The star and author/executive producer talk about their new female-driven series
Brooke Shields and Candace Bushnell have both made their strides in entertainment in different ways. Brooke we've known from all the way back to The Blue Lagoon and Candace has made a significant pop-culture impression with her novel Sex and the City that was turned into the popular HBO series. The two have joined forces with the new series Lipstick Jungle, also based off of a Bushnell novel, that premeieres on Thursday February 7 at 10 PM ET. I was in on a conference call with Shields and Bushnell, and here's what these ladies had to say.
Brooke, I've got a dumb male question for you.
Brooke Shields: Oh, there are no dumb male questions. There are dumb males, but not dumb male questions.
Now if TV has taught me anything, it's that highly successful women must be dealing with some sort of serious, gut-wrenching issues in their personal lives. So I guess my question to you is, are there actually successful professional females out there who are just kind of okay? And would you categorize yourself as one of them?
Brooke Shields: I absolutely would categorize myself as one of them. I think you can be successful and still be extremely present in a healthy life. I think these women are showing us - the women of Lipstick are saying to us that it's okay to be successful and it's also okay to be happy with your success even though it might not be easy. So I think it's not a dumb question at all. I think that these women - I know my character - we all struggle. I'm not saying any successful woman's life is without struggle. But it doesn't mean it has to be miserable.
Do you think that shows that are perceived to be female-oriented or for a female audience - do you think they come under more scrutiny when they first come on the air because there are a lot of dumb male shows out there, I guess for lack of a better term?
Brooke Shields: I'm not sure I could make a generalization about that. I'm sure Candace would have something to say. But what I would state to that is I think what we're finding in television, especially today, is that it is very hard to be successful no matter what - whether it's a male driven or female driven show. And that it all boils down to the writing. So I think that we're - you can call it male based or female based, but I think the truth is the scrutiny really comes under we want intelligent writing and intelligent shows. I'm going to kind of pass it over to Candace to see if she's felt that it's more female or male based.
Candace Bushnell: I think that female viewers love these shows and the response that I've gotten from women on the show, Lipstick Jungle, so far has just been overwhelmingly positive. And in fact, I've had women begging me for the third episode. I think that probably the scrutiny comes from, you know, who is scrutinizing the show. And there's certainly some people who have very particular tastes in TV. There are other people who, are absolutely looking for these kinds of shows and love them. I think there is a huge female audience out there that is frankly dying for a show like Lipstick Jungle.
Brooke Shields: Just to add to that, if you're talking about that there's more lenience - that there's a more leniency towards male driven shows, I also think a lot of the male driven shows are in a very different arena. You don't see very many just male driven shows where there are successful - three or four successful men. I mean, I think you do - there's - I think that there's more of an appetite for certain types of shows, so that when a show like this comes and it's female in what is previously considered a more male dominated world, it's going to get more scrutiny.
Candace Bushnell: The other reality is traditionally the shows where women are "successful," the parts are limited to basically doctors and lawyers. This is a different kind of show. It's a drama and it's not a procedural. So I think that people do look at these shows a little bit differently.
I was wondering what would you tell viewers that just think this show is Sex and the City with one less woman in the cast?
Brooke Shields: I would very quickly say that we're a completely different book. You know, I think the pedigree that comes with that title is a wonderful thing. I have such respect for Candace. I loved Sex and the City. The comparison really stops there just because we are a completely different novel, basically. So - and again, just sort of limited to only three or four women would be silly. I find that it's a fabulous initial response because people that loved Sex and the City will not be disappointed. People that might not have been familiar -- although I'm sure there are no people unfamiliar with it -- will be pleasantly surprised by the newness of this.
What was it that you particularly liked about Tim Busfield as a director and what did he add to it?
Candace Bushnell: Well I think we loved Tim's sensibility. We loved his intelligence, his enthusiasm and his vision. He just fits right in with the project and he loved the project. And I mean, honestly, we were thrilled to get him.
He's kind of a funnier guy than most people realize - got a quicker sense of humor. Did that kind of add to it?
