Most of us know the story of Carrie Bradshaw, candid writer, shoe aficionado and hopeless romantic. "Sex and the City" introduced us to the style icon as a thirty-something singleton in Manhattan, but the HBO show was never too concerned with her past -- her family was mentioned in throwaway lines, and it wasn't until "SatC" creator Candace Bushnell published "The Carrie Diaries" in 2010 that fans got a true glimpse into what the author intended for the character, first introduced in 1997.
Now, The CW has adapted "The Carrie Diaries" into a prequel series, combining what we know of Carrie from the beloved HBO dramedy and Bushnell's books and blending it into a heady cocktail of '80s nostalgia, coming-of-age drama and a surprising amount of heart. Though discrepancies exist between HBO's version of Carrie, her literary self and the new CW precursor (played by AnnaSophia Robb), Bushnell hopes that when fans see "The Carrie Diaries," the continuity niggles won't matter.
"For us it’s about making the best show that we can make," said the author -- who also serves as an executive producer on the series, along with showrunner and "SatC" writer/producer Amy B. Harris -- when HuffPost TV met with her earlier this week. "There are going to be some people where it’s not the show for them ... But I think there will be people who just fall in love with [it]."
Read on for more from Bushnell, including the pluses and minuses of adapting books to TV, and the men in Carrie's life who predate Aidan and Mr. Big.
Mild spoilers for "The Carrie Diaries" premiere ahead.
What was it about Amy's vision and Carrie's story that made you feel like it was the right time to bring the character back to television?
Well, I’ve known Amy for a really long time. I think she’s just incredibly talented. We talked about it and then Amy did an outline and a story outline and all of that. Then when I got the script I just was blown away. For me, I thought a lot about why Carrie is the way she is. There could be two reasons. One is that your parents had a bad marriage. Two is that your parents had a great marriage. My parents had a great marriage. Interestingly, it made it harder for me in relationships because I knew what a good relationship looked like. I have a really good relationship with my father, so I knew when a man who loved his family and loved his wife and loved his children, I knew what that looked like. So then it makes it hard to settle for less. I just love that way of exploring how she became the way that she is.
Was there any hesitation about returning to TV, since "Sex and the City" was so iconic and so well-received?
No. [Laughs.] For me, all of my books have been sold to be TV series or movies. I think "Trading Up" has been sold to be a TV series, a movie. "Lipstick Jungle" was on the air for 20 episodes -- I loved "Lipstick Jungle." There are so many factors that are involved in a TV show and whether or not it even gets picked up to be made into a pilot and then whether the pilot gets picked up. I think my attitude is ... I think it’s realistic. TV is really, really hard. "One Fifth Avenue" there was a script and I think it was close to being picked up for a pilot and it didn’t go. So you just don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a sort of magic that happens that it’s a little bit out of anybody’s control. You can’t force it, so I always hope for the best but I’m also realistic knowing that it can all go pear shaped and it’s great when it doesn’t.
It seems as though you're not too precious about your characters and any changes that need to be made from the book to the screen ...
Yes; TV is a very rigid structure and it’s really all about structure. I mean it’s down to the minute. There are rigid requirements and it’s a different medium. One has to work within that medium and it doesn’t make sense to be precious about it. The other thing is, everybody who’s involved, they know what they’re doing. They’ve done it many, many times before, so I’m always confident.
A few diehard fans of "Sex and the City" are already nitpicking the differences in Carrie's backstory between the original show and "Carrie Diaries" -- how do you feel about that?
You know, I feel like when people watch the show it’s not going to matter. For us it’s about making the best show that we can make. I think that that’s one’s contract with the audience, to make the very best product that you can make. That’s really all you can do. So, there are going to be some people where it’s not the show for them. I mean, there are hundreds of TV shows that they’re not the show for me. But I think there will be people who just fall in love with the show, like everything else. I think the journey is interesting and all of the little details of that journey. It’s story telling. People love stories, so we’re telling stories. Also, she has 20 years to end up with Big. She’s got plenty of time. She has like 25 years to end up with Big. A lot happens in 25 years. [Laughs.]
Can you talk a little about AnnaSophia Robb and what she brings to the role?
She brings a real authenticity and believability. When I watch her, I feel like she is the young Carrie Bradshaw. It doesn’t bump me at all. She is that girl, I mean she is that girl in real life. She’s got lots of girlfriends, she’s very smart. A lot of young actresses don’t end up going to high school, they get a GED because they’re on sets and that sort of thing. I love that she actually went to high school, graduated and has had all of those experiences.
How much are you involved in the show in your role as an executive producer?
I’m not involved in the day-to-day. I don’t go to the set every day. I will read all the scripts, read all the outlines, watch all the cuts, talk to Amy. I talk to the cast, that sort of thing. But I’m a novelist. I actually am always on deadline so that’s really my day job.
Are there any changes from the book that you're particularly pleased with, things that you actually think work better on the screen than what ended up on the page?
Well, in the book, Carrie’s mother had died when she was 12 and then when I saw the pilot I was like, "you know what, maybe I should have had the mother die more recently." It really gives the character someplace to go.
Can you discuss Carrie's relationship with her father, Tom (Matt Letscher) and why that dynamic was so important, both in the book and in the new show?
I think a young woman’s relationship with her father is really important. It’s something that we don’t see explored that much. It really does color how you look at men and how you view relationships in the future. As I said, I had a really good relationship with my father and still do. I felt like I could even talk to him a bit about guys. He would say things like, “That guy’s a mama’s boy. I don’t see you with him.” I would object at first but he would always end up being right. I think it’s something that’s really interesting to explore.
In the original series, Carrie was very much defined by her relationship with her friends, but her romances were also a very central part of who she was as a person. Let's talk a little about the other men we meet in Carrie's formative years, Walt (Brendan Dooling) and Sebastian (Austin Butler) ...
Well, I had my Walt. If you grew up in the ’70s or the ’80s the character of Walt is a classic in a sense because it was very different back then than it is now. [Homosexuality] was something that you really wrestled with and it wasn’t accepted the way that it is today. So there were a lot of young men who were in Walt’s situation of having a girlfriend and just feeling that it wasn’t right. Then Sebastian is somebody who comes in from the outside. In Carrie it’s that longing to explore a world that’s bigger than Castleberry. In a sense, Sebastian is a first step towards that.
"The Carrie Diaries" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.
What did you think of "The Carrie Diaries" premiere -- will you keep watching? Plus, read HuffPost TV's interview with AnnaSophia Robb here.
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