I share a name with Sarah Jessica Parker but it won't stop my acting career

Sarah Jessica Parker is a household name, known most popularly as the writing singleton Carrie Bradshaw in cult series Sex and the City (SATC). 

When you type her name into Google, an influx of images and articles flood the screen, all centring on the famous 56-year-old star. An actress and producer with multiple fashion, perfume and shoe collections, SJP is more than the actress’s name – it is her business. An empire.

Except, my name is Sarah Jessica Parker – and I’m an actor, too. With 32 years between us as well as countries and a very different trophy cabinet, I imagine that we lead very, very different lives.

Let’s get one thing straight, though: I wasn’t named after the star. Sex and the City catapulted SJP to fame, and was released in 1998, two years after I was born. My parents simply liked the combination of names and that’s what they went for. Over the years we’ve had various chats about it, but it boils down to just a coincidence.

I don’t remember the exact moment I found out I shared my name with someone famous, but I think my earliest memory of watching SJP onscreen was as the witch Sarah Sanderson in Hocus Pocus. Although it was considered a box office bomb when released, the film has earnt a cult following in the years since. 

Obviously, as time passed and my peers and I got older, the role that she is more famous for became a main talking point. School friends and even teachers would often call me ‘SJP’!

But my name never impacted me badly and no one treated me differently because of it. After all, a British girl from a small town in Somerset couldn’t be further from the glamorous life that SJP’s iconic Carrie Bradshaw was living in SATC. 

Still, it was often a nice conversation starter when meeting new people and I enjoyed seeing my name on film posters. I also loved having ‘my very own’ SJP perfume; I knew that it wasn’t named after me but it felt special to own something that had my initials on it. It was a running joke between my mum and me; she’d buy me a bottle of ‘Lovely’ or my favourite ‘NYC’ for my birthday.

Throughout my life, I’ve definitely felt an alliance with my namesake. Having my name attached to a strong female role model was positive for me growing up. 

In truth, I didn’t really think a huge amount about my name – until I turned 16 and decided I wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts. 

That’s when I realised that it could be a problem. Union rules state that no two actors can have the same name, hence why some performers adopt a stage name. 

The moment arrived in my third year of drama school training when applying for Spotlight and Equity memberships (Spotlight is the UK’s leading home and hub of castings for theatre, film and TV and Equity is the UK trade union for creative practitioners), meaning I would have to decide what name I would want to be known as professionally throughout my entire career.

I battled with different combinations that meant I could still keep the ‘J’ within my name, and although Sarah J. Parker was technically available, I was advised against it due to SJP’s strong presence in the industry and the confusion my name could possibly have with hers. 

I understood this, and knew it was coming – but I was surprised at how I felt; the annoyance and frustration at not being able to use what is mine, because it already belongs to someone else. I even considered a new middle name, as if my name wasn’t quite whole enough without it. I explored various different combinations that I liked, but when I called myself them out loud they didn’t sound right. Although they were lovely names, they weren’t mine. 

So, I finally decided to stick with ‘Sarah Parker’. I felt exhausted by it all and was glad that the decision was made. Until then, I’d never thought about my name so much – until writing this article that is!

While I would have liked to keep the Jessica in my stage name, I don’t resent SJP; she was given the name before me and it’s through her success that it has become a household name. 

Growing up I didn’t watch Sex and the City much, just the odd episode here and there, but I did watch the films and I have a vivid memory of watching (and blushing at) Sex and the City 2 in the cinema.

While isolating with Covid-19 over the summer, I binged watched the first few seasons – and now I’m hooked.

Although areas of the show are problematic – for example, Carrie’s at times toxic relationship with Mr Big, the lack of representation, and some regressive scenes like when Carrie says she doesn’t believe in bisexuality and that ‘it’s just a layover on the way to Gaytown’ – I thoroughly enjoyed watching while tucked up in bed. I think the fact that people are still reflecting on the show and Carrie 20 years later shows how much of a huge impact SATC had on its audience.

Some similarities between Carrie and I would be our expressive and passionate personalities – she’s an over-spender, and, although I definitely would not buy Vogue instead of dinner, I do have an unhealthy obsession with gym clothes. 

The show paved the way for many female-driven shows to come after and has had a massive influence on television. I’m excited to watch the new reboot show And Just Like That in December, where SJP, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon will all be reprising their roles. 

The expanded cast looks richer in diversity and I look forward to seeing how the show has evolved for audiences now. If you need a mini-me for any flashback episodes, just give me a call, SJP.

As a fresh graduate stepping out into the performing arts industry, I suppose it should feel daunting that when I Google ‘Sarah Parker actor,’ my face and credentials do not come up. But I’ve always liked a challenge, and I’d much rather aim high and reach for the stars than never try at all. 

Or maybe I should take the advice of my girl Carrie Bradshaw: ‘Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past, stop planning the future, stop figuring out precisely how we feel, stop deciding exactly what we want, and just see what happens.’

Main photo credit: Getty/Liza Heinrichs

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