12 years after “Sex and the City” left the air, Sarah Jessica Parker is returning to HBO for a new comedy, “Divorce,” created by “Catastrophe” co-creator Sharon Horgan, who executive produces with Paul Simms. While Carrie Bradshaw still looms large in popular culture, Parker insists that her new character, Frances, could not be further removed from her previous lovelorn heroine — which is thanks in large part to the writing team.
“I don’t think that we actually talked a lot about trying to make her different, I think this story is different,” Parker admitted during the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Saturday. “I was always interested in the story of marriage, and by virtue of that interest alone it was automatically different. The only time we were cognizant of distinction was when we started talking about the wardrobe. I think Frances was so much her own person from the moment I read the pilot, she was so distinct from not only Carrie but any character I’ve ever played.”
Of her return to television after several movies — including two “Sex and the City” spinoffs — Parker said, “It’s not unlike other things that you’ve spent a lot of time doing – it’s a muscle slightly atrophied and you have to remind it of the routine. The day to day was really familiar. The first season of a TV show, figuring out the language we all wanted to use and the tone, it reminded me how much I love television. I love the process, the schedule, the speed, the urgency, how important every detail is… it didn’t take long to feel natural again and very much where I wanted to be, with these people in particular.”
Horgan — who has earned critical acclaim for creating and starring in “Catastrophe” alongside Rob Delaney — admitted that unlike her Amazon hit, “Divorce” draws very little from her own life experiences.
“I am married and my husband watches a lot of the shows I make, and I don’t usually ask permission to use those stories, but when he watched the pilot for ‘Divorce,’ the color drained from his face and he was visibly very shaken up,” she quipped with a laugh. “I use my own life and stories quite a lot, but in this less, because I haven’t been through a divorce. I sat a friend down and asked if she’d give me some of the detail and nuances that would help it feel real. I don’t think I had that in me.”
Thomas Haden Church co-stars as Frances’ husband, Robert, and noted that as he sank deeper into the role, he “became more observant of divorced people or people going through divorce with children… the children represent a bit of a centrifuge; as you’re fragmenting, they’re there in the middle to keep you together.” He noted that at a certain point in the show, parents are trying to keep up performances in front of their children.
“The thing we discovered is, divorce is always thought of as this solitary endeavor, but to divorce you need the other person a whole lot,” Parker noted. “You’re not in the experience alone, the exercise is so brutal, it can either be made better by the other person or much worse.”
“Divorce” will premiere Oct. 9 at 10 p.m. on HBO, followed by the premiere of “Insecure.”