Darren Star Reflects Back on Sex and the City
By Marissa Blanchard
Sex and the City has never gone out of style — 20 years later, we’re still quoting the show, which was based on Candace Bushnell’s columns for the New York Observer. Darren Star understands. Here, the series creator looks back at how New York City inspired him, and the memories he continues to cherish.
It was meant to be frank — and female first.
The show’s edginess was revolutionary for its time and Star explains it was something he strove for. “I wanted to do a show that felt more like an independent film made for TV — R-rated and adult, very frank and honest about sexual relationships,” he says. “It was the first time I had the opportunity to write something so close to my own experience and the people I knew.”
Furthermore, Star wanted to it be about the female experience. “From the beginning I wanted it to be a show about independent women who were not looking to define themselves by a man,” he says. “They are women who are career oriented, sexually free, and always about putting themselves and their friendship with each other first.” Star credits the series’ writers for what they carried off: “It’s about creating strong characters, and then, once established, channeling those characters,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s about finding points of vulnerability and having empathy for the characters you’re writing about.”
There’s a reason why Carrie kept asking questions.
“Carrie is a combination, in a way, of all of them,” Star reveals. “She views her friends like sounding boards. Each episode was centered around a question, which led to a theme that resonated through all the women’s stories, especially Carrie’s. I wanted each of these women to have defined points of view so when she was exploring questions for her column, she could talk to her friends and they would represent different perspectives.”
It had to be in New York.
What would the show be without the titular “city”? For Star, there’s a reason why New York takes such a starring role. “The show is glossy, but there’s something at the core that represents New York in that moment,” the creator states. “The city is always a variation of the same — the experience of living here doesn’t change. It’s both a challenging place to live and an incredibly rewarding place to live. That equation of challenge versus reward is always present and it informs the lives of the characters. They chose to live here — the city is always in your face and a part of your world and daily experience for better or for worse.”
“You can’t duplicate the texture of the city anywhere else,” continues Star. “With every point to camera you see something beautiful and unique and you are always getting the essence of the city. I would always have locations in mind while writing. We filmed in a lot of iconic landmarks, but there is something really beautiful when Carrie wishes Big well with his wedding outside the Plaza. It’s such a classic, iconic New York spot.”
It taught us sunny days can turn cloudy.
While he doesn’t have a favorite episode, Star does remember filming one in particular: “I remember writing and directing the episode in the Hamptons [Season 2, Episode 17 “Twenty-Something Girls vs Thirty-Something Women”] because it had the beach, blue sky and then this gut-punch ending. The emotions came in such a driving way. And that’s life — even when you are having the most fun, you can get sucker punched.”
Every generation connects in its own way.
Star understands why audiences continue to connect with the show: “It’s a time capsule because New York is such an important part of the show, but it also continues to connect to a new audience because all of the questions Carrie explores are timeless. They’re relevant to every generation.”
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