Sarah Jessica Parker on marriage and her new TV comedy Divorce
Sarah Jessica Parker wants to make one thing clear – her latest TV incarnation is no Carrie Bradshaw and neither is she.
"I never was Carrie, she says. "I was Carrie on screen and then, in life, I'm me."
Which means that fans hoping to see a return of the Sex And The City fashion icon in Parker's new SoHo comedy series Divorce are in for a surprise.
Because while Carrie spent six years running in high heels and looking for 'real love', Parker's new character is all vintage op shop as she slowly makes her way towards life as the newly single.
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She plays Frances, a working mother who tells her builder husband Robert (Thomas Haden Church) that she wants a divorce following an affair with an intellectual (played by New Zealand's Jemaine Clement).
Before you can say alimony, locks are changed, therapists retained and lawyers engaged.
Parker first came up with the idea for the series four years ago but she never intended to take the starring role.
"I was imagining many other actresses for the part," she says, declining to name names.
"But I love this part and the more she revealed herself the more impossible it was for me not to play it.
"I like that she isn't even remotely like me. There's a kind of rigidity to her but there's also a surprising freedom. That's the beauty of television. That's one of the reasons I love it so much – how long a life you get to live that's not your own."
In fact, Frances' life really belongs to someone else. The series is based on the story of a real life affair that Parker became aware of.
"The affair sort of functioned like an alternate universe," she says. "Nobody was being hurt and it was very loving and they were both married, the marriages were good, and so it was a very interesting to me and kind of confounded me. I wanted to explore the idea of marriage in a real way."
The show has the blessing of Parker's husband of 19 years, actor Matthew Broderick.
While skirting most questions on their relationship she says of their marriage, "For me, it's something that I want to be part of, but it's not for everybody.
"My position on marriage is I choose to do it, but it's not without complication and I think that's the beauty of it. It really asks a lot of you."
As to whether any good can come from divorce, the 51-year-old actress adds, "I think there's a million answers to that question. There's millions and millions of answers.
"Some would say that it's been an enormous triumph for them, that they are liberated. Others would say it has been their undoing or that their family has been irreparably damaged by it, their children were hurt or that the collateral damage was more than they could overcome. I've seen people surface and think it was the best thing that ever happened and they go to live the life they have always wanted.
"I don't know what Frances' answer is right now."
The person who probably does know is Sharon Horgan, star and creator of the British sitcom Catastrophe, the story of an Irish teacher who marries an American businessman following a one-week affair.
She says programme makers HBO set her up on 'a blind date' with Parker. "We talked about the kind of things that Sarah Jessica wanted to make and what I wanted to write," says Horgan.
"I came out of the meeting kind of thinking, 'Oh my God, I think I've just been asked to write a show for Sarah Jessica Parker'."
But while she was enthusiastic, she claims that her husband was less so when he saw the pilot.
"The colour drained from his face," she says. "He was visibly very, very shaken up."
She called on the services of a divorced friend to help her capture the reality of a marriage break up.
"I actually sat a friend down and asked her would she give me some of the detail and nuances that would help it feel real and believable and sort of capture the pain of the whole thing," she says.
The result is dialogue that Parker calls both funny and brutal.
She describes Frances as "courageous" for daring to ask herself the last time she was truly happy.
"A lot of us wouldn't have the courage to ask ourselves the question," she says.
"But for some, it's necessary."
Divorce, SoHo, starts Thursday October 13.
- TV Guide