It's been a long time coming—12 years, to be exact—but Sarah Jessica Parker returns to the small screen on Sunday night in HBO's new drama series, Divorce. But Sex and the City fans, take note: Parker's role is the polar opposite of Carrie Bradshaw. In the show, she plays Frances, a corporate recruiter living in (gasp!) the suburbs, who's balancing raising two adolescent kids with an imminent separation with her husband, Robert (Thomas Haden Church).
"There are so many stories about relationships on television, and for the most part they're quite buoyant and happy," Parker said last night during a TimesTalks panel at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Manhattan. "But there is another side to real grown-up relationships, and they're painful and disappointing, and they involve failure and smart people making not-smart choices, and I wanted to explore it."
Below, five things we learned from Parker about Divorce.
1. She was not initially attached to star.
"I was only exploring it [the show] among many things we were developing—not for me to be in it at all. But by the time we met and hired [writer] Sharon [Horgan], I was committed to playing that part, whatever that part became."
2. Her character is nothing like Carrie Bradshaw.
"You will know within the first 37 seconds [of the pilot] that this woman is not Carrie Bradshaw. But that's not why I did it—I did it because she is so human to me. She is so real, and so courageous, and so exhausted, and so smart and filled with a terrifying inertia, but wants things like we all do. She recognizes that there is a life still out there. She says in the pilot, 'I want to save my life while I still care about it.' For me, that is the jumping off point of the whole show. I loved her. I was scared of her; she can be chilly and cold."
3. The novelist John Cheever's stories were a huge inspiration for the show.
"It certainly informed my thinking. I love Cheever."
4. Thomas Haden Church was her first choice to play the role of the husband.
"I did a movie with him a number of years ago called Smart People, and I loved him on Wings and Ned and Stacy ... He has lived up to, and of course succeeded, all of my expectations for him in this role and as a person, frankly. I adore him. He makes me laugh. We have to do take after take because I can't stop laughing. Honestly, sometimes it worries me. I'm afraid I won't be able to stop."
5. All of her clothes on the show were purchased from thrift stores.
"The '70s was a huge influence on me in thinking about this show in prep. And Arjun Bhasin, who's our incredible costume designer, combed thrift stores up and down the eastern seaboard and found all these dresses from the '70s and we rebuilt them for the show."
Watch the trailer for Divorce above, and tune in to HBO for the season premiere on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 10 p.m. ET.