By Kevin Sessums
Sarah Jessica Parker loves politics. As we wait for our lunch to arrive at her favorite Greenwich Village bistro, a few blocks from the townhouse she shares with her husband, Matthew Broderick, and their 5-year-old son, James Wilkie, she expounds at length on the Presidential campaign.
"I just hope we can focus on how we are all Americans no matter what our specific political beliefs are," she says, digging into her fava bean salad. "I truly believe that if you got a group of liberal mothers in a room with a group of conservative mothers, we would have the same concerns about our children and health care and education and how best to bring our troops home from Iraq and how to pay our bills. I hope we don't lose sight of that."
Though Parker, who got her first acting job at the age of 8, will no doubt be described as pert when she's pushing, say, 70, there is now, at age 43, a newfound maturity about her. Maybe it's due to her settled romantic life, having shared it with Broderick for the last 16 years. Maybe it's because of her success at running two businesses (her clothing line and her HBO production company) as well as overseeing three fragrances. Or maybe — like her Carrie Bradshaw character in the iconic television series "Sex and the City" and now in its movie version, opening May 30, which she produced — she has come to accept the fact that it's about time she grew up.
"Carrie and Charlotte and Miranda and Samantha aren't young anymore," Parker says of the four lead characters in the film. "Their lives are much less frivolous. They can't cope with their problems by putting on their sweats and staying up all night and ordering in food and gossiping about the men in their lives. There is less self-absorption but perhaps a little more self-awareness."
downlevel descriptionThis video requires the Adobe® Flash® Player. Download a free version of the player.
Parker, however, has never been comfortable with too much self-examination. She never watches the dailies of the films she makes. She never reads her reviews. Never looks at pictures from a photo shoot. She tried going to a shrink once but says "it was not really a committed relationship. It was not for a long period of time. I'd be on the subway on the way there, and I'd panic that I wouldn't have anything to talk about. There may come a time when I'm ready to be that introspective about myself, but not right now. Nope nope nope."
I give it a try anyway. Which description of herself would she prefer: the young Audrey Hepburn, a Mary Tyler Moore for the new millennium or just James Wilkie's mother?
"Oh, please. That's easy," she answers. "James Wilkie's mother. But there's nothing 'just' about it. What's hard about being a parent changes constantly. But that's my first job — of my many jobs. That's what's most important to me."
James Wilkie is, in fact, the only subject that Parker loves to talk about more than politics. Parker's own early childhood was an economically impoverished one. She also was one of eight siblings.
"I was really lucky," she says. "I think that if I had been raised a child of privilege, I wouldn't be the working person I am today. I have a great appreciation for work. I think it's incumbent on my husband and me to really stress and to show James Wilkie by example what it means to owe your community something and that he is not entitled to the benefits of our hard work. That doesn't mean that I'm withholding or keeping from him the joys of childhood. I'm not Joan Crawford. But I also don't want him to think the world he lives in is the real world. It's not."
"I guess one thing he'll never have to worry about is having to wear hand-me-downs like you did," I say.
"Oh, no. He only wears hand-me-downs because I've got all these older nephews," Parker insists. "That's the God's honest truth. Plus, my mother saved all my brothers' clothes. I am not kidding. I don't think I've ever bought him any clothes. Maybe a new winter coat. I do buy him shoes, because everybody's feet are different."
Who's the stricter parent, she or her husband? "I am," she says. "Does it surprise anybody that I would be? It's not that Matthew spoils him, but he just has a different way of parenting than I do. I was never spoiled. Oh, dear no. I was the baby of the family only for a wee time, and I was lucky to get any attention, let alone be spoiled. A few years ago, I found all our baby books. My two older brothers' baby books were filled with pictures. Then we found mine, and it only had my name written in it. There was nothing else in there. Not one picture. So there you have it. I've been starved for attention ever since."
But enough about her. She blushes (oops: self-examination) and turns her attention back to her son. "I'm his primary caregiver," Parker says. "I put him to bed every night. I get him dressed. I'm the one who gives him his toothbrush. I take him to school every morning. He's very small, but his personality is 6 feet 4. I'm spending the whole summer with him out at our beach house."
Does she see herself sitting in a rocking chair next to Broderick in 30 years at that same beach house?
"I don't see any way out of it for him," she jokes. "Poor fellow. But my son is so in love with his father. He really worships him, and that changes the way you see somebody and deepens it. The only thing he may love almost as much as his father are Legos and Star Wars and the cast recording of The Full Monty."
Parker's father is Jewish, and Broderick's mother was also. They each consider themselves cultural Jews and are raising their son in the same tradition. Which means?
"Well, your worldview is one of a Jew. You feel persecuted," she half-jokes, her laughter filled with the rueful irony that is so identified with Carrie Bradshaw. "And you certainly recognize persecution when it's happening to others. You have a lot of empathy. It's bagels. It's whitefish salad. But we also have a babysitter who is a devout, devout Catholic from Brazil, and she's had some influence on him as well. She says prayers with him. I say prayers with him too every night."
When her son gets old enough to start thinking for himself and tells her he wants to go to a house of worship, will she take him to a synagogue? "Oh, heavens. He'll probably end up a Unitarian," she says. "I go to an Episcopal church on Easter to hear the music. I think that's rather glorious. Matthew's sister is an Episcopal priest. And his other sister is a shrink. So James Wilkie's got it covered on that side of the family."
With all this talk of motherhood, I'm curious if Carrie Bradshaw, who finally marries "Mr. Big" in the movie version of Sex and the City, could possibly be pregnant. "Oh, I can't tell you that," Parker says coyly. I certainly hope she is pregnant. It would be great fun to watch Bradshaw in yet a second film of Sex and the City as she discovers — Manolo Blahniks and all — that her own most important role is a maternal one, just like Sarah Jessica Parker.
Also on PARADE:
latest movie news