo Blahniks.
Parker made her Broadway debut when she was just 11. By the time she was 14, she was the lead in Annie on Broadway. Parker also starred in 1982’s beloved, but shortlived, TV series Square Pegs, in which she played an awkward high school freshman eager to fit in with the cool kids. She quickly segued into movies, including starring with Kevin Bacon in Footloose, Steve Martin in L.A. Story, Nicolas Cage in Honeymoon in Vegas and Bette Midler in both Hocus Pocus and The First Wives Club.
But it was Sex and the City that took Parker from “girlfriend of” roles to leading lady. The HBO series, which ran from 1998 to 2004 (two feature films followed), turned her into a household name. As shoe- (and sometimes man-) obsessed Bradshaw, Parker’s character’s most significant and lasting relationships were with the city of Manhattan and her three best friends, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. The role won Parker an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series as well as four Golden Globes.
Parker now stars in another HBO series, Divorce, in which she plays Frances DuFresne, a mother of two finding her way after splitting with her husband, played by Thomas Haden Church.
It’s a character for whom Parker has developed a deep affection and she reflexively jumps to Frances’ defense when a journalist points out that Frances is not always likable.
“It’s so interesting to me that she’s not considered sympathetic,” Parker said. “Tony Soprano was a murderer and somehow was found to be sympathetic. I guess peopleexpect female characters on television to be cozy and to work hard to be considered likable. I think the really interesting thing about her is she’s honest and challenged. She made mistakes and is wanting very much to be candid and do right and right the wrongs, so I’m quite fond of her. I like her and I think she has a certain courage that I don’t always have.”
Like Bradshaw, Parker said she has little in common with DuFresne, despite so completely inhabiting them. “For Frances, all the joy of parenting and being a partner had been removed and I think there’s an inertia that can creep into marriages that feels very deadening and soul crushing,” Parker said. “I don’t relate necessarily to any of that except for my desire to be a good friend and mother and wife, but I certainly recognize that those are very real things for many people in many marriages.” Immediately after wrapping the second season of Divorce in mid-June, Parker starred in a movie (still untitled), which she also produced.
Parker now easily toggles between television, film and stage, with her decisions based on what intrigues her. “It’s usually about the work and the story that you get to tell and people that you get to work with,” she said. “I just try to find interesting things and characters that I’ve not played before and work with people who I admire and am challenged by.”