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Q&A: Darren Star on ‘Younger,’ More ‘Sex and the City’ and UCLA Theater

Darren Star
Michael Lewis for Variety

The creator of seminal series like “Melrose Place” and “Sex and the City” returns in March with TV Land’s “Younger,” starring Sutton Foster as a woman pretending to be in her 20s as she returns to the workforce. On Jan. 16, he will cut the ribbon at the Darren Star Screening Room at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Star donated a monetary gift to renovate the 54-seat screening room, updating not only the equipment and technology but also renovating the seating and flooring.

How did you end up endowing a screening room at UCLA?
I’ve been on the board of UCLA Film and TV School and I went to UCLA. I realized that the same movie theater that was there when I went to school, 30 years later, is the same movie theater in the same condition. There was an opportunity to refurbish an existing room and I jumped at the opportunity.

Have you ever done theater or acted yourself?
I never did theater. I was a theater major at USC my first year because I didn’t get into the film school. I was biding my time, hoping to be accepted to film school, and I ended up transferring to UCLA my sophomore year. I realized early on I was not an actor. And it was a great thing to have that realization. To see actors and see what that talent is … it wasn’t me.

How did Sutton Foster come to be cast in “Younger”?
I knew early on I wanted Sutton. This is a show where casting is really key. She is believably 26 on screen. I complimented Pat Field, who is doing the wardrobe and she said, “Those are not my clothes doing that, it’s her. It comes from the inside.” Wardrobe can help, but it’s largely in her performance.

You said you like characters that are “messy.”
I love characters that are messy. So I love seeing Sutton Foster, who’s so lovable, who from the beginning is sort of lying and a little shady. But you understand why someone would go to these lengths. How awful to feel unwanted at 40, when you’re in the prime of your life.

Why TV Land?
I had a general meeting with Keith Cox and he said, “Don’t take that anywhere, we want to do it, we’re going to get behind it and support it.” And that means everything.I love places that are building themselves and reinventing themselves and I love the idea of getting involved with TV Land at this point in time. I remember when I did “Sex and the City” at HBO, people didn’t think of them for series. It’s all about finding a network that is passionate about what you have.

You’ve done network TV before, but you had a lot of freedom on HBO. Do you find there are more restrictions with TV Land?
It’s more of a cable show than a network show. It has the production values of a pay cable show, we used a lot of the people from “Sex and the City.” You can do a lot on broadcast cable now. We’re not constantly saying the f-word, but we’re pretty much doing whatever we like to do.

Are you working on anything else, or is all your concentration on “Younger” right now?
Right now, it’s all about the show. It’s nice to focus on one thing that you love. It’s been a really, really fun ride. I love finishing a season before it airs. It’s like doing a movie; you’ve done it and whatever happens now is out of my hands. We’re really happy and excited with what we’ve done and everyone is so proud of the show.

You’re known for strong female roles, and you’ve created another with her character.
I think women have such rich emotional lives that they are expressive about. I also think they’re funny. I like watching strong female characters and I like writing them. I don’t know if it’s conscious that I gravitate towards women, but it’s certainly evolved that way.

It has to be asked: any further word on a “Sex and the City” movie?
Not to my knowledge, but I would never count it out.

Do you ever think about where those characters are now?
I don’t think about it, really. That would be work! But I love that they live on in the minds of the audience. To me, that is the biggest compliment.