By the time Darren Star was a ripe old 30, he’d already made the TV big-time: His creations Beverly Hills, 90210 and spinoff Melrose Place were hits on then-nascent Fox network. Then came the HBO’s pop-culture phenom Sex And The City. In a new Kindle Singles Interview, Star talks about the actress who would have played Carrie Bradshaw in SATC if Sarah Jessica Parker had turned down the role; the woman originally cast as Samantha; and a few regrets about his misses — and hits.
The writer-creator-producer says he had a backup plan, in case Parker passed on the iconic lead role in Sex And The City. The show “might have gotten made, but it would have gotten made with Lisa Edelstein.” A few years later, Edelstein would begin a seven-year regular gig on Fox’s House, and she now toplines Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce — which, in an interesting twist, some have described as Sex And The City with divorcées.
Star also had a Plan B for Kim Cattrall’s SATC character — actually a Plan A. “There was someone different cast as Samantha,” he said. “I didn’t get a chance to know her — a wonderful woman named Lou Thornton. I don’t know if she’s still an actress anymore. The problem was that she was in her 30s, I think. And it was changing who Samantha was. Samantha was 10 years older than the other girls, a totally different experience.”
And what about SATC’s fairy-tale ending? “I didn’t break those last episodes,” he said. “If you’re empowering other people to write and produce your show… at a certain point, you’ve got to let them follow their vision…But I think the show ultimately betrayed what it was about, which was that women don’t ultimately find happiness from marriage. Not that they can’t. But the show initially was going off script from the romantic comedies that had come before it. That’s what had made women so attached. At the end, it became a conventional romantic comedy…. But unless you’re there to write every episode, you’re not going to get the ending you want.”
As for some of Star’s less-successful projects, it’s not that they lacked star power — at least future-star power. “I remember being asked to fire Amy Adams from the cast of Grosse Pointe in 2000, by the WB Network. “It was her first role, so it wasn’t firing Amy Adams, it was just firing that girl who they didn’t think was funny enough,” Star says. … “But I would say that my initial instincts in hiring Amy Adams were correct.” And those who remember Fox’s mid-2000s series Kitchen Confidential know its star went on to be rather well known. “I had Bradley Cooper,” Star said. “I had to convince the network to hire him. Which they did. But part of the problem was that Gail Berman was running the network and she left after the show was ordered. Whenever you have those power transitions, it never bodes well.”
Meanwhile, his new series Younger — in which Bunheads and Broadway star Sutton Foster plays a 40-year-old single mom who gets a youthful makeover and cons her way back into the job market as an assistant — hasn’t been a breakout in the traditional ratings sense, but the show has been a priority for TV Land and parent Viacom. Can it break out in the new world of television? “Every show I’ve done that’s successful is a second-season hit,” he said. “My big frustration is the shows that didn’t get the chance to live, that got cut off at the knees. Because I know they could have become hits. I’d rather be on a small network doing a show that’s going to get a second season. It’s about people finding it. … The successes I had were unexpected. Whenever you go in expecting something to be successful, you’re wrong. That’s one lesson I’ve learned. The things I thought were going to be sure things weren’t.”