'The Carrie Diaries' Has Sarah Jessica Parker's Approval

The producers and cast explain the through line between the new CW series and HBO's "Sex and the City."

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Sarah Jessica Parker has given The Carrie Diaries her blessing.

The new drama, which premieres Monday night at 8PM on The CW, tells the story of 16-year-old Carrie Bradshaw – before she was living in Manhattan, drinking cosmos and chasing Mr. Big. When AnnaSophia Robb landed the role of the younger Carrie, Parker, who immortalized the iconic character on HBO’s Sex and the City, congratulated her.

“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, and so that was huge for me because, you know, I was obviously nervous. I was, like, ‘Is this OK?’” Robb said during the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. on Sunday.

Amy B. Harris, who is an executive producer on The Carrie Diaries, was a producer on Sex and the City and talked to Parker before she even took the project.

“I wanted to be sure she was OK with it. And she was so generous and magnanimous and said, ‘I’m so happy it’s you carrying the torch,’ because we had worked together for so long on the series. She’s just been unbelievably supportive,” Harris said.

Robb can relate to Carrie’s feelings the first time she sees Manhattan. The Denver native first came to New York City when she was 10 to promote the film Because of Winn-Dixie. “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. And 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.”

Candace Bushnell, who wrote the books both Sex and the City and The Carrie Diaries are based on, thinks Robb is the perfect Carrie. “I love that AnnaSophia went to high school and had the real high school experiences," Bushnell said.

"And I think she really brings that to the character. In a sense, she’s living Carrie Bradshaw because she’s living in the city for the first time and, in a sense, is experiencing everything that Carrie is actually experiencing. So. I think it brings a real authenticity to the part.”

The show, which films in New York, is set in 1984, but don’t look for a jokey version of the decade that brought us parachute pants and gigantic shoulder pads. The producers aim for “aspirational authenticity.”

Most of the actors who play the teens on the series were born after the 80s and for the show’s producers that fact has been a little humbling. “I have never felt so old in my entire life,” Harris said. “I think of myself as, sort of, cool and normal, and then I sometimes literally see blank faces when I’m explaining a Rubik’s Cube or a Cabbage Patch Kid.”

“Yeah, you feel like you are doing Downton Abbey sometimes,” executive producer Josh Schwartz joked.

Other highlights from the panel:

  • Even though Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte are introduced in Bushnell’s books, it will be a while until viewers get to meet them. “My whole thing when we first started developing this series was let’s get to know Carrie,” Harris said. “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.”
  • When the series begins, Carrie is the only one of her female friends who is still a virgin. Losing her virginity is going to be a big deal. “We’ve definitely been talking about it a lot because that’s obviously a first that means a lot to everybody,” Harris said. “Whether it’s because you did it in the back of a car or you made it a romantic experience. It shapes you. And we’ve been talking about it a lot, but we haven’t nailed it down yet. We are still trying to figure that out."
  • Carrie’s mother has died a few months before the series premiere. “That really, to me, perfectly explained why she’s so damaged. And I think, you know, when you lose a parent, the fear and the abandonment that you come to every relationship with is so tremendous,” Harris said.
-- Amy Amatangelo

Does The Carrie Diaries make you want to catch up on Sex and the City? Tell us in the comments section below.

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