Sarah Jessica Parker goes from Sex to Divorce

  • TV
  • Thursday, 11 Aug 2016

The 'Sex And The City' star is back on TV after a long hiatus. Photo: Handout

After a long hiatus Sarah Jessica Parker is back on TV, reunited with her Sex And The City writer-producer and HBO.

Their show is called Divorce, and understandably it’s a bit of a hybrid, both funny and heart-rending.

Sex And The City, of course, rewrote the book on adult viewing and paved the way for today’s questionable standards, not that you can blame Parker for that. Her show was always class from first to last.

After Sex And The City, the 51-year-old actress made numerous stabs at establishing a career for herself as a movie star, but it was not to be.

She’s had much more success as both a business woman (with a fashion line of shoes) and as a wife (she and Matthew Broderick have been together for almost 20 years and they have three kids to show for it.)

At her press conference she’s wearing her SJP shoes.

Here’s an interesting fact about Parker: When she works, Parker wears a wig.

She told me years ago that her decision to wear a wig during work is so that she can ensure her real hair – brunette by the way – is healthy

“I like the colour God gave me. As does my husband. And it’s great that my hair can be healthy like all the civilians who walk the street. “There are these extraordinarily talented wig makers. Not only could I take advantage of them and save my hair, but it really helps you tell a different story. Just like a costume does.

“It’s very exciting to put on a wig and feel different. So I’m happy to have preserved my hair.”

I was always fascinated by her unusual upbringing, being dragged to political rallies (against Apartheid in South Africa for one) by her activist mother, who had eight children to care for.

Years later when she and Robert Downey Jr were an item, he complained about being dragged to similar political rallies; obviously the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree.

And when her son James Wilkie was all of four years old, he was an avid Barack Obama supporter.

So how political is she now?

'Somebody asked me how I relate to my character in 'Divorce' and my answer was, it’s not necessary for me to relate to anybody, and in fact what is more interesting is not to relate to somebody that you are playing,' says Parker. Photo: Reuters
'Somebody asked me how I relate to my character in 'Divorce' and my answer was, it’s not necessary for me to relate to anybody, and in fact what is more interesting is not to relate to somebody that you are playing,' says Parker. Photo: Reuters

When asked about Hillary Clinton, she’s surprisingly subdued.

“I think it’s incumbent on all of us who have strong feelings, no matter what party you are in, to vote,” she said.

“And right now, there are lots of provocative things said every day which is providing a lot of chatter, but none of it matters if we don’t show up and vote.

“I think it’s a really interesting time, not just in our country, the whole world is experiencing similar populist movements, so all I can do is work for my party and vote.”

Not quite the ringing endorsement I had expected. But then why alienate a portion of your potential audience when your new show needs all the support it can get ...

With 20 years of marriage behind you, and so much divorce in Hollywood, what makes your marriage work?

We don’t talk about it. Period. It’s a private thing. We don’t treat it as a job or anecdotally. The more I might talk about what makes it work would only be fodder for people to tell us what doesn’t. So I really love not talking about my marriage.

But with a show that deals with divorce, how can you avoid talking about it?

Somebody asked me yesterday, how do you relate to (my character in Divorce) Frances and my answer was, it’s not necessary for me to relate to anybody, and in fact what is more interesting is not to relate to somebody that you are playing.

That is really the best part of our work. What we seek is to be the least like ourselves. But certainly I can understand, even though my marriage is very different than Robert and Frances’ marriage, how hard it is to parent together and be philosophically aligned when couples come from different backgrounds, and have different thoughts and ideas. That, I think, is pretty recognisable for a lot of us.

Do you have family or friends that have been divorced?

My parents were divorced when I was an infant, and I have siblings that are no longer married. I have friends who thought about it and considered it and pursued it or gotten back together.

I have talked to lots of different people about it so we have lots of stories. But everybody’s divorce is unique, and the great irony is that to get divorced, you need the very person that you are divorcing, and you have to do it together.

The kids in the show have unsupervised access to the Internet. How do you police your own kids?

By giving them good information and not making things verboten but rather talking about the things that are of concern to myself and to Matthew, not laying down hard and fast rules without explanation.

Matthew Broderick and Parker have been married for almost 20 years. Photo: AFP
Matthew Broderick and Parker have been married for almost 20 years. Photo: AFP

My 14-year-old will have to make good smart choices on his own, but right now we shepherd him through this particular time. Shutting off information and sheltering him is not going to give him the coping mechanisms that he needs when he is out in the world on his own.

Luckily we seem to have a son who wants to hear our thoughts and enjoys trying to make mature decisions; hopefully we have done right by him.

Have the kids inherited your acting genes?

They have no interest in performing or fashion, but they are interested in things like art and reading.

My son likes music and soccer, and my daughters love to paint. They are all trying out a bunch of things. Like right now my daughters like riding horses, but I don’t know how long that is going to last.

And they love gardening, they like braiding hair, and they like animals and small children, and they like fighting. All pretty normal stuff.

What kind of a father is Matthew?

He’s a wonderful dad. 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 kids, he’s a wonderful father.

Does he help you make career decisions?

It’s a good question. He played a big part in my deciding to do Sex And The City. 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.

You run your own business, you’re starring in a TV show, you have a husband and three kids to cater to. How do you do all that?

You find the time. You sort it out, and you squeeze it in, so you are up late and you are up early.

SJP is a teeny company; there is only four of us involved and we do every single thing ourselves. We look at every single sample that comes in from Italy.

I meet every single sales appointment. I work the sales floor. It’s incumbent on me to be 100% involved, and if I can’t do it that way, then I won’t be a party to it. It’s just the way I function.

Does age bother you?

I don’t really think about it unless somebody wants to do an article for Instagram about mature ladies. Do they ever think about doing one about mature men?!

Personally, I don’t think about it, and I don’t think anybody does unless they are having health or physical issues. Besides, there’s not a lot you can do about it. So I just carry on.

You’re considered a fashion icon. Is that burdensome?

Not really because I don’t spend time thinking about it. The idea that I have a relationship with fashion is very flattering, but I’m not consumed by it. And it’s not who I am, it’s just a point of view. It’s just what somebody said.

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