6 Insights From the Divorce Cast at the Paley Center
By Marissa Blanchard
In a panel moderated by The New Yorker’s Susan Morrison, the cast — Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Molly Shannon, Talia Balsam, and Tracy Letts — discussed the complex marriages and friendships on the show.
Divorce is hard for everyone.
“The more complicated, challenging and brutal it was, the more interested we were in trying to sort it out on screen,” said Sarah Jessica Parker (Frances DuFresne). “That’s what drew us to this story — this attempt at marriage and divorce. What does that mean when people aren’t good at it?”
“Going into Season 2, it’s “Divorce College.” It’s freshman year, and freshman year is just the worst,” explained Thomas Haden Church (Robert DuFresne). “We used to have a very set system of communication about our lives, our romance, our children, our friends — that all gets chucked when you move out, and you’re on your own as an individual because you used to be a unit.”
Not everyone should be married.
“You just don’t know why some people make it and others don’t. I think it’s brave when people uncouple when it’s truly not meant to be,” Molly Shannon (Diane Clavowen) said. “When people do struggle in marriages they feel alone, and sometimes you don’t want to tell your friends. I feel proud to play a character who’s in a crazy marriage, but I think people relate.”
Morrison pointed out that Nick and Diane’s marriage is “bonkers,” but they somehow make it work. “I think the show makes it evident that most people shouldn’t be married,” offered Tracy Letts (Nick Clavowen). “Don’t we all think most people shouldn’t be married? I think we’ve attached a negative connotation to the word when really some people should be apart.”
Parker was inspired by 1970s music and films.
“Before we started shooting the pilot, I thought that Sharon [Horgan] wrote such a beautiful script and there were things that reminded me of ‘70s cinema,” revealed Parker. “That music was the soundtrack to these characters’ first loves, biggest mistakes, embarrassments and milestones. Cinematically I was really excited about finding a way to pay homage to that time.”
The women are there for each other.
“I think it shifts from the first season,” Talia Balsam (Dallas Holt) said. “We were sort of an odd threesome, which was really interesting. As we move on in our lives, we can be there for each other more.”
In reading the scripts, added Shannon, she thought her character was more connected to Frances than her husband, Nick. “People make such a big deal about romances and not as big a deal of friendships, but they should –– because friendships are the richness of life,” said Shannon. “These girls rely on each other more than they did in the first season. The first season, I always felt like my character was a bad friend and so selfish.”
Balsam and Parker concurred. “They didn’t meeting in college, when you’re younger and you’re evolving together,” said Parker. “There’s a tension that exists because we have ideas and principles and our own lives — they are in conflict sometimes.”
The pilot changed in a major way.
Morrison addressed how opening a series with a shooting was a risky choice, but Parker said, “There wasn’t a pause about it.”
“And I died,” Letts added bluntly, causing the audience to burst into laughter. “She [Diane] shot a gun, and I had a heart attack and I died. Then they changed their mind and brought me back to life.” Parker noted that they had to reshoot scenes to incorporate the plot change.
We found out, why Hastings?
“It’s very cinematic, sitting on the Hudson River, especially when shooting in winter,” said Parker, who also serves as an executive producer. “The city sits in the distance sort of beckoning the ideas and hopes that Frances had — there’s something very real about it.”
Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Robert (Thomas Haden Church) are officially divorced and ready to begin their new — single — lives in this biting comedy from creator Sharon Horgan.