Carrie Me Away To NYC!
— AnnaSophia Robb Prequels Iconic Role —
by Fred Topel
When Sex and the City premiered on HBO in 1998, the network was not known for its original series. They had done Dream On and Arli$$ but the reason people were paying extra to add HBO to their cable box was for the unedited Hollywood movies they showed. With Sex and the City, original shows became a premium asset, and the following year HBO would debut The Sopranos.
Sex and the City introduced viewers to Carrie Bradshaw, a relationship columnist from the book written by Candace Bushnell. Sarah Jessica Parker played Carrie for all six seasons of the show, and in two hugely successful feature films. Her friends Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) would become personality types that groups of girlfriends would use to label themselves.
The Carrie Diaries is about teenage Carrie Bradshaw, and it is, more appropriately, airing on The CW, a network that specializes in fare for teenagers like The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl. AnnaSophia Robb plays Carrie, in a series based on Bushnell’s own prequel book.
“When I landed the role, I remember having a conversation with [executive producer] Amy Harris and she said, ‘We don’t want you to emulate Sarah Jessica’s performance.” Robb told Dish recently. “I loved the show Sex and the City, and I still watch it. I try to watch an episode every night, even though that doesn’t really happen because we work long hours, but I’d like to. So really, my character is a combination of the books, the script, what I’m bringing to the role, Amy’s vision for the character, and myself. As we go on, I feel like I’m becoming more like Carrie or Carrie is becoming more like me. It’s sometimes hard to determine which one is which.”
We know Carrie becomes an expert in fashion and the hottest places in Manhattan, even if she may not be so lucky in love. The show did have a rotating cadre of leading men guest starring as Carrie’s temporary boyfriends. The seeds of Carrie’s anxiety may be sown in her high school days, and Robb is feeling it.
“I realize that some of the things that, when I’m reading the script or I’m talking with Amy or the director, I’m like, ‘Okay. Well, this is what I’m struggling with...’ or ‘I don’t think she’d do this’ or ‘I think she should do this.‘ I realize some of the things that I wish Carrie would just calm down about. It’s faults in myself that I see in Carrie, because we’re similar in many ways. I want to calm her down, when really I should just let my own neurotic self come out. So that’s kind of what’s been happening over the course of time. I’m really just feeling it out.”
Of course, everyone is wondering what Sarah Jessica Parker thinks about all this. While Robb has not yet met her in person, Parker got in touch with Robb to offer her good wishes from the original Carrie Bradshaw. “When I landed the role she sent me a very lovely note, just kind of giving me her blessing and encouraging me and telling me how excited she was, and how dear the part was to her. That was huge for me because I was obviously nervous. I was, like, ‘Is this okay?’ And so it just meant a lot to be able to have her blessing. So I sent a thank-you note back.”
The Carrie Diaries got Carrie to the city of New York very quickly. In the premiere episode, she got an internship at a New York law firm. On her first lunch break, Carrie met Interview Magazine editor Larissa Loughton (Freema Agyeman) who took her under her wing. That one day a week Carrie spends in Manhattan, is a window into her future.
As a budding movie star, Robb experienced the city even younger. “The first time I went to Manhattan, I was, I think 10. I was doing press for Because of Winn Dixie and it was fantastic. I thought it was. I remember I stayed at the W Hotel, and I remember I’ve been there since. I think it was for press for this show, and I was just so enamored with the chandeliers. I remember just sitting, not being able to sleep, partly because of the time difference, but sitting at my window and trying to count how many cabs went by. I couldn’t believe that there were so many more cabs than regular cars because I had never seen that before. So I always try to kind of remember that and remember what it was like [that first time]. Every time I arrived at the airport, I remember, I’d always get off the plane and get a soft pretzel. Now, I don’t do that anymore because that would be too fattening.”
The show actually films in New York City, so Robb is living more of a city life than Carrie even is. Carrie has to go home to Castlebury, CT but production is based in New York. “Living there now, I just really appreciate being able to walk everywhere. It’s so convenient, and there’s so much culture. You know, there’s always something going on, I think. I’m living alone for the first time, which is a little bit lonely, but if ever I’m feeling down, you can just walk out on the street, and it sort of envelopes you, and there are things going on. You can just sit at a cafe and hear music being played and people’s conversations. It’s a whole world in itself.”
The Carrie Diaries begins in 1984, and includes all the recognizable accoutrements of ‘80s nostalgia. Carrie talks about President Reagan and drinks Tab cola. Teens of today probably know more about the ‘80s than teens of the ‘80s, with all the retrospective nostalgia associated with that decade.
“I do like the hair,” Robb said. “I actually, all senior year, was thinking about getting a perm because I really wanted curly hair, and then I got this part, and I was, like, ‘I don’t need to get a perm. Now I have curly hair.’ But I love the ’80s. I mean, I think it’s such a romantic time, and there was such an explosion of culture and wild fashion. Sometimes we we may not want to look back upon those days, but it’s fun to bring them back out, all the colors and the art. I just think it’s a really vibrant time, and it’s beautiful. I think our show is really fun to watch just because it’s so visually alluring. I mean, we have fun with the big boom boxes and the music. I mean, we have some Wham in there and The Bangles and Madonna.”
Except for getting her start on an episode of Drake and Josh, The Carrie Diaries is Robbs’ first TV series. It’s certainly her first time appearing in multiple episodes of a TV series, let alone as the lead. A successful actor from films such as Bridge to Terabithia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Soul Surfer, the ongoing nature of television is new to Robb.
“It’s also interesting on a TV show because I don’t know the entire plot for the entire season. I mean, I kind of know where it’s going, but intricate details change from episode to episode. So it’s a growing process. Once I get a new script, it’s looking at what’s on the page and thinking about the past, the past episodes and where I’ve grown from there and how this changes how Carrie develops as a character, and how I react to things and thinking about the series as a whole. So it’s always a constantly evolving process.”
Of course, everyone’s big question will be, when does Carrie meet Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte? Harris tells viewers to be patient, we have plenty of time.
“My whole thing when we first started developing this series was let’s get to know Carrie,” Harris said. “It’s obviously a new actor playing a very iconic role that was so beautifully filled by Sarah Jessica, and I felt like let’s get to know Carrie, see her world really develop, this new world that we’re in. And then, yes, I’ve definitely thought about different ways that we will meet her three other friends, but I really felt like, at least initially, just let people enjoy this new universe, kind of get sucked in. And then hopefully we can have a lot of fun with how they get introduced.”
The Carrie Diaries airs Monday nights at 8pm et/pt on The CW.