Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

After 12 years, Sarah Jessica Parker will return to HBO as a New Yorker going through the challenges of divorce — but this isn’t a Sex and the City continuation and she’s not playing Carrie Bradshaw.

Set in Westchester, N.Y., Parker stars in Divorce as Frances, who, after more than a decade of marriage and two children, begins to reassess her life and her strained relationship with her husband (Thomas Haden Church). But she soon discovers that making a clean break and a fresh start is harder than she thought.

Though this marks Parker’s return to HBO after her Emmy-winning role on Sex and the City, Frances is not a carbon copy of Carrie. “Frances was her own person,” Parker told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Saturday. “From the moment I read the pilot, she was so distinct from not only Carrie, but any character I’ve ever played. I don’t think that we actually talked a lot about trying to make her different. This story is different. I was always interested in the story of marriage. That’s how this all started. By virtue of just that interest alone, it was automatically different.”

Still, Parker, an executive producer on the series alongside Paul Simms and creator Sharon Horgan, recognized there could be similarities to Sex even in subtle ways. “The only time we really were cognizant of distinction was when we started talking about the wardrobe, understanding there was an obvious connection between a skeleton and clothing,” she said. “I feel like there were tropes that we were mindful of, but nothing to do with the storytelling. That’s because of the skill of these writers.”

With that said, the wardrobe on Divorce was still very important to Parker — just in a different way. “I really wanted to think about ’70s cinema,” Parker said. “Pretty much everything Frances wears is used, whether it’s from Etsy, vintage, or thrift shops along the northeast corridor. It’s a very specific idea about somebody who has an aesthetic that will be revealed more over the course of the season, but fashion doesn’t dictate. For the most part, it’s required by law when you walk into your place of work to be dressed. Everything is utilitarian in a way. It’s not another character, it’s the whole person in a much more subtle way. The family is isolated in a period without it being a period piece.”

Even though it’s been more than a decade since Parker had a series regular gig, the actress said it was relatively easy to slip back into grind of television. “I think it’s not unlike other things that you’ve spent a lot of times doing that you’ve enjoyed,” Parker said. “It’s a muscle slightly atrophied and you have to remind it of the routine. The day to day was really familiar. Just the first season of a television show — just figuring out the language that we all wanted to use to communicate, figuring out the tone — those kinds of challenges were new, but expected. It just reminded me frankly of how much I love TV. I love the process, the schedule, the speed, the urgency, how important every detail is, how little time you have to sort it out and try to get it right. It didn’t take long to feel natural again and very much where I wanted to be, with these people in particular.”

The 10-episode first season debuts Sunday, Oct. 9 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.

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