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The Family Stone - Sarah Jessica Parker interview

Sarah Jessica Parker in The Family Stone

Compiled by Jack Foley

Q. What are your own family Christmas holidays like?
A. I have a very large family – with a total of seven sisters, brothers and half sisters and brothers – so it is tough for us all to get together. We are not particularly religious, so we just see it as a wonderful excuse to be together and relax in each other’s company. Now we all have partners and children so the house is even more packed. Everyone helps out with the dinner and gets stuck in. It is crazy, but somehow amazingly peaceful. I I can only say that to me it is a time when I can finally relax.

Q. In The Family Stone your character, Meredith, meets her fiance’s family for the first time. What was it like meeting Matthew’s family?
A. I was lucky because I knew Matthew’s family very well before we started dating. He was a good of friend of one of my brothers. I actually met his family before I had met him. I was never in that terrifying position of being the new person. Meredith’s situation is slightly different because of her poor people skills and inability to know when to stop talking. I think it takes two to be in Meredith’s situation. The Stone’s could have thrown her a life line. They could see how uncomfortable she was with those surroundings. I have never seen anyone as socially awkward as her though.

Q. How are your family with newcomers?
A. Very hospitable. There are so many of us, so I think we understand how intimidating it must be to enter into such a large family. I would like to think we do our best to make people feel comfortable. We have never been presented with any difficult characters though, which is fortunate.

Q. Carrie in Sex and the City was such a well loved character. Is it a risk for you to play someone who is so driven and difficult?
A. I can’t approach my work thinking that. Before Sex And The City I played a range of different characters which is why I became an actor in the first place. I don’t worry about people liking Meredith, I just want them to think she is real. I want her to be believed by the audience.

Q. Do you worry that people still think of you as Carrie?
A. Perhaps this is just me being naive, but I honestly never think about it. It doesn’t even occur to me. Carrie definitely left a vivid imprint on those who loved her. She wasn’t a perfect heroine and I think that was my salvation in a lot of ways.
She was unpredictable, so people didn’t always know her next move. I was a working actor for years in films like Honeymoon in Vegas, Ed Wood and The First Wives Club, before I played Carrie. She was an extraordinary character to play for so long, but I still pursue my career in the way that I always did. I still look for interesting characters and stories.

Q. Why did you want to become an actress?
A. The arts were a big part of my childhood. We went to the theatre and opera a lot as a family. We were not at all wealthy, but it was at a time when the arts were publicly funded and there were free tickets available. For someone like myself who wasn’t that academically inclined, it was a great escape.
For some reason, when I was quite young, I began to read about castings in the newspaper and wanted to go to to them. I suppose I found the whole thing quite magical at that age. So I started auditioning, because I didn’t see any reason not to. We are not particularly confident or ambitious people in my family, but there were a lot of us in the house and it was a great escape for me. I found it a way to distinguish myself from seven other siblings. I became less interested in school. I still went, but I didn’t choose to develop any other skills apart from drama. In the end, I didn’t really have any other choice.

Q. Before Sex and the City you were a film actress. How was it moving into a TV series?
A. It was terrifying. At first I thought I had made a terrible mistake. I showed the script to everyone I knew. My family, Matthew – who was then my boyfriend – and my agent and they all told me to go for it. I recognised straight away that she was a very interesting character and I thought the pilot showed so much promise for a great story. My biggest fear was being shackled to the same thing for a really long time and being unhappy with it. I started to think, what can I possibly do to get out of this? I didn’t care if I ended up broke and on the street, I wasn’t going to do it.

Q. Why did you change your mind?
A. The people I love talked me through my fear. I had this wonderful life in New York at the time, I was in the theatre and movies and in my free time I saw my friends. I didn’t want anything to change. But they put my mind at rest and somehow managed to get me to the set on the first day of shooting. I never looked back from that moment. It was the happiest place I could have been for that long. With the exception of my son being born, it was the happiest time of my life.

Q. How did Matthew feel about you playing with sex toys in the show?
A. The thing that a lot of people didn’t realise about Carrie was that she didn’t do that stuff. I didn’t have bad language or big sex scenes, that’s what people just think they remember. People think they have seen me with my clothes off, but they never did. It was a provocative title that dealt with controversial issues and people recall things that didn’t happen. Even a well-known actor, who I met socially, said to me: “I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on.” But my clothes were never off.

Q. There were some frank scenes, though.
A. I was still kissing a lot of men a lot of the time. Then I had to go home to my husband and it was strange sometimes. I had to do it though, it was in my contract. I was forced to kiss all of those men! Matthew was okay about it though. There hasn’t been any post-traumatic stress – yet.

Q. When was the last time you were drunk?
A. I don’t actually drink at all. I just don’t like the taste of it. I have no problem with people enjoying a drink at all, but I don’t find it relaxing. Strangers buy me Cosmopolitans when they see me out thinking I am like Carrie. I just have to pretend to take a sip and then give it to a friend.

Q. So when your character dances, when drunk, in The Family Stone, you didn’t know how she felt?
A. I had no idea. In fact, that particular scene was the hardest I’ve ever done. I don’t dance in real life. I don’t go to clubs or dance at parties. I am happy that everyone else does and I love watching. So that piece of acting was really embarrassing.

Q. Do you have any bad habits?
A. I live a very clean lifestyle actually, I have never done more than smoke a cigarette in my life. The first time I saw someone take drugs was a couple of years ago. I was stunned. I was at a party and had walked into a bathroom by mistake. The moment I saw what was happening I turned on my heel and went. I was quite scared actually, I left very quickly. I was convinced there would be a police raid or something. I felt as though I was in the film Scarface and I didn’t like it. I know nothing about that sort of thing, it is just not a circle I travel in.

Q. You celebrated your 40th birthday this year. Did it change you at all?
A. I was on set of The Family Stone on my birthday. It was a bit of a strange day for me. I remember at one point looking over at Claire Danes and thinking: “Oh my god, you are only 26!” That is when I realised I was 40. Apart from little things like that it hasn’t really made any difference to me or my career.