My first job in New York was as a P.A. on Sarah Jessica Parker’s 1996 movie If Lucy Fell. Tasked with guarding a stack of equipment underneath the Brooklyn Bridge overnight, I was promoted to Sarah Jessica’s stand-in when her own didn’t show up. This required me to ride a bike back and forth across the bridge until the crew got the lighting for the scene right so filming could begin. If you had told me then that in 20 years I would be interviewing Parker for a magazine I would edit, I might have fallen off that bike. But here I am, at her office in Manhattan’s Financial District, which is lined with dozens and dozens of shoes from her SJP collection, available for purchase on a host of online retailers including Net-A-Porter, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. (She’s also just launched a curated range of LBDs with American department store Bloomingdales). People like to talk to her about shoes, but as she says, “I love shoes, but I also love books and architecture and politics and other people and travel and conflict.” So we talked at length about all those things and more, including her move behind the camera into producing and her latest project: starring in and executive-producing Divorce, which will be released on DVD in May.
ANNE FULENWIDER: So tell me about the genesis of this show. When did you come up with the idea?
SARAH JESSICA PARKER: About four years ago, I started thinking about marriages. Friends were at various points of their own marriages, and people were contemplating affairs, having just survived affairs, affairs having destroyed marriages, marriages having survived. And I recognised that there was a lot happening in American marriages and that there were so many versions of marriage, none of which I thought had been told on television or on film in a really long time in a real way. There is something unique about a middle-class marriage. And I say that with no judgement, but rather like someone studying it. There can be revelations about your finances, which happens to a lot of people when they start pursuing divorce. The socioeconomic portrait is not the focus of the show, but it plays a role in the reality. But more important, how does a divorce affect your life? Who supports you? And how it changes perceptions and how you manage a family – how do you talk to your children about it? What does it do to you? What were your expectations? How complicit were you in it? There is such a rich landscape, and I hadn’t seen it told this way.
AF: Is everyone going to think, Carrie Bradshaw’s moved to the suburbs?
SJP: I feel like once they see it, they’ll know it is not Carrie Bradshaw. Frances is not the person who is in a position to think about her shoes. She can’t afford to have those relationships. This is a person who has made completely different choices.
AF: Do you think it’s possible to have a happy divorce?
SJP: I see it all the time. There are so many people I know who are happily divorced and still a really tight, highly functioning, very happy family. Some even go on vacation together. There is lots of coming together with new wives, new husbands, new partners. That takes a very specific approach, and maybe Frances and [her husband, played by Thomas Haden Church] Robert will get there, but their divorce doesn’t really happen the way that either of them would have imagined had that had the time to think about it. She witnesses an event, and it’s like a clock went off inside. For him, he never wanted a divorce and is only complying in complete agony. None of it was thoughtful, and my friends who are divorced happily were much more thoughtful and careful and strategic about the way they went about everything.
AF: Do you have any advice on the key to a good marriage?
SJP: I’m always afraid to talk about that because other people relate it as if I’m talking about my own. But I will just say from observation – not in my own relationship, but in others that are inspiring, helpful and meaningful to me – first of all, the other person’s experiences and triumphs and disappointments have to be your own. The more I see that in other people, the more I experience that myself, the more invested I am. It’s a funny thing: the more time you spend together. I think the natural thought process is that you sort of exist together. But actually, with more time, the more you become connected – the marriages that I’ve seen that really flower are the ones where there is a desire to be together. For me, it’s really the investment in the other person. And it’s the expectations you have. They change and you get smarter, and maybe you think those expectations aren’t worth striving for with this person, and that’s when people bail.
To read more of our interview with Sarah Jessica Parker, pick up the March issue of marie claire Australia