By Cristina Cuomo
Sarah Jessica Parker is always my favorite celebrity to interview—and I have had the pleasure of interviewing her for a half-dozen cover stories—because she speaks truth to power. The disciplined actress, who began a long acting career debuting on Broadway at age 11, stars in and produces HBO’s comedic drama Divorce (the third season is out this month), holding court alongside Thomas Haden Church and Molly Shannon.
Beyond the set, the Amagansett girl has always been curious about the world and giving back to it. She shares her book-smart findings through an imprint with Crown Publishing Group, SJP for Hogarth; and a partnership with American Library Association: Book Club Central, an online platform that provides reading resources, recommendations, expert-curated book lists and other content for book clubs and readers. She also lends her name and support to countless causes in NYC, where she also owns a home, like her initiative to raise money for Opening Act free theatre programs for high-need New York City public school kids (omaze.com/sjp).
Then there are her businesses reflecting her long-standing fashion icon status—an SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker shoe collection with stores in NYC and others opening nationwide, and a new ready-to-wear line, SJP Collection, starting with a “little black dress”—that have had a butterfly effect of success.
Parker also recently ventured into a partnership with New Zealand-based Invivo wines to blend and create an eponymous wine collection, starting with a sauvignon blanc this summer.
But her favorite work is that as mother of three—twin 10-year-old girls and a 16-year-old son—whom she shares with husband, actor Matthew Broderick. On the day her online SJP Collection went live, we chatted about the growing empire, family included, of SJP, Inc.
CRISTINA CUOMO: First of all, I love your show, it’s hilarious. And that’s such a difficult topic to find comedy in. But somehow you all manage to do that. So right off the bat, what do you think are some of the most important points made in Divorce ?
SARAH JESSICA PARKER: I guess one of the points we were curious about exploring is how so many of us are ill-equipped to kind of walk through the process of divorce. Most of us don’t do it a lot. It’s spoken of so much, people are casual about it, but the exercise is painful and so even people who are smart and organized and well-meaning can discover they’re really bad at divorce. That’s what we wanted to explore the first season, and then how you adjust to it.
CC: And season 3 feels like a new era for all the characters. What can we expect or look forward to from your character, Frances?
SJP: This is a season where she thinks she’s much closer to what she hoped for, and despite it not being perfect or ideal or even pretty, she’s enjoying it; she’s less troubled by what isn’t working and less exacting about results. Her relationship with her children is much better. Her kids aren’t nearly as grumpy constantly—they’re willing to show affection for her and not hold her as responsible as they had been for the dissolution of the marriage. Everybody seems to be at a more joyful point in their lives.
CC: You have personally succeeded in maintaining a long, healthy marriage. What is that one piece of advice you’d pass along to someone newly married?
SJP: For me, the answer is keeping our marriage ours and not being super public about it, so that it feels not at all like a product, but it’s our own organism that is still somehow private in a way. It also helps that I’m really just fond of him; I’m always proud of the kind of work that he chooses to do and the challenges he keeps freakin’ putting himself through. And he’s such a diligent, professional person, so I’m also admiring of him, and I think that’s really nice to feel 27 years in.
CC: So you’re quite an entrepreneur, creating all of these dynamic brands, like your shoe collection. Now you’re launching into wine, with a collaboration with Invivo Wines. What made you want to do that?
SJP: It wasn’t something that I’d imagined I’d ever get to do, but some folks reached out to me and there were lots of phone conversations and sort of a courtship, and I met with them. We are wine drinkers, but I never imagined I’d be in the business of it. I didn’t realize that we had been buying their wine in Ireland for a while now. So it was kind of fortuitous and I love the process. We just finished the blending in May.
CC: Do you prefer red, white or rosé?
SJP: I tend to drink a lot more white. Except not in the winter—when we’re cooking lamb stew and stuff like that, we’ll probably have red. I prefer white, typically, but you know, if someone offered me a nice glass of red wine, I’m not gonna turn it down.
CC: You told me once, one of your favorite things to do on the weekend when you’re out in Amagansett is to have your whole family over.
SJP: Yeah, we cook a lot. While we cook during the school year, in the summer it’s so much easier for us to have dinner together, and we have so many friends that live around and near us and sometimes with us, so we cook three meals a day out here. I don’t know why it feels easier out East, but it’s more about salad and vegetables and fresh fish. All of our friends are really good cooks, and everyone always pitches in. We trade homes so the burden is not always on us, but we definitely like to host.
CC: You come from a big family. You have your own three kids now. What’s the most challenging part of being a working mom?
SJP: There are a lot of challenges, but I always like to preface any conversations about the challenges I experience as a working mother by saying that it’s no great wonder that I manage to do all the things I want to do outside the home, because I have all the support I need. I work really hard, and it doesn’t always fit my family schedule; I have missed a concert this year that I was devastated to miss. But those challenges that I face are much more about the choices that I’m making. More often than not, I’m able to say, “I have a parent-teacher conference” or “My daughter has her play that day,” and I can usually work around that. So my challenges really feel rather inconsequential when compared to the challenges of most working parents in this country.
CC: You just launched your online store. Congratulations.
SJP: Thank you, we were so excited. We were flying all weekend. Our plane was delayed when we were leaving Minneapolis, so we got to watch the actual website as customers were just logging on, and the map, and where people were from, it was fun and really exciting. We’ve been waiting a long time, and have been very thoughtful about when we could do this, when we could afford to do this, and the investment it’s demanded. So it’s been a great couple days.
CC: You went from shoes to womens’ wear.
SJP: A little. We just have one little dress.
CC: And everyone’s going to have to own that one dress, and then you’re going to have to make another dress.
SJP: Well, maybe one day. It’s a lot, and we want to make our clothes in America, and as you know, it’s hard to do here if you’re a small business. We have a really exciting collaboration which I can’t talk about yet. So we’re looking forward to that next thing. But for now we just have that little dress.
CC: And your online store features a book section. Tell me about SJP for Hogarth.
SJP: Hogarth is an imprint inside Crown-Penguin Random House. A few years ago I met the then-publisher of Crown, Molly Stern, who was also publisher for Hogarth. And after a series of conversations, they came to me and asked if I wanted to have an imprint. I chose to do it inside of Hogarth, because I love the history of that imprint. It was started by Virginia Woolf and her husband. They literally published by hand all the books in Richmond, right outside of London. A U.K. company had recently resurrected it. and then Crown partnered with them in the U.S., and they were just publishing books that I loved. So I started an imprint with Hogarth, and we’ve published three books. It’s been an extraordinary experience.
The first manuscript that I acquired was a book called A Place for Us by a young woman named Fatima Farheen Mirza. It’s an incredible, sweeping story of a Muslim-American family, but really about an American family and all its plurality. It was a great success, and debuted on the New York Times best-seller list; it’s in its eighth or ninth printing now. And then we published Golden Child by Claire Adam. a story about a family in Trinidad and Tobago—heartbreaking, very real tale. The most recent book that we published, just a couple months ago, is a collection of short stories called Dawn from a gentleman named Selahattin Demirtas. He’s the Kurdish opposition leader in Turkey and he’s been in prison since 2016. He wrote these stories in prison, and published them in Turkey. They sold I think about 200,000 copies within the first two weeks, and then I published them here. They’re extraordinary and funny and heart-wrenching.
CC: What books are on your summer reading list?
SJP: Right now I’m reading The Queen, about a woman in Chicago who was dubbed “the welfare queen” in the ’70s, right up into Reagan’s run for president. And I’m very excited to read George Packer’s book, Our Man.
CC: Reading is such a key part of wellness—pausing and putting your phone down and exercising your mind.
SJP: It’s the best. It’s the least controversial thing I can ever talk about on social media. It’s an area that is neutral. It doesn’t provoke vulgarity and a lot of fighting. You’re totally right—books should be thought of as the gateway to wellness. Reading is restorative, it’s restful, it’s private, you can do it anywhere. You know, 10 minutes in a book sometimes feels like a year away.
CC: What is one thing you do every day to stay mindful? Do you meditate, do you take a nap?
SJP: Oh my god, I wish. Well, I’m always up before the kids and everyone else. And I read a proverb. I’m delivered one every morning. I signed up years ago, and it’s from a nondenominational church. It’s not someplace that I attend, but I read one every day; I try to read it before anything else. Sometimes it penetrates, and sometimes it’s just kind of on the surface somewhere. Sometimes it’s deeply meaningful and stunning how appropriate it is. And sometimes it’s just something interesting to think about for a moment.
CC: Do you have a favorite one?
SJP: I don’t, but the other thing is, I try to read on the subway, and I can’t always say that I do it at a certain time but I always find a time to read.
CC: How do you take the subway without people haranguing you?
SJP: People always say hello and want to chat. I did discover, I was late to this, that headphones do a lot of the work, because people just assume you’re listening to something.
CC: You can’t wear earbuds, you have to wear big headphones.
SJP: Yeah, I wear Beats over the ears. I love them, and I really do wear them all the time, I usually listen to a lot of podcasts. But I’m happy to say hello to people. I’m not great at selfies, so I try to dissuade that from happening. But I will do one if you’re willing to give me money for the American Library Association—I try to send them money every month. I will do a selfie if you give me cash. And people do it.
CC: They send it themselves?
SJP: No, they give me money. They give me cash. I only accept cash.
CC: That’s hilarious, I love that. Good for you.
SJP: Yeah, so sometimes people will approach me on the street and say “I have my money ready right now” because they know. And they’ll give me two quarters, they’ll give me 20 bucks. A man at a restaurant recently handed me a $100 donation for the American Library Association. So I will do it for that reason.
CC: That’s great. What is something that you have to eat or drink every day?
SJP: We have a babysitter who’s been with us since the twins were infants. She’s created this amazing juice that we call “Rain Juice” because her name is Rain. She makes it with pineapple and crazy amounts of fresh ginger. My daughter and I drink it every day.
CC: Fashion must-haves this summer.
SJP: I don’t know what anyone else must have, but I’ve had the same must-have bathing suit for I don’t know how many years, the Malia Mills bathing suit called The Beach Party. It’s very simple. It looks like a leotard from 1970. It’s the most perfect bathing suit maybe ever.
CC: If you could change something about America, what would it be?
SJP: I really wish the Equal Rights Amendment had passed. And I say that as a woman, but also as someone who thinks that it speaks more now to a larger population—not just women but a lot of voices that need advocacy, and could use representation equality in the workplace. I would like to see that be spoken of again. It’s time.