PASADENA

Right about now, AnnaSophia Robb expected to be hitting the books as a freshman at Stanford University. Instead, she's doing her best to step into the fancy spiked heels of one of television's most iconic characters,

With her long curly locks and wide, sparkly eyes, Robb is instantly appealing as a 16-year-old Carrie Bradshaw in "The Carrie Diaries" (8 p.m. Monday, The CW), a fun and frothy "Sex and the City" prequel that dares to imagine what its beloved leading lady was like before she started dating Mr. Big and having cosmos with the girls.

Robb, 19, admits that she felt plenty of pressure taking on the role, but took comfort from a "lovely" note of encouragement sent to her by Sarah Jessica Parker -- the original Carrie -- before production began.

Actress Annasophia Robb from the show "The Carrie Diaries" smiles during the CW panel presentation of the 2013 Winter Television Critics
Actress Annasophia Robb from the show "The Carrie Diaries" smiles during the CW panel presentation of the 2013 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, California January 13, 2013. REUTERS/Bret Hartman ( BRET HARTMAN )

"That was huge for me," she told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

"The Carrie Diaries," based on young-adult novels by "Sex and the City" author Candance Bushnell, whisks viewers back to 1984. Carrie is 16 years old and about to start a tumultuous junior year in suburban Connecticut -- just months after the death of her mother.

She's down in the dumps, but a dreamy new transfer student (Austin Butler) brings some excitement into her world. And when her father (Matt Letscher) helps to land her an internship at a Manhattan law firm, her eyes are opened wide, for the first time, to the glamour and grit of the big city.


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Amy B. Harris, who wrote for HBO's "Sex and the City" and is an executive producer on the new show, sees "The Carrie Diaries" as an "origin story."

"You think of 'Smallville' and how that was about Clark Kent before he discovered his powers," she said. "I wanted to meet Carrie before she had sex, before she fell in love and before she met Manhattan. I wanted to explore all of that in the first season."

Yes, the Carrie in this show is a virgin among friends who have already had sexual experiences. Have the producers plotted out Carrie's first time yet?

"We've definitely been talking about that a lot, because it's a first that means a lot to everybody, whether it's in the back of a car or ... romantic," Harris said. "But we haven't nailed it down yet. No pun intended."

Harris is also interested in exploring the emotional impact of early relationships and their link to the adult Carrie.

"How does that first love play out? Why does she end up with someone like Big and not Aiden?" she said. "It will be fun to let that simmer for the 'SATC' audience."

It's all great big playground for Robb, who was told by producers not to emulate Parker on "SATC."

"So my character is a combination of the books, the scripts, what I'm bringing to the role, Amy's vision and myself," she said. "I feel I'm becoming more like Carrie or Carrie's becoming more like me. ... At times, I want to calm her down a bit when I should really just let my own neurotic feelings come out. It's a growing process."

Robb was just 12 years old when "SATC" went off the air, so she never saw the racy cable comedy during its original run. But she has been binge-watching since she got the job and has nearly covered the whole series. Does she have a favorite episode?

"Oh, that's so hard to choose," she said, after her media session. "But I really like the one where Mr. Big moves to Napa and he and Carrie dance to 'Moon River.' That's so romantic."

Robb, a native of Denver, also has had fun learning more about the 1980s (she likes Michael Jackson and David Bowie), and its vibrant colors and crazy styles. As for the big hair, well, she's into that, too.

"I do like the hair," she said. " ... Actually all senior year, I was thinking about getting a Perm because I wanted curly hair."

Robb was reportedly one of 500 actresses who auditioned for the role. Upon landing it, she decided to defer her admission to Stanford, but hopes to make it to the Bay Area for college some day.

"I didn't think I'd ever get in, but I was very studious in high school," she said. "I'm really excited about that opportunity."