‘Carrie Diaries’ turns back pages on ‘Sex and the City’
This look at a young Carrie Bradshaw is based on a young adult novel by Candace Bushnell.
Fans of the original Sex and the City now may have daughters old enough to stream the iconic Sarah Jessica Parker series that aired on HBO from 1998 to 2004.
Parker embodied Manhattanite Carrie Bradshaw’s intelligence, optimism and sophistication, and spoke to generations of modern women wanting, like Bradshaw, to have it all.
Now those older City fans and their daughters have a new Bradshaw to share: The Carrie Diaries, premiering Jan. 14 (8 ET/PT) on CW, a network geared toward the teen and 20-something demographic. Based on a 2010 young adult novel by Candace Bushnell, who also wrote the book that inspired the original series, Diaries dishes up Carrie’s story before she became a writer living in the Big Apple.
And it shines a bright spotlight on AnnaSophia Robb, the 19-year-old actress who redefines Carrie as a 16-year-old suburban Connecticut high school junior, mourning the death of her mother and struggling to be a mom to her younger sister.
Robb, who has been primarily a movie actress (Because of Winn-Dixie, Soul Surfer,Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), doesn’t look exactly like Parker. But, says executive producer Amy Harris, who also worked on Sex and the City, she fills the bill.
“I wanted somebody who embodies Carrie Bradshaw, and if she had brown hair and brown eyes I would have lived with that,” says Harris. “Sarah Jessica was perfection. I don’t want anybody to ever think there’s someone filling those shoes. Those are unfillable. But these are literally and figuratively smaller shoes to fill. This is the younger Carrie.”
Harris likes to draw comparisons to CW’s Smallville. “There are many people who have played Superman,” she says, “but on Smallville it was a young, new fresh take on it, and you kind of celebrated that.”
Robb, petite and blond, says taking on the role was “intimidating,” but she found comfort in support she received from Parker.
“She sent me a really encouraging, very sweet letter that made me feel really good,” Robb says. “She was congratulating me and telling me how much the role of Carrie Bradshaw meant to her and how it changed her life, that she was so excited for me and knew it was in good hands. It was a huge compliment for me.”
It also helps, says Robb, that Diaries “is not trying to be like Sex and the City. We have similar flavors and similar characters, but this is very different. It’s a different era (the show is set in 1984), and it’s for a younger audience, but hopefully fans of Sex and the City will love it too.”
Harris, stresses she didn’t want to present a “Baby Muppet” view of Sex and the City, which she says would be insulting to fans of the original 94-episode series. So there will be no “mini-me” version of Carrie’s City friends Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) or Stanford (Willie Garson).
“This show is about those beginnings, how earlier friendships and relationships are very different from the ones you have as an adult and yet kind of shape (who) you’ll be,” Harris says. “My goal is that when you see Carrie with Maggie and Mouse and Walt (her high school friends), you’re seeing why she fell in love with Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha and Stanford.”
Bushnell, who just turned 54, says she showed The Carrie Dairies pilot to friends. “They love it because it reminds them of their high school years and the kinds of issues they were facing, the insecurities and all their dreams about the future. I was a little bit surprised that women who are my age just took to it so much and identified with it.”
“I think it’s a very relatable story,” says Harris, who says teens with whom she shared the pilot felt like they were watching their own stories unfold. “Carrie is an original. And if you feel you are an original in the universe, then you can relate to watching someone become that person.”