THE CARRIE DIARIES, on the CW Monday nights at 8 PM, is a prequel to SEX AND THE CITY. It’s 1984 and our heroine Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb, playing the younger self of the character first portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker) is still in high school as she begins to have early adventures in Manhattan. Teen Carrie’s mentor in fashion is Interview Magazine style editor, English expatriate Larissa Loughlin, played by Freema Agyeman.
Agyeman, who was raised in North London, is probably best known for playing Doctor’s Companion Martha Jones on DOCTOR WHO opposite David Tennant, reprising the character on TORCHWOOD, and for her dedicated prosecutor Alesha Phillips on LAW & ORDER: U.K. 2009-2011. At a Television Critics Association press event, Agyeman talks about being and playing an Englishwoman in Manhattan.
ASSIGNMENT X: What brought you to the U.S.?
FREEMA AGYEMAN: I was working on LAW & ORDER: U.K. for three years, and my contract came to an end, and I just decided to come and give pilot season a go. I didn’t anticipate getting anything; I didn’t anticipate this. I feel like the whirlwind is still occurring. And I just auditioned for various things and got tested for various things and when this came up, I just thought, “Could it be possible to be part of that?” You don’t dare hope when you’re going through the processes, and as I got further and further, I thought, “Oh, God, maybe I can believe.”
AX: Had you watched SEX AND THE CITY before becoming involved with THE CARRIE DIARIES?
AGYEMAN: Strangely enough, I loved SEX AND THE CITY, but I didn’t watch it when the world watched it. I got the boxed set, reduced [price], much later on and I started to go through it. I got up to Season 3, loved it so much, but realized it was a finite amount of them. If you were watching it live at the time, you didn’t know when it was going to end. Now I know when it’s going to end, I’m rationing them. So I only watch them as and when, because I never want it to end. So I still don’t know how it ends.
AX: In DOCTOR WHO and TORCHWOOD, you’re trying to save the universe, and in LAW & ORDER: U.K., you’re trying to save British justice, and here you’re –
AGYEMAN: [laughs] Just having a good time?
AX: Well, you’re trying to save fashion, presumably, but nobody’s going to die if you don’t.
AX: So were you looking for a role that was a little bit lighter than what you’d been doing?
AGYEMAN: Strangely enough, I’ve never done comedy. I wasn’t necessarily looking for that. A lot of my things have been more dramatic, drama-based. [When] pilot season came, I was just looking for projects that interested me and they did vary, but when this one did come along, and I read the script once, it was the only one through pilot season that I read willingly twice. I’m not the fastest reader and they give you no time to prepare to go for your audition, but I remember reading it twice. I just felt like I could see Larissa. I knew what she was and who she was, and I went in with my representation [of who she was], and I’m really pleased the producers [agreed]. Do you know what someone said to me one day after we did a read-through, an American? She said, “Gosh, Larissa represents Manhattan, 1984Manhattan, so much.” And I was relieved, because I don’t know what 1984 actually means. I wasn’t here. So I just thought, she’s into all things life. She’s into the good, the bad, the ugly, the beauty, the art, the enjoyment – just life. She’s this force of nature. And I could just see all that on the page. I just thought, “Just go and enjoy it.” And it’s easy to tell yourself that for an audition, but I thoroughly enjoyed every process of the audition round with her, because I felt like I was reeling my friend out whenever I could put the Larissa hat on and become her. It felt like an old friend.
AX: Are there aspects of yourself that you see in Larissa?
AGYEMAN: Larissa is, other than being this bright girl, which I’m not either, an authority on New York City, she is an authority on fashion. I am neither. I hope to one day progress in both of those and maybe close the gap between us and play her as my alter ego, but right now, she is the woman I wish I could be [laughs]. Other than the shoplifting.
AX: Given that you played Martha Jones on DOCTOR WHO and TORCHWOOD, are you encountering any Whovians in your travels?
AGYEMAN: I am so overwhelmed and so honored and pleased. I walk down the street here and there are DOCTOR WHO fans coming up to me, and I can’t believe it. I can’t believe how it has just exploded over here. When I was doing the show, we didn’t get to come over to America and do any of the promotion. The new lot [of DOCTOR WHO actors] did, but my agent said, “Don’t worry, whatever happens with them, it kind of ripples outwards and the whole family reaps the benefit of that,” so it’s been great for my career [laughs].
AX: With the way Larissa dresses, when you’re in costume for the character, do you ever feel like a DOCTOR WHO alien?
AGYEMAN: [laughs] When I got the part and I dressed up for the pilot, I did say, “It feels a bit otherworldly.” Especially because I am so different from all the other cast members – she’s presented so differently as well. And I do feel a bit otherworldly in that, so actually, why not? Let’s combine the two and say, “It’s DOCTOR WHO meets THE CARRIE DIARIES.”
AX: Some of your costumes are the Eighties at their most outrageous. How much is your character Larissa defined by her wardrobe?
AGYEMAN: Larissa is so liberating to play. I mean, in this program, where all these teenagers are on the cusp of adulthood, you’ve got Larissa, who is this perpetual child, reliving her youth. She never talks about her age – as far as she’s concerned, she’s just beginning and living the dream herself. I feel like I’m putting on armor and war paint when I go into costume. I can’t tell you how confident and comfortable it makes me feel. I feel like I’ve found my comfort zone with that, because with contemporary shows, if the character allows it, you mostly want to be pretty. You go to costume, and they make you pretty. And I’m not saying that this doesn’t have its own beauty to it, the way I’m designed, but it’s more about the wild and the wacky and the more outrageous, the better.
