“I know what I look like. I have no choice. What am I going to do about it? Stop aging? Disappear?”
Sarah Jessica Parker is getting ready to step back into the fabulous shoes that made her a household name 20 years ago with the premiere of “And Just Like That,” the highly-anticipated sequel to “Sex and the City.”
One major thing has changed, though, and it should be pretty obvious. After all, 20 years have passed. You know what happens in 20 years? People get 20 years older.
“When we announced ‘And Just Like That..,’ there were a lot of positive reactions, but one bitchy response online was people sharing pictures of the Golden Girls,” executive producer Michael Patrick King told Vogue for a new cover story on Parker and the show.
“I was like, ‘Wow, so it’s either you’re 35, or you’re retired and living in Florida,” King continued. “There’s a missing chapter here.” King is serving as executive producer alongside the three returning leads, Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis. Kim Cattrall is not returning.
“I like that we’re not trying to youthify the show,” agrees Nixon. “We’re not including, like, a 21-year-old niece.”
Parker, though, is irritated that it’s even a conversation. “There’s so much misogynist chatter in response to us that would never. Happen. About. A. Man,” she emphasized. “‘Gray hair gray hair gray hair. Does she have gray hair?’”
She then referenced her friend Andy Cohen, “And he has a full head of gray hair, and he’s exquisite. Why is it okay for him?”
The 56 year old particularly has no patience for social media weighing in on this. “I don’t know what to tell you people!” she said. “Everyone has something to say. ‘She has too many wrinkles, she doesn’t have enough wrinkles.’”
“It almost feels as if people don’t want us to be perfectly okay with where we are, as if they almost enjoy us being pained by who we are today,” she continued. “Whether we choose to age naturally and not look perfect, or whether you do something if that makes you feel better.”
“I know what I look like,” she declared. “I have no choice. What am I going to do about it? Stop aging? Disappear?”
Luckily, the excitement about a return to the world of “SATC” far outweighs any misogynistic concerns about its main cast having grown older. In fact, the cast says that while filming, most of the fans who come up to them have been women in their 20s and 30s who found “SATC” on streaming services.
The whole idea of even returning to this world came while Parker was talking with King about maybe doing a podcast about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans on the show. “We spoke about what we were missing in the pandemic: joy, community, the experience of being together,” she said. “The world of Carrie and her friends has always been about coming home, and I felt like we needed that right now.”
And so, rather than a podcast looking back, they decided to look ahead to right now. And that meant a painstaking recreation of Carrie’s apartment, made much easier by Parker’s insanely organized way of living.
“I had all of the original stuff in my own storage. Furniture, clothes, everything, packed according to season and episode and scene,” Parker shared. And she does mean everything.
Just going through Carrie’s closet was a trip down memory lane. “Here are the Hangisis Big gave Carrie when he proposed; the sandals Aidan’s dog chewed on; the black pumps she wore to the Vogue fashion closet,” Parker recalled.
Of course, that brought up a big question. Considering how the original series ended, why would all of this exist like this exactly as it was in Carrie’s apartment? What about Big? Well, Parker and King and everyone have been very coy about everything to do with the show thus far.
“One of the questions that’s going to come up in ‘And Just Like That…’ will be, What is it about a place like this that you need to hold on to for all these years?” Parker explained. “Why can’t you just let it go?”
Is it that Carrie can’t let go of the vestiges of her life before, or is there something else that’s changed in the two decades since we’ve spent time with her? In what other ways will her life have been changed?
One change that many are cautiously hopeful about is a dramatic increase in diversity. Like “Seinfeld” and “Friends,” “SATC” has been strongly criticized for being a show set in New York City that had an almost exclusively white cast.
“The incredible lack of diversity was the Achilles’ heel of the show, the first time around,” Nixon conceded.
As “SATC” becomes “AJLT,” it’s now a show with all kinds of representation, welcoming Black, brown and even a nonbinary cast-member to its ranks. Black actors Nicole Ari Parker and Karen Pittman are joined by Mexican Ameican nonbinary actor Sara Ramírez and Sarita Choudhury, who is of English and Bengali-Indian descent.
“In no way were we interested in tokenism,” Parker said of these cast additions. “You can’t bring people on the show and not let the camera be with them! These characters are all gifts to us.”
“Sarah Jessica came into this project with such intentionality and care,” said Ramírez. “I play a complicated queer character who’s smart and funny and sexy and dynamic.”
The addition of diversity stretches into the writers’ room as well, with Samantha Irby one of the show’s new Black voices. “Approaching the Black and brown people on the show this time around, it was important to me to make them feel real and not just plopped in,” she said.
But she’s also conscious that these characters need to exist organically in this world and not come across too heavy-handed, either. “This isn’t meant to be preachy,” she said. “I’d never want to write a scold-y show, where watching it is like taking your medicine.”
Parker, too, was quick to assure fans that the tone of the original show is totally intact. This was, after all, a comedy when it was on the air — though perhaps one more in line with what’s come to be defined as a dramedy.
“We’re keenly aware of the affection people have for certain things connected with the show,” she said. “It’s like perfume: You have the beautiful packaging and the bottle, and then you have the juice.”
Fans will get their first tantalizing hint of “And Just Like That…” when the 10-episode sequel drops on HBO Max next month.