Sarah Jessica Parker Opens Up About Business, Family And ‘The Perfect Cosmo’ This Holiday Season
By Jeff Conway
There is no arguing that Sarah Jessica Parker remains television’s ultimate romantic. From her early years of playing Carrie Bradshaw on the Sex and the City series, followed by two movies and now her character’s current chapter unfolding on And Just Like That, Parker and Bradshaw have collectively reigned as pop culture and fashion trendsetting icons over this past quarter of a century.
She is also proving that good taste never truly goes out of style, being a co-founder of Thomas Ashbourne Craft Spirits and with the recent widespread release of her “The Perfect Cosmo by SJP.” I sat down with the longtime actress and business leader to discuss the many dedicated areas of her life today.
Jeff Conway: Sarah Jessica, back in May is when you first announced and launched “The Perfect Cosmo by SJP.” So over these seven months, what have you enjoyed most about seeing this product available to the public today and what are some of the reactions from “Cosmo” tasters that have stayed with you most?
Sarah Jessica Parker: I’ve enjoyed that it appears thus far that we got it right. We worked really hard on it. We actually had a pretty interesting and really informative adventure around the island of Manhattan, not to suggest that a great Cosmo doesn’t exist in all of the other boroughs. On December 9, 2020, you can go back in time and remember that, at least on my part, I had not gone out. I had not seen people. We were just sort of out of that really bleak period in New York, that quiet, uncertain time. We were still in the throws of this pandemic, but people were starting to emerge. I got into a car with my longtime, beloved agent and with some of the members of the Thomas Ashbourne company and we went around New York City from bar-to-bar, which is something I’ve never done in my entire life, to try to sort out and figure out and arrive upon what we all agreed upon was the perfect Cosmopolitan. It felt really decadent.
To get back to your question, I think what’s been so gratifying these last few months is seeing that I think we got it right and it’s been really nice to hear from consumers, most importantly of course, but also people in the trade, in the spirits industry, that they too think whatever we put into that can, we got it right. That’s been really gratifying because I tend to take these endeavors pretty seriously and it matters to me a great deal.
Conway: As you know, the Cosmo drink really became a household name for many due to it being your character Carrie Bradshaw’s often drink of choice, but between your Thomas Ashbourne product today and the long legacy of the Cosmo cocktail, how would you say that the Cosmo creation has perhaps evolved since your early Sex and the City days?
Parker: I think it has staying power – that’s proven to be true and that it is not a drink that is solely ordered by women. I’ve been around and seen and been among men who have enjoyed a Cosmopolitan and aren’t embarrassed to order it, so perhaps that’s something that has changed. It’s a beautiful drink but it shouldn’t be for only one person, so maybe that’s changed is that it’s grown a little bit away from it’s this drink that girls drink when they’re all together.
I think maybe the only other thing I would say is that I didn’t used to drink Cosmopolitans. It took years after the show was off the air for me to order one on my own. I wasn’t really a drinker then. I just hadn’t developed a palette or an understanding and I didn’t have a relationship with a cocktail really, except on-camera. I’ve traveled a lot in my life. I love traveling and I’ve gone to places very, very far away and near and people are good at it (laughs). Bartenders across the globe are very good at a Cosmopolitan, so maybe it’s grown in terms of its reach.
Conway: Sarah Jessica, so many of us admire you from your television, film and stage work over the years, but what would you say you get most out of your other business commitments, like those with Thomas Ashbourne Craft Spirits, that spark a different type of enjoyment and creativity out of you today?
Parker: Ever since I have had an opportunity outside of acting to be involved in other endeavors that were meaningful – I think really the first thing, when I started producing the [Sex and the City] show, which was early on, I came to know very quickly how much I loved that work. I loved the hardest parts of it, I loved the most joyful parts of it and it was probably the gateway to recognizing that there would be other things that weren’t disconnected from that. The next thing would be when I started a fragrance house and started working in the fragrance industry – how creative and exciting and challenging and fulfilling that experience was. That was really a longtime dream to do and what I’ve enjoyed about the things outside of acting have to do with people. They are in pursuit of a thing, but the human part of the experience always is what is the most fulfilling. It’s working with the folks at Thomas Ashbourne, but then also connecting with retailers and making friends at different retail businesses, which I know sounds really corny but it’s true.
So, I think it’s the human part and of course the consumer and having time in my life to go to stores and do public appearances. I have a shoe company, so I’m on the floor of my shoe store and working with customers. For me, it has always come back to the connection with a person, a human being. As an actor, you are not put in front of people a lot. Your work doesn’t require them to be in the room, but when you’re in the retail business, which is sort of what this is to some degree, you have to try to make those connections with people so they understand why you’re doing, what you’re doing and so, that has been the best part of it.
Conway: As you continue to play a character you’ve embodied now for nearly 25 years, what is it about you as an actor today, Sarah Jessica, and Carrie’s storyline now that feels fresh and exciting to you, to want to continue sharing her life’s journey on-screen?
