If you had trouble knowing who to root for as Divorce Season 1 came to a close, you weren’t alone. Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) cruelly kiboshed estranged husband Robert’s fledgling business. Robert (Thomas Haden Church) dispatched Frances’ erstwhile lover Julian to her gallery opening and falsely reported her to the cops for “kidnapping” their kids.
So where are the feuding exes as Season 2 dawns?
Blessedly over it. And getting on with it.
“Everybody made a committee decision that we’re just gonna get those documents signed and stamped in the first five minutes and be done with it and move on and see how their lives develop with new and interesting people,” says Church of the show’s retooled sensibility under new showrunner Jenny Bicks, a longtime writer/executive producer on Parker’s fame-making Sex and the City. “We set out to make it a little bit sunnier in Westchester County. We didn’t want as much conflict.”
Instead, Season 2 — which time-jumps six months forward — is infused with a wistful hopefulness as the DuFresnes disengage without losing sight of each other. “We definitely tried to build a much more fulfilling dynamic with them, and with the kids, this season,” Church offers. “[The kids] are way more involved, especially in the new relationships.”
Making peace with some giant steps backward in his career, Robert finds an unexpected job perk in beautiful, ballsy real estate broker Jackie (Ugly Betty’s Becki Newton), leaving Frances wobbly that her ex is no longer pining. The new relationship also has ramifications for Frances’ friendship with therapist Dallas (Talia Balsam) and a caught-in-the-middle Diane (Molly Shannon) and Nick (Tracy Letts), who are trying to mend their own fractious union by literally saying something nice or saying nothing at all. “We gave those relationships more room to breathe, too,” Church explains. “Tracy and Molly and Talia, they’re such compelling people and performers, and it was never intended to just be ‘The Robert and Frances Show.’”
If you’re leery of Robert and Jackie’s May-December romance, rest assured that Bicks and company soundly grounded the relationship in Robert’s clear-eyed new mindset — at Church’s behest. “I thought that Becki was terrific, but I was concerned,” Church admits. “‘Do we really want to do that, that Robert ends up with somebody that’s so much younger?’ I wanted it to be way more long-lead, that he wasn’t just looking to just jump into bed with somebody. The feeling out process between Jackie and Robert goes on for a while.”
Frances, meanwhile, finds passion of a different sort when she happens upon the paintings of a local artist whose past gallery experiences have soured her on showing her work. And her own love life gets a boost when Nick and Diane introduce her to their handsome pal Andrew, played by Rescue Me’s Steven Pasquale. Amy Sedaris also signs on as Robert’s dingbat sister in a moving episode that sees Frances race to her ex’s side in a crisis with results both tender and hilarious.
“I love making SJ laugh, and she can absolutely just knock me down with funny,” Church says of his longtime friend. “I’d put her work ethic up against Elon Musk’s any day. Sarah Jessica Parker could be president of the United States. She could! George Clooney’s gonna run in 2020, so why not SJ?”
Divorce, Season 2 premiere, Sundays at 10/9c beginning Jan. 14