‘Sex and the City’: How the HBO Hit Series Almost Never Happened

Sarah Jessica Parker talks sexist show rumors, why she never went nude, and why she almost quit

October 18, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

Fans flocked to watch Sarah Jessica Parker on “Sex and the City” for six seasons on HBO (as well as in two major motion pictures), but the iconic series almost lost its star very early on in production. Howard talked to Sarah Jessica on Tuesday’s Stern Show about the second thoughts she had about taking a role on TV.

“I shot the pilot and then I panicked,” she said. Sarah Jessica explained to Howard how, at the time, signing up for “Sex and the City” seemed like it could lock her in to TV and prevent her from taking a part in a play or a movie.

“In my head, it was just the same thing over and over again,” Sarah Jessica continued. “It felt like somebody had put me in a straightjacket.”

A few factors changed her mind. She recalled being stopped on the street by a woman who had somehow gotten her hands on a copy of the unaired pilot of “SATC” and told Sarah Jessica how much she enjoyed it – at the time, Sarah Jessica still hadn’t seen the pilot episode. The network also calmed her fears by assuring her HBO offered much more freedom than traditional TV outlets. Her husband Matthew Broderick, her brother Pippin, and her longtime agent Kevin Huvane also weighed in and urged her to stick with “Sex and the City.” Finally, it came down to her realizing there was something special here.

“It was the last moment of that script,” Sarah Jessica told Howard. The final scene ends with her character Carrie asking Mr. Big (played by Chris Noth) if he had ever been in love. His response: “Abso-fucking-lutely.”

“I was like, oh, there’s a story here. There’s an amazing story to be told,” Sarah Jessica said. She was officially onboard for the long haul and said on Tuesday she has nothing but fond memories of working on the show.

“I walked to the set that morning and we’re doing a scene in a dressing room and I never looked back,” she said. “There wasn’t a single day on that set that I didn’t want to be there – not one single day. I loved it.”

The press painted a different story of the “Sex and the City” set, however. Sarah Jessica and her co-stars were always rumored to be feuding with one another.

“It used to really confound me and really upset me,” she said while explaining those stories were completely untrue. Sarah Jessica also brought up an underlying double standard in those types of news items, considering the cast of “The Sopranos,” HBO’s other hit series at the time, were never asked some of the things the women on “Sex and the City” were asked.

“Nobody ever questioned the relationships of the men [on ‘The Sopranos’] and no one ever said to them ‘Did you hang out this weekend with each other? Did you give each other Christmas presents?” Sarah Jessica said. “This sort of narrative, this ongoing catfight … it really upset me for a very long time.”

“I have a work ethic that’s very meaningful to me,” she continued. “To suggest that I’m behaving poorly or not treating somebody well is like … it’s so anathema that it would drive me bananas.”

Howard also asked Sarah Jessica about not doing any on-camera nudity while shooting “Sex and the City.”

“I just said I wasn’t going to do it,” she explained. Her co-stars, however, did disrobe from time to time on the series.

“They all talked about it every single time. Every time there was anything in the script, everybody talked about their level of comfort with it. And so people only did what was comfortable to them,” Sarah Jessica explained.

For her, not being nude had nothing to do with moral objection or a principle she was trying to stay true to. It simply didn’t feel right.

“I think it’s great if somebody feels comfortable with nudity. I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “I didn’t think it was necessary for the part, either. It never felt like, shoot, I wish I was comfortable being nude right now.”

Watch Sarah Jessica Parker on “Divorce” Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on HBO. See a clip from this Sunday’s episode (below).