AX: Have you ever gotten into one of your CARRIE DIARIES outfits and said, “No …”?
AGYEMAN: Never. I had a pair of trousers on, the MC Hammer pants with the crotch practically mid-calf, sky-high heels, a cerise top and a blue waistcoat. It looked like an explosion in a fabric factory and I couldn’t get enough of it [laughs]. Honestly, I wanted more crazy stuff, because she’s very editorial. I asked [series costume designer] Eric Daman would I be getting leg warmers and he was like, “She’s editorial, darling. So it’s high, high fashion of the Eighties that she represents.”
AX: Have there been any of Larissa’s costumes you’d like to wear in real life?
AGYEMAN: Yes, a lot. Leopard-print trousers – I literally put them on and I can’t tell you what it does for my self-esteem [laughs]. I feel fierce. Eric knows my shape now, that’s the important thing as well. When you start working with a costume stylist, they pull things that they think are going to fit, and then as time goes on, they really get how things sit on you, so he’ll go and shop for trousers, because I need them to go wider at my hips and bum, and then nipped in at the waist, and he’s got an eye for what would work on my shape. So I want to go shopping with him one day – I’ve asked if he’ll take me shopping and he can pick things out [for real-life wear] that I wouldn’t have the confidence to, but he would know would suit me.
AX: How do you like working and living in New York?
AGYEMAN:New York is super-culture. There are endless artistic and intellectual pursuits, and the glamour and the magic is like the stuff of movies. But at the same time, it’s so new to me, I find it can be somewhat overwhelming. The fast pace to it, the angsty sort of attitude that you can get sometimes, you kind of have to learn how to navigate it all, and I kind of feel like I’m in between being a tourist and actually trying to say I’m anywhere near being a New Yorker and I’m kind of in a bit of hybrid no man’s land at the moment, but I’m really honored to be working there. [There are still difficulties in] just little things like getting around, little things like that. When you know your city – I’ve lived inLondon my whole life, and I can get from A to B any way I need to. I feel more like a wide-eyed Carrie Bradshaw myself. I think all of us that are not fromNew York do. We’re here – suddenly, we’re just freaks and you stand still on the spot a little bit and go, “I don’t know where to go and what to do!”
AX: Did you know anything about the Eighties fashion scene before you got involved with THE CARRIE DIARIES?
AGYEMAN: I’m kind of in the hands of the producers on that front. I mean, I was around in the Eighties – I was between one and ten, variously, through that decade – but whatever I do know about fashion is very London-based. It’s quite a different culture. I thinkNew York was on the forefront of the art and the fashion and all that. I mean,London was the music scene and stuff. So to be honest, I bow to a higher authority when it comes to certain aspects of the character. They pretty much put Larissa’s career in place and I follow that.
AX: Are you commuting back and forth between New York and England?
AGYEMAN: I went back at Christmas and New Year, but I don’t go back in between, because it’s still a six-hour flight. Once I’m here I want to immerse and just stay involved in all of that, but I do feel like I’m living two lives. So when anybody says to me, “Do you live here?”, I pause, because I’m like, “Well, I’m working here – I still have my flat in the U.K., so I’m jumping the pond at the moment and enjoying every minute of doing that.”
AX: Not that you’re tremendously old, but you’re one of the older people in the CARRIE DIARIES cast. Do you have any kind of feeling like responsibility for the younger cast members?
AGYEMAN: Actually, you would have to ask them what they think of me. I think it might vary, but it is interesting. I am a good ten years older than the majority of them, and so Matt Lescher [who plays Carrie’s father] and I have a lot of things to talk about, because in some ways, we are closer in age. But I think what’s funny is, I probably showed my age – not my age, it’s more my personality – when the kids – I call them “the kids,” too – they’ll be like, “Should we go out? Should we go here? Should we do that?” And I’m like, “Oh, honey, I’m going home.” [laughs] I do hang out with them and we do do things, but I am at a very different stage in my life to where they are.
AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about THE CARRIE DIARIES right now?
AGYEMAN: I would just like to say, which people have touched on in regards to the whole [question of] who are the audience who watched SEX AND THE CITY itself, I do think that SEX AND THE CITY and THE CARRIE DIARIES do feel like two slightly different products, because this is essentially a period piece, and SEX AND THE CITY traded on being contemporary. This is for a younger audience and it is a coming of age story, but I encourage SEX AND THE CITY fans to tune in, because there are enough stylistic similarities that it will be familiar for them. You’ve got the city as the backdrop. You’ve got voiceover, that amazing convention. You’ve got even the window shots, as Carrie’s sitting there writing. I think they’ll recognize things. And if they’re interested in Carrie’s back story, they’ll be able to relate as well. And having said it’s for a younger audience, actually, these guys root it in such suitable realism, it’s actually quite sincere and genuine in its tone and I absolutely think that we compete across the board.
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Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview with FREEMA AGYEMAN on THE CARRIE DIARIES and DOCTOR WHO