Nicole Ari Parker on How ‘And Just Like That’ Season 2 Expands the Show’s Closet Fashion and Black Representation (2024)

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In episode seven of And Just Like That season two, Nicole Ari Parker‘s Lisa Todd Wexley faces the kind of personal invasion by her eldest son that not even his father, Herbert (Christopher Jackson), can excuse.

Herbert Wexley Jr. (played by Elijah Jacob) has allowed a girl he’s interested in — and who visibly does not respect Lisa’s authority —to enter his mother’s most sacred of spaces: Her closet.

Fashion has always been a sticking point for Sex and the City and its streaming continuation, And Just Like That. But much of the audience’s time spent in a closet has been with Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw and, to a smaller degree, Kristin Davis’ Charlotte York, who gets her own closet-based journey this season thanks to daughter Lily(Cathy Ang).

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With Lisa, And Just Like That takes viewers — and her son’s no-boundaries love interest — inside a closet that represents a different sense of fashion and identity. More specifically, that of a Black woman in New York City’s upper crust, a rare closet experience on TV.

“Susan Fales-Hill has joined on as a writer-producer, and she was very instrumental in working with the art department and the props department to say that, ‘Yes, these clothes are fabulous,’ but in [Lisa’s] personal space —her safe space —she likes to stay inspired; remember her ancestry; remember the people that came before her,” Parker told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview conducted ahead of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. “This is all part of the fabulousness of her, where she gets her strength.”

For the And Just Like That star, the fact that viewers can explore Lisa’s closet, and without all of her messages being “in your face,” is also a nod to the strength of the show’s writing and more nuanced storytelling at-large. “It’s behind the laptop; you walk down the halls and you see Gordon Parks. It’s not in your face, but she becomes familiar to you,” she explained.

It’s a fleshing out of who Lisa is that is part of the show’s overall approach to its new and more racially diverse cast of characters. One where And Just Like That‘s characters of color have fuller lives even when they are sharing episodic space with a rather large ensemble once dominated by white characters.

“It’s always an interesting thing when a Black character is added to a predominantly white show, and you don’t know where it’s going; who’s handling the details. Yes, it could be funny, but maybe that’s all it is,” she told THR. “But I have a father. I’ve got a mother-in-law. I’ve got the greats on the wall, my private space. That’s important, because that’s what’s usually missing.”

In addition to Fales-Hill, Parker credits showrunner Michael Patrick King with being “really instrumental” in shaping the fullness of Lisa, down to her deep closet. According to Parker, King expressed that he was someone who wanted “to do this right” and his ability to capture Lisa’s life in its full color has mirrored the way she lives her own life as an actress, wife, mother and daughter.

Nicole Ari Parker on How ‘And Just Like That’ Season 2 Expands the Show’s Closet Fashion and Black Representation (4)

“The show is a dramedy. It’s fantastical and over the top in wonderful fashionista ways. But I think that Michael Patrick King’s genius lies in the everyday clashing of what we bring into the room,” she said, before speaking to her own experience and identity. “I walk into a room, I’m bringing two parents that were born in the ’40s. Even if I’m just placing an order in a restaurant, I’m bringing a private school all my life. I’m bringing inner-city Baltimore. Just because I’m presenting maybe as the actress that you know from a TV show, I have all of these dynamics.”

She continued, “So in any given day, I have to deal with my mom’s sensibility; my daughter’s modern sensibility; get this food done; have this business meeting; this Zoom call interview; and be a good wife to my husband. He really puts all of that in a scene.”

While the Sex and the City continuation has faced criticism for feeling heavy-handed in terms of its diversity —which spans sexuality, race, gender and age —Parker speaks positively to several of And Just Like That‘s season two storylines, which see the Wexley’s address racism within New York City’s cab industry, the respectability politics and pride around Black hair, as well as what it means to be Black and successful in America.

These explorations often take place in brief or multi-minute moments. But for Parker, those scenes say a lot even with limited screen time.

Nicole Ari Parker on How ‘And Just Like That’ Season 2 Expands the Show’s Closet Fashion and Black Representation (5)

“There’s the generational narrative around hair and presentation from the mother-in-law. The modern mom who’s trying to mitigate any kind of conflict with her mother-in-law. I also say, which is beautiful and natural: Let’s stop the nonsense around her hair. Then [Eunice Wexley] makes fun of my clothes — The Lion King [comment],” she says of a sequence in episode two, “The Real Deal.” “All of this happens in 60 to 90 seconds, maybe. Even though that’s a whole other show, right? We could flush that whole family out. But I think that’s what so wonderful —he gets it in. In the 90 seconds that you see the Wexleys, he got that in.”

Parker also points to a storyline in which Lisa and her husband, a hedge fund banker, face down their parents at an anniversary dinner gone wrong. In the scene, the duo face competing opinions over whether creativity and freedom, or financial security and prominence, are what Black people should value in light of their collective histories in America.

The actress agrees that “we can’t forget art and social justice in our pursuit of excellence and financial stability —generational wealth” and notes that “those conversations are happening in Black households.” But the actress behind Lisa Todd Wexley says something more dynamic is also happening in those moments of interaction between multiple characters.

“Herbert, LTW, her father [played by Billy Dee Williams] and Herbert’s mother are four dinosaurs in the room clomping around, trying to create and trying to fuse together a new person, a new generation,” she told THR. “How do I move through the world, not abandoning any history and not forging so far ahead that I forget others? How do I make this space for myself and still feel free? And still feel that I have a purpose and a calling?”

Nicole Ari Parker on How ‘And Just Like That’ Season 2 Expands the Show’s Closet Fashion and Black Representation (6)

“That’s why I love doing the show and taking the heat for some of the things people don’t like. We’re 50. People didn’t like that I didn’t have that much sex last year. But everybody had to find the way to the right thing,” she adds. “This is what happens also when you put intersectional women in the writers room; when you put different gender identities in the writers room.”

But it’s not just the storylines Parker says are notable in season two of the Max series. It’s the casting that also results from the stories that are built around Lisa.

“[Eunice Wexley, played by Pat Bowie] is a brilliant actress. She was a jazz singer. The woman in the bathroom with me when I take my wig through the snowstorm, [Gayle Turner], was in the original cast of The Wiz,” Parker revealed. “These New York actors are no joke. It is such a joy to go to work every day and be surrounded by the mega talent that is, even in the smaller scenes. Everything from the pictures posted on my board at my desk to the women I have small exchanges with —it’s really, really thorough and thought out and celebrated.”

And Just Like That season two is currently streaming on Max.

Nicole Ari Parker on How ‘And Just Like That’ Season 2 Expands the Show’s Closet Fashion and Black Representation (2024)
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