Candace Bushnell: Yeah, he's really quick. He is definitely a man who understands women. He's a man who loves women. He loves people. He loves what he does and I mean, I think that Brooke could talk more about this, but Tim's just a great guy to be around. Everybody loves working with him and he's so smart.
Brooke Shields: And then I think from an acting standpoint, and I can speak for the - all - everybody in saying that he is someone who will not compromise as well. He doesn't settle for anything less than the most real. For someone like myself also who has come off of sitcoms for years and Broadway where everything is a bit more heightened and over the top, there is this sensibility that he has of respect for what's grounded and will not accept anything less than the most grounded response in acting. So from an acting standpoint, it's been for me, one of the most important directors that I've worked with because he is getting that version of what he wants out of me. I appreciate that.
Would a show like this work if it was a secretary, a hairdresser and a lunch lady?
Candace Bushnell: Well I think one of the things that's very important to understand about Lipstick Jungle is that the show - the book, and the whole concept was really inspired by real women and a new paradigm of a career woman, and a working woman. It happens to take place in New York, but one of the initial things that inspired me to write the book is the fact that 30% of married women make more money than their husbands. Thirty percent of married women are the breadwinners for their families, which is something that surprised me and really inspired me. And having traveled all around the country, I will tell you that this Lipstick Jungle paradigm is not just high powered career women in New York. It's women who are managers at Wal-Mart and I've met these women, and they're closer to Lipstick Jungle women than one might think. One of them said, 'Hey, you know, I make all the money in my family and when I get home, I tell my husband he better have a cold beer waiting.'
Brooke Shields: I also work a lot with a charity called Chain of Confidence, which is supported by Tupperware and they're giving $1 million a year to this charity. And if you look at the history of Tupperware, what's so interesting is Tupperware was one of the first things where women could not only start earning a living from home, but that it was the first opportunity that women had -- and this was in the 40s -- where they started to earn more than their husbands. It was sort of the modern woman was actually a woman who was staying home but earning more money than her husband. And it was a huge - so the concept of having all of the pressure is not an unrealistic concept. I think where we become the entertainment factor is that it's in a city that everybody has a fantasy about in one way or another. And you add fashion to that, and you add the city, and you add the monuments - and you add that. Then it becomes an entertaining - sort of an entertaining environment.
What was sort of the process of bringing the book to TV?
Candace Bushnell: My agent sent the book out and there was a lot of interest. There was offers from I think four different companies, and we went with NBC. Then I worked with another writer and we did the initial pilot script. That was actually ordered to be made into a pilot. We looked at it - gave it a really good look and decided to change direction a bit. The process is - it's a lot of writing, a lot of meetings, a lot of thinking and a lot of work.
Brooke Shields: Well I wasn't with them, but where I can add to it is that when I first read the book in hardcover, I just fell in love with it thinking completely that it was something I would want to do. When I was in discussions, the script came up and all of a sudden I found out I was pregnant. So I was no longer going to be eligible to play and was crestfallen, and thought well I'm just going to have to be fan then. I'm going to have to watch it instead of be in it. Then time went on, and they decided to do some changes on the script, and then actually I had my baby and became eligible again. Then as the fates would be, I was able to come in and play Wendy.
Did you have any reluctance to sign up for something that was going to involve quite a few love scenes? How do you approach them?
Brooke Shields: Well first of all, when we signed up all of us were basically signing on to kind of a 9:00 show. Once we became a 10:00 show and we were all taking a trip to the lingerie shop, and practically all crying - I think it was a bit sprung on us. It wasn't actually knowledgeable. I thought I would be more the comic relief and I'm turning out to be - I have as many love scenes as the other girls do. So I'm really pretty proud to be a mom of two and able to, you know, put on the wardrobe they give to me and not need the body double. I guess it's a shout out to women to say, you know, you should be proud of what your body looks like at this age. Why not? If you, have the right light and you can show it off. Lighting is everything.
Lipstick Jungle premieres on NBc on February 7 at 10 PM ET.