Darren Star and Lily Collins take us inside their new rom-com series, Emily in Paris
Emily may be in Paris, but she’s also in trouble.
The new Netflix series Emily in Paris sees Emily (Lily Collins) ship off from Chicago to the City of Lights for a job at a luxury marketing firm, but she soon discovers the capital isn’t all buttery croissants and suave beaux. Speaking as much French as Rosetta Stone could teach her on the eight-hour flight, Emily must prove to her prickly new colleagues she’s got that je ne sais quoi that makes her worthy of her new home.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you come up with the concept for the series?
DARREN STAR: I wanted to do a show about having an expatriate experience in Paris. I’ve had a love affair with the city since I went backpacking around Europe when I was 19. I’m the guy who took French from junior high through college and never actually learned the language, but I love the city and the culture. There’s something about wanting to take an American audience through that experience vicariously.
Not every destination show actually shoots there. Was filming in Paris a must for you?
STAR: It was really important. Just the way I would never shoot Sex and the City in Toronto. The city is a character. It’s called Emily in Paris. You need Emily and you need Paris.
Lily, what drew you to the series? Other than the promise of patisserie and French wine.
LILY COLLINS: I have been the biggest Darren fan since I was younger. The pairing of this script and character with Darren was a no-brainer. Right off the page, Emily was electric — and Paris was a huge draw. To take part in a series where the female character gets to go through a real journey of becoming a woman, faced with all these cultural differences, was a really exciting opportunity.
STAR: I was very inspired by Lily's faith in me and the series. The lead has to bring so much and I knew Lily was going to bring so much of herself to this. So it was important for me to spend time also getting to know Lily, because at a certain point you can play a character, but you're also helping out co-create this character. For me, Lily has so many qualities that I felt she was going to just elevate who this character could be.
Emily really gives up her whole life for this opportunity in Paris and, at first, it's not all as fabulous as she might've hoped. Were you pleased to see those challenges in the script?
COLLINS: That was a big draw for me. Obviously there's a glittery element to the show because it's in Paris — aesthetically, it's just so pleasing and especially right now, there's this wish fulfillment element to it; we all wish that we could be traveling around somewhere as beautiful as Paris. But it also had to be grounded in a very real experience within that. Darren was saying that a lot of the experiences in the show are ones he also had and I ended up being the same way. I felt like every time, I read a new episode, things would start to happen to me. I was like, ″Oh my God, they've really been on the ground doing research because my hot water just stopped.″ There are funny colloquialisms that get lost in translation or words that have different meanings and there's just isms that you really starts to notice when you're living in a new place. I feel like Emily has experiences that so many people can relate to and they are comedic and they are real.
STAR: I think there's something about this character that was important to me that: It's not her dream to go to Paris, it's her dream to succeed in a job that happens to be in Paris. In the beginning, she has an agenda that Paris is going to work for her, and I think she gets surprised and changed throughout this journey.
You make some good-natured digs at French and American culture. Was it challenging to strike the balance between playful and disrespectful?
STAR: Stereotypes exist for a reason; there’s a little bit of truth to them. I wanted to have fun pointing out cultural differences. The wonderful thing about travel is experiencing those. I wanted to portray this character going into a world of enriching moments, and it's a comedy so obviously we wanted to heighten them in a good-humored way. We get digs in on the other side too.
Broadway star Ashley Park plays Emily's new friend Mindy and has a couple of musical moments in there. Did you always plan that she was going to sing or was that just a happy bonus because she can?
STAR: I'm a big Ashley Park fan and I've seen her in Mean Girls twice when she was in the [Broadway] show. We wanted to tweak Mindy's story a little bit so we were able to give Ashley a chance to sing. Honestly, I just wanted to hear her sing. After doing a show like Younger with Sutton Foster, who basically doesn't sing a note [on the series], I wanted a Broadway star on the show who is going to sing. For me, it also enriches and adds some layers to the character.
Lily, Emily has quite a few French suitors on the show but probably has the deepest connection with her downstairs neighbor, Gabriel (Lucas Bravo). How was working with him and getting the chemistry right?
COLLINS: I did a reading with Lucas and he had such charm right away. I think this was something so exciting for him too, because this was the biggest thing that he had done. There was a bit of a wide eyed feel to