Author claims Darren Star didn't adequately credit her for Emily in Paris contributions
In a new memoir, Deborah Copaken says Star didn't properly credit her for work she did on the hit Netflix series; a rep for the TV mogul calls such claims "blatantly false."
In her upcoming memoir, Deborah Copaken, the best-selling author of Shutterbabe, The Red Book, and Between Here and April, claims that TV mogul Darren Star did not sufficiently credit her for her contributions to the Emmy-nominated Netflix series Emily in Paris — a claim that Star vigorously denies.
In Ladyparts, out Aug. 3 via Random House, Copaken offers an account of working with Star — a creative force behind shows including Sex and the City and Younger, and a once-close friend of hers — and how she later did not receive any acknowledgment for her work and her own life experiences that she says contributed to the story of Emily in Paris. Copaken's memoir isn't solely about this incident or relationship, though the outcome does play into the author's larger financial struggles.
A representative for Star said Monday in a statement to EW that Copaken's claim is "blatantly false" and has already been adjudicated by the Writers Guild of America, "who determined her claims had no merit." (A WGA spokesperson said in a statement to EW, "The Guild investigated Ms. Copaken's claim and determined that she was not eligible for credit.")
Representatives for Copaken and Netflix did not respond to EW's request for comment.
Copaken writes in Ladyparts that Star came to her with news that he'd sold a concept for a show to Paramount about a young American woman who moves to Paris. Star asked Copaken, who worked as a writer on Younger and had lived in Paris in her twenties, for help fleshing out the pilot. In exchange for her contributions, Star — whom Copaken describes as "the brother I never had" — gave her $5,000 out of his own pocket, she writes, and a "promise" that if the show was greenlit, he would "guarantee" her a job in the writers' room and a script of her own. "He's a good enough friend that I trust he both knows what he's talking about and would never deliberately keep money out of my pocket or a credit off my résumé," Copaken writes. She adds that she did not insist on a written contract.
Knowing that a significant writers' room job and a script were "critical" to her landing another job in scripted TV — her ultimate career goal — Copaken says she accepted the offer. "Darren has clout in the TV world, I don't, and the promise of an actual paid job in a TV writers' room plus an actual script of my own — both of which would allow me to get back on my WGA health insurance for at least two years and give me an on-ramp into a new career — is too good to pass up," she writes in Ladyparts.
Copaken goes on to describe the parts of Emily in Paris (which went on to star Lily Collins in the title role) that she says were derived from her own experience. "Gabriel, her downstairs French love interest, will grow out of Alex, an American friend of mine who worked as a chef at Taillevent when I lived in Paris and cooked dinner for a whole group of us expats every Sunday night," she writes. "Emily will have worked in pharmaceutical marketing, just like I did, and her brand manifesto for Vaja-Jeune, a fictional French vaginal moisture ring, will be cut and pasted directly from the actual brand manifesto I wrote that first week in my PR job. Emily will rail against the idea of the French word for vagina — le vagin — being masculine, just as I had one of my characters do in The Red Book years earlier. This will give Emily her win at work and the pilot its ending when she tweets out, at my suggestion, 'Le vagin n'est pas masculine' ('The vagina is not masculine'), and Brigitte Macron retweets it."
According to Copaken, she and Star passed the script back and forth, while she added in "the appropriate French turns of phrase and cultural idiosyncrasies" she was familiar with from her time in Paris, but when Emily in Paris went into production, Star only kept one of his initial promises: to employ her in the show's writers' room. "Darren had followed through on the first promise, but only after serious nudging from my agent and at the lowest and least well-paid rung on the TV writing ladder: staff writer," she writes. "He did not follow through on the latter. I kept asking which episode I'd be writing. He kept telling me to be patient. Months passed. I remained both patient and scriptless."
Since they were such close friends, Copaken says, she eventually emailed Star reminding him of all the work she'd done on the pilot, and how she understood that work was supposed to be in exchange for a "written by" credit on her own script. She asked for a "story by" credit on the pilot to acknowledge the story's origin in her book Shutterbabe and her own expat life in Paris. Copaken says Star apologized for the oversight and said he'd tell the production company to fix its mistake and add her name as "staff writer" to the listing on IMDb, but he could not offer her a "story by" credit on the pilot, nor would he give her a job in the writers' room for the show's second season, thereby, in her mind, contradicting the terms of their oral arrangement.
The full statement provided to EW by Star's representative Monday said, "Deborah Copaken claims in her new memoir Ladyparts that Darren Star didn't credit her for her contributions to Emily in Paris. Her claim is blatantly false [and] has already been adjudicated by the [WGA] who determined her claims had no merit. Also, her claim is nonsensical — credits aren't for Darren Star to give (nor are they even for the studio or Netflix) — that's for the Guild to decide. And the Guild has spoken."
In the months after Emily in Paris debuted on Netflix, and amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Copaken writes that she found a new perspective on the show and her experience with Star. "Darren can keep Emily," she writes. "I can no longer empathize with or write dialogue for a white woman selling luxury whiteness to other white people. At some point, I'd told him early on as we were working on the pilot, Emily would have to have her come-to-Jesus moment, when she realizes she is selling air to those who can already breathe. When she actually sees Paris for Paris: a multicultural melting pot where real people, who have critical life lessons to teach her, reside."
In an interview with The Pop Culture Spotlight's Jessica Shaw on Sirius XM Stars, Copaken said she has to be "very careful" when discussing the situation, and that "losing the friendship was far more difficult than losing any credit on a show."
Emily in Paris (TV Show)