This Wednesday night sees the return of the three ladies of author Candace Bushnell’s imagined “Lipstick Jungle” world as they continue their woven stories of love, loss and career power struggles splayed against a fashionable Manhattan cocoon of privileged luxury.
The series is based on the best-selling book by Bushnell about three powerful best friends in New York City – movie executive Wendy (Brooke Shields), fashion magazine editor-in-chief Nico (Kim Raver) and fashion designer, Victory (Lindsay Price).
“Lipstick Jungle,” back again September 24 at 10 p.m. on NBC opens with Nico fretting to come clean with husband Charles about her affair in the second-season premiere, but there’s a shocking twist to this cathartic intention.
Meanwhile, Mary Tyler Moore guest stars as Wendy’s exacting Patrician cold fish of a mother, as she pays a visit to the family just as Wendy decides to spend more time at home; Victory hires a cheeky publicist Dahlia (Rosie Perez) and plays hardball with Joe (Andrew McCarthy) as he tries to woo her back to him.
It’s good chick TV that has heart and soul aided by a crack ensemble who play their respective roles to the hilt. They are served well by writers who script the series with authenticity and the proper amount of humor to offset the drama.
Monsters and Critics spoke to actress Brooke Shields and producer/writer Oliver Goldstick on a conference call last week.
Brooke, what was it about Wendy that resonated with you?
Brooke Shields: Well we started with the book. I mean I read the book when it first came out and I was instantly drawn to Wendy. I loved her versatility and I loved all the different areas of her life that she grappled with. So I identified with her from the start.
After doing so many episodes and being in that character every day, there’s something that happened that sort of – there’s this crossover that constantly happens. I hear myself say things that Wendy would say. And then while I’m doing Wendy scenes I feel that that would be my natural response and even just the cadence in which we speak is becoming more sort of naturally appropriate for both.
My husband actually is so much happier because Wendy wears a lot of lingerie and I’ve been getting, spray tans and I’m working out. And so basically, he’s like, “Hey, I like this Wendy chick…”
But sort of the deeper answer to that question is the more time I spend in this character; the more I feel we are both becoming one another. I mean it’s just when I – she’s not a caricature at all. So it’s not as if I go onto the set and there’s this completely different tone in my voice and cadence and attitude.
It’s very much my personality coming through Wendy. And I think it’s also their writing to a sensibility as well. And I think the longer we’re going on, the more seamless it’s becoming.
The book basically was the pilot. So right now, we ended at the pilot and now we’re just trying to keep true to the essence of the book, but with complete storylines. So I mean Candace is ever present, which is so wonderful because we always have our voice around us, which is great. And that kind of keeps bringing us back to it.
But we found the thread and the (through line) in all of these people and so now, it’s – I think it’s becoming much easier for all of us because we know who these people are and we’re just getting deeper and deeper into who they are.
Tell me about what it was like working with Mary Tyler Moore – the scenes with Wendy and her mom. And how much of Mary we’re going to see in this particular season.
Brooke Shields: Well, we’re just about to start another episode with her, so that’s very exciting. We’re doing a Thanksgiving episode and we’re having a big family episode. So as dysfunctional as it may be, it’s going to be a wonderful family episode.
She’s such a legend and such an icon that I think the anticipation of just her arriving was just so, so high that we all sort of had to work hard to just act normal around her and not want to ask her all these questions about (the iconic) career that she’s had.
The scenes themselves are so layered with so many different emotions. And they are all so very – they are very real and they are very – they strike such a chord I think in so many people – so to be able to play all those different levels. For instance in the next – in the upcoming episode, there is that same – you know there’s a great deal of tension, but there’s also a great deal of respect between the two of them. And yet I think that they could probably (hurt) each other more than anyone can.
They are fated by their similarities and Wendy is trying to celebrate her differences. I think her mom is a bit more resistant to that because where I’m not like her is wrong according to my mom in the show.
I try to just watch her work rather than ask … I defer a lot just out of respect and out of her history. And I just try to sort of watch and appreciate.
And then I’ll get flashes of Ordinary People, or I’ll get flashes of some favorite moments of her shows. You just think that wow, there’s a whole history here. But I want to be respectful; I don’t want to fawn too much so that it makes her uncomfortable.
There is that sort of fine line that you don’t want to cross. I mean she has a very difficult task at hand in which she’s coming into a show where – I mean we all have this second language already because we’re with each other so many hours of every day, and she comes in and she has huge pages of dialogue.
And so it’s a very professional relationship because I think that she has to do a lot in a short amount of time and a lot is on her shoulders.
Oliver Goldstick: Mary is really special to us because she represents something for those of us who grew up watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show as far as a single working woman and it’s important what she represented.
And Mary was invited to be a part of it and she didn’t ask to be treated different than anybody else on the set and came into the first table reading ready to work. And that sort of established the relationship.
Oliver, the storyline is obviously… I don’t want to give away because the season opening is a shocker.
Oliver Goldstick: Right, right.
But the pregnant thorn in Nico’s side – we’ll just talk in vague terms. How far along into the season is that particular layer of the story going to go?
Oliver Goldstick: We delve into it pretty deeply. Again, without wanting to give away too much, but much of the objective for Nico this season was the questions we sort of raised last season. Things about – at one point in the last season, Wendy had said, “So it’s a good thing you’re not a mother because your values are questionable to pass on to a child.”
And it’s interesting because we’ll be exploring some of that this season. And Nico also – as much as this journey is about what happens when you turn a fantasy into reality and that’s regarding the younger lover that she has.
