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Sarah Jessica Parker on Her Big Return to TV: The Question Became 'How Does My Family Feel About Me Walking Away for a While?'

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Sarah Jessica Parker is headed back to HBO, but her new role in Divorce is a far cry from the flirty, single Manhattanite she made famous on Sex and the City.

“She’s less buoyant than Carrie Bradshaw and believes she is less resilient,” Parker, 51, says in the current issue of PEOPLE of her character, Frances, a suburban mom who’s “in battle with a man she loved” (Thomas Haden Church).

While Parker’s own 19-year marriage, to Matthew Broderick, is going strong, Parker says her family played a big part in her decision to star in the new half-hour dramedy, which she also produces.

Sarah Jessica Parker on Divorce.
Craig Blankenhorn/HBO
“My kids are now at ages where they can express how they feel about my absence. It affects them,” says the mom of James Wilkie, 13, and twins Marion and Tabitha, 7. “I was excited about delving into the complexity of marriage, but the question became ‘How does my family feel about me walking away for a while?’ Luckily, they were really supportive.”

Thomas Haden Church and Sarah Jessica Parker on Divorce.
Craig Blankenhorn/HBO
The actress says becoming a mom actually played heavily into her decision to walk away from her last hit series in 2004.

“When I first started Sex and the City, I didn’t have children and I thought about time very differently. I didn’t mind working 80- or 100-hour weeks,” she says. “I had an infant son when we finished Sex and the City, which is one of the reasons why I felt it was time to not do it. He was at an age where I felt like he was – in a way – going to need me more.”

For more on the buzziest new TV shows – and some returning favorites – check out PEOPLE’s Fall TV Preview in the current issue of the magazine, on newsstands Friday

Kate Gosselin and her children on the cover of PEOPLE
Now that she’s back to the grueling schedule of a TV show, Parker says she acknowledges the privilege she has as a producer who is able to tailor her schedule around her family commitments.

“Unlike a lot of working mothers, I was still able to carve out time for parent-teacher conferences and school concerts and chaperoning field trips,” says Parker. “I know I’m really lucky to be able to do that.”

Divorce premieres Oct. 9 on HBO.