Parker: Well, people’s lives are interesting and they are ever-evolving. It’s very unusual to get to play a person as many years as I have been. We’re about 25 years into this relationship and I’ve had an alternate life and that is highly unusual to play somebody else who is in some ways living in real-time and having experiences that are not uniquely her own – sometimes they are, but for the most part, the experiences that have been written for her are very much a connection to other women and their stories and their lives. What has been interesting to me the entire time is that she feels real. Obviously, the world in which those characters exist is intentionally heightened – the colors are brighter and the city sparkles more than it sometimes really does for those of us who live here every single day.
Carrie has experienced a huge amount and it keeps happening, as we all do, Jeff. You wake up and you have a job to do and then you have another job and you meet people and then you meet somebody and you have romantic love or you don’t or disappointments and it’s all happening as you continue to live your life. They all kind of accumulate and create a kind of scar tissue and that is Carrie and it’s very unusual to be myself, Sarah Jessica, but also have spent a number of years playing this other person. Her husband passed away, how does that change her life? How does that change how she feels about herself, sees herself, how other people see her? What is now out there for her? What is interesting? What’s scary? What’s challenging? How does that change her as a writer? As a friend? As a potential romantic partner? So there’s always something that’s interesting, as there is in everybody’s life.
Conway: After the long acting career you continue to have, have you noticed your approach or your interest in projects changing at this stage of your career and in your life today?
Parker: I guess just time. When I was younger and originally doing the show, we would work 18 hours a day, five days a week, well into Saturdays. I didn’t have kids and I was married but we were both really young and didn’t have responsibilities beyond ourselves, so I think the difference now is I look at work and I think how does this affect my family, not just my children but my mom. I think I look at work – I ask more questions about what it’s going to ask of me and where will it take me and how long will it take me away from children or loved ones or other obligations? I want to say very clearly that’s a pretty fortunate place to be, meaning that I can choose to work when I want to work. I wish for millions and millions and millions of other women, especially mothers in this country and elsewhere, that they too had the kind of freedom I have to make those choices. A lot of those choices and wrapped up first and foremost in my children and I know that is a decades-long issue with working mothers. So, I want to be clear that I am aware when I say to you, my relationship to work has changed based on my family’s needs and I just wish that other women had the same opportunity that I had to make a choice sometimes.
Conway: With the more projects and brands you choose to have a hand in today, how would you say that your mindset towards business has evolved most, since first joining the acting industry as a young professional?
Parker: I think I just have more of a voice. I’m executive producer of the show and have been all these years and the movies and I have a company at HBO, so I certainly feel that I have an authority and a voice and my contributions are important and they’re valued. I think that also means that I’m really thoughtful about others who I think also should have a voice and maybe don’t and promoting people from within because I’ve grown a lot. I think it just has given me confidence to pursue things, work in a way I think is good for everybody. I feel a responsibility to crew. I think it just has given me, with the responsibility, a sense of kind of a principal about the work.
Conway: Sarah Jessica, you have been no stranger to the effects of the lingering Covid-19 pandemic. Your Broadway show Plaza Suite was postponed back in 2020 due to Broadway shutting down for two years. Even though it seems we are not out of the woods with this pandemic, what would you say you are appreciating most as we head into this holiday season and strive for a bit more “normalcy” in our celebrations again?
Parker: I guess I probably do what everybody does. We’re on the [And Just Like That] set every day and there’s hundred of us gathered on a set all the time, so we’re really thoughtful and careful still. We have guidelines by which we live on the set. I kind of look at the holidays now and where we’ve arrived in terms of our public health policies and just the way we all choose to be healthy and remain safe is you kind of have to – the way I look at it is who’s vulnerable? Among the people that I’m going to be spending time with, who’s vulnerable? Who’s compromised in some way? What choices do I make that allow me to be with these people and celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Year’s or whatever it is that these holidays bring and however we choose to celebrate, that allows us to be together. I really try to be thoughtful. My mom is a certain age and she had a couple of health issues and so, we’re all really careful because we don’t want my mom to get sick. So, we as a family choose to test before we get together. We’re trying to make smart choices and yet still be together.
Conway: My last question is what holiday message might you have for your “The Perfect Cosmo” drinkers, And Just Like That fans and more, who continue to champion and vocally support all that you put your mind and energy to today, Sarah Jessica?
Parker: Oh, well gosh! First of all, just gratitude and thank you for being my companion for so many years. I’m deeply touched and that everybody should find someone to be with, if that is how they feel best and comforted and joyful, that they find people to be with for the holidays. I think the greatest thing you could want for somebody is a kind of contentment and being seen and heard – with those you love and those that love you. People say it again and again, like who are the family you’re born into and the family you make? My message is that I hope people are together if they want to be or some people want to for the holidays finally have a moment to themselves, so whatever that is, I wish it for all of them.
Image Zach Scheffer