Again, we had a fantasy element last year – all about – there was an affair, which was illicit, and she’ll have an opportunity to make that legitimate. And that’s fraught with all the difficulties that come with people who are in very different places in their lives – you know they’re dating someone who is 12 or 13 years younger than you.
They are at a very different place. So that’s one of the things we’ll really be exploring this season.
Oliver, about Victory, it seems like the more she protests — the more Andrew comes beckoning back to her, and it seems it’s going to culminate perhaps in a very explosive relationship. Will we be seeing them getting closer together?
Oliver Goldstick: Yes. I mean granted, we know it’s one of the things of a romantic comedy. You know we do want that element of just when she’s ready, he’s not and when he’s ready, she’s not and can these ships ever meet in the night.
Yes April, some of the things you’re seeing in the first couple of episodes would have been part of last season. And because of the strike, we just sort of froze right there at episode season, and that’s fine with us because you’re launching a second season with a very provocative subject matter, and huge challenges and changes in these relationships.
But again, that’s a power struggle relationship. And we basically were sowing the seeds last year. We were sort of frozen in time because of the writers’ strike. Because it wasn’t the full season and we sort of had a lot of this planned.
Well, it all sounds great. I can’t wait to watch more.
Brooke Shields: After just having – we start the Thanksgiving episode today. And by the end of reading it because we had just got it, I couldn’t even believe. I was…
Oliver Goldstick: Don’t say!
Brooke Shields: I won’t say anything. No, I just want to say that I even went, “What? No way.” So it’s sort of like even though we get to be in it, we also – I find I’m a fan so I sort of has this sort of separate – or I’m just schizophrenic. I’m not sure, but I separate myself and I think, “He did not. He did not. Oh, no.” I have my own water cooler that I keep in my apartment actually and I just – I bring my friends over just to talk around it.
Oliver Goldstick: You talk to it. You just talk right with yourself too, right.
Brooke Shields: Right, it’s just me actually.
Oliver Goldstick: You’re (working as Wendy). The simple yes, right.
Brooke Shields: It’s just me around the water cooler alone in my apartment. But you know what, I could be worse. I could be on drugs.
Brooke you’re very funny.
Brooke Shields: Thank you.
I love humor and comedy probably more than anything else. Whenever there is a scene that entails some sort of comedy, it is so loud to me. I can hear it before I even go and do it and that’s just – it’s just the way I see things.
Oliver, are guys are able to enjoy the show as well?
Oliver Goldstick: Well sure. I mean it will be a guilty pleasure because no guys can admit – look (I was on) on Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty and it was very hard to find guys who would openly admit it unless they were under, you know, duress and at gunpoint how much they liked the show.
I have that history and I know that these kinds of shows – it’s – guys it can become habit forming. And all of a sudden before they know it, they are (mirrored) towards their relationships or the women in their lives whether it is their mothers or siblings aren’t being reflected. The issues those women are going through. And there are men in this show by the way who are in these relationships that are going through things that our male audience is experiencing.
I mean Wendy – just to mention that Wendy’s journey this season is very much about a huge shift in her domestic situation because her husband is working now. And that was sort of introduced last year because it was very much she wanted him to pursue his dreams and pursue his ambition of composing and this season his career is going to take off, which causes a major shift. It’s the kind of shift…
Brooke Shields: Be careful what you wish for.
Oliver Goldstick: This season could be really called ‘Be Careful What You Wish For ‘because we’re sort of realizing all of those fantasies from last season. Things that were brought up are being – they are being dramatized and all the ensuing issues that come with them.
Brooke Shields: I also want to add that I think what – beyond the obvious, which is these women are often scantily clad and sort of the beauty of it all and the…
Oliver Goldstick: The men are scantily clad too.
Brooke Shields: Yes, exactly. But beyond that as sort of the draw, I think the most important thing about the way our men – are male characters are portrayed is that we’re not – we don’t portray them weak. And we don’t – I don’t believe that we diminish them in any way. We sort of celebrate how much we need them and the need is different for each one of us. But I don’t feel – this is not one of those shows where we paint these men as just pathetic, or stereotypical, or you know that they are…
Oliver Goldstick: Yeah, male bashing.
Brooke Shields: Yeah, there’s no male bashing in it and I think that’s important. And I’ve spoken to the men, you know, about this. You know even Kirby – even a sort of objective symbol that’s sort of this character. And you know he said that there’s a lot of power that you derive from that. I mean it’s different – but I mean they have a respect for their male characters because they are not stereotypical, pigheaded. You know the male that we’ve often seen so that we can augment the women.
Brooke, have you gotten the men in your life to watch Lipstick Jungle so far or are you still working on that?
Brooke Shields: They have no choice. You love me, you love Lipstick Jungle.
Do you share Wendy’s taste in clothing?
Brooke Shields: I actually love her style. This season she is changing a bit more and becoming sort of slightly more Bohemian and a little less sort of corporate. And I don’t keep any of the clothing, but who knows maybe (one or two) making – (be the) demands about my wardrobe.
I do much more this season than I did last year. We – it’s sort of an amazing kind of joint effort. You know I – the first season, I think everybody was a bit more (pressured about it) and so we got many notes from network, and everybody had an opinion, and we sort of had to satisfy many people.
I was asked to weigh in a bit more. I’m much more familiar with Wendy and there’s this bit of a crossover between the two of us. So her wardrobe is definitely being infiltrated by my taste and my wardrobe is being infiltrated by the show. So there’s this sort of crossover, but we really now want her to be slightly more eclectic in the way she mixes things together.
Last year, there was a bit more sort of a corporate strictness to her and we all decided that it didn’t relate to her character as such.