'Sex and the City' writer Candace Bushnell on her new solo show, working in theatre, and the HBOMax reboot
Candace Bushnell calls her new one-woman show Is There Still Sex in the City? Carrie Bradshaw’s origin story. Bushnell created the iconic New York character decades ago as an alterego for her own sex and relationships column, but the character went on to lead an acclaimed television series, a film franchise, a series reboot, and generations of women who identify with her.
“What's striking to me is how much Sex and the City is my life's work, really,” Bushnell says. “And I think that's something that people don't realize: how much of it really comes from the determination, the feminist and independent beliefs of a woman who really refuses to take what society says about women for granted and really pushes back against that. That's what created Sex and the City. So to me, it's wonderful to be able to tell that real story.”
Now, Bushnell is sharing the behind the scenes story in her show, which she also stars in off Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre. New York Theatre Guide chatted with Bushnell about writing for the theatre, playwrights and performers who inspired her, and what she really thinks of the new Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That…
What inspired you to write for the theatre?
I've always wanted to work in the theatre. When I was a little kid, being a playwright was a dream, but it would've been an impossible dream because there are so few women writers on the stage. I mean, there's so few women playwrights, etc. So I mean that would've been probably a very, very difficult path to pursue as a young woman coming to New York. So it was something that I kind of thought, "Well, I'll probably never have that opportunity." It's such a closed business, really, for women. And one of the things that I'm so proud of with Is There Still Sex in the City? is that we have so many women involved.
So I'm really excited and I obviously want to work much more in the theatre. I want to adapt another book, One Fifth Avenue, to the stage, which would make an incredible play. It has a lot of different characters. It's one building. You can really show so much of life and characters, et cetera.
Were there any stories you were particularly nervous or excited to share onstage?
Well, some of the stories from my early years when I first came to New York, those are stories that I haven't told before. And I think really just a lot of the stories of how I created Sex and the City, why I invented Carrie Bradshaw.
It almost feels like kismet that this play is off Broadway at the same time as And Just Like That... is playing on HBOMax.
I was doing this way before they were doing that. So it really kind of fits in with the story that we see on stage, which is the TV version comes after the real life version. So the TV version's a couple years after the real life version. It's like, "Oh, I wonder where they got that idea?"
Do you still feel like the new TV version is reflective of your life?
No, I think it's reflective of Michael Patrick King. He did two movies. I think it's very much in the vein of the second movie and very much in the vein of his other work, Two Broke Girls, which was on CBS and ran for six years and is syndicated. He's made a bucket full of money from that, for sure. So it's very much Michael Patrick King's vein. So my work is Is There Still Sex in the City? It's the book. I'm going to work on it being a TV show. So I do my work.
This is your first time performing onstage.
It's my first time performing and getting paid. So I guess I'm a professional now.
Definitely! Did you do any preparation to get ready for this?
I did some acting work with an acting coach. There was something profound about this whole process, something profoundly eye opening in terms of just looking at things from a different perspective. And it's also very physical. I also had a voice coach. I had a couple of sessions with a voice coach, who was amazing. And there's also something that's very personal. You do have to kind of reach down and find what do you really mean?
They say, "Say what you mean and mean what you say," which is probably the opposite of what most people do these days, especially with the internet, where everything is constructed for the public. But with the acting, that was really what they taught me. And it makes you think. It really does. It’s just been a really interesting experience because I mean I'm like everybody else. I'm not a performer, so I never thought about those things, but it's really opened my mind.
Were there any writers or performers who inspired you?
Well, I was definitely inspired by [Heidi Schreck in] What the Constitution Means to Me, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, and also Elaine Stritch did her one woman show. And Hannah Gadsby. It's like wow, you really can say these incredible truthful things on stage. And those are shows that just really had an impact on me. I watched Hannah Gadsby quite a bit because she's brilliant. So I definitely was inspired and also got courage from seeing their shows like, okay, somebody can do this. You can push a bit. Yeah. So I was really inspired by other women.