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Being a major character in a prequel to the Emmy Award-winning TV series Sex and the City, which was also adapted into two films, is a big deal. AnnaSophia Robb, cast as Carrie Bradshaw, and Switched at Birth’s Austin Butler, who plays her teenage crush Sebastian Kydd in The Carrie Diaries, share a few thoughts on the teen drama, writes Debashine Thangevelo.
CRITICS have queried the merits of a prequel to Sex and the City. Trying to mirror the success of the cult series would be difficult, that much was a given.
But with Sex and the City’s producer, Amy Harris, on board as well as author Candace Bushnell as a the co-executive producer, it wasn’t much of a gamble.
Casting 19-year-old AnnaSophia Robb as a young Carrie Bradshaw was a big plus for the series.
With most of her plaudits in film (Because of Winn-Dixie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bridge to Terabitha, Race to Witch Mountain), Robb brings a freshness to her character by exploring Carrie’s youthful naïveté, her hunger to become more worldly while navigating her way through high school, puppy love and all those niggling teen problems.
On the throwback Eighties storyline, Robb reveals: “(I’ve been) watching a lot of John Hughes’s films and listening to Eighties music. It’s a fun period. I mean, it’s so expressive and I feel like it’s kind of a very fearless time in fashion, music and art. And it’s fun to try to recreate that. It’s very square. But it’s fun to play that time frame and it’s great to know the background because they’re dressed very period, very authentic costumes and hair and make-up.”
As for the pressure of slipping into the younger shoes of a character popularised by Sarah Jessica Parker, she says: “This is a new Carrie from before Sex and the City and before she became a fashion icon.
“I watched the show to kind of see my end point, where I am building up to, and then certain mannerisms.”
And it did help getting validation for her depiction from Harris, the creator.
Robb shares: “She worked on all the seasons of Sex and the City and she’s close to Sarah Jessica. She’s like: ‘I don’t want you to try to do that performance at all. We want you to be you, that’s why we hired you’, which is wonderful.”
Interestingly, the now-collapsed twin towers of the World Trade Center have been incorporated into the storyline to lend authenticity to the story.
She elaborated: “We try, I mean, New York City will be shown more throughout the season because Carrie will be delving deeper and deeper into the world of Manhattan and her internship. She eventually gets an internship at Inner View so she will be hanging out more with that crowd. So it’s 50/50.”
As is par for the course, Carrie is struggling to deal with her emotions while trying to figure out college and what she wants to major in.
“There’s always an event. Carrie is always trying to figure out her emotions and how she feels about Sebastian or George. For the older audience, hopefully, they will feel some nostalgia for that period or for the younger version of themselves.”
It’s a dream role for Robb and she is revelling in every aspect from the fashion to the drama and the life lessons as she crosses that threshold from teenager to young adult.
Meanwhile, Austin Butler, the teenage version of a Ryan Gosling-meets-Ashton Kutcher, has been a hit alongside Robb. Although he loves the stepping back in time role, he can’t imagine living without certain things.
He laughs: “I could live without Facebook, but cellphones? Imagine going back to that, to not having? It would be pretty crazy.”
As for how the Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure and Zoey 101 star is handling his rise in popularity, he says: “I’m kind of getting used to weird men hiding in the bushes and jumping out at me. I just try to stay as real as possible. I think that’s the most important part – that’s how my mum raised me.”
Home-schooled by his mother, the stereotypical cool guy at school concept is somewhat lost on Butler. However, that doesn’t mean he fails to play the role with élan. That blond hair and dangerously sexy smile has certainly seen the 21-year-old amass a legion of teen fans.
Bottom line: this is a more innocent and light-hearted version of Sex and the City, with all the teen drama trimmings, of course.
• The Carrie Diaries airs on M-Net Series Showcase (DStv channel 113) on Wednesdays at 7.30pm. Butler is also on Switched at Birth 3 on Saturdays at 5.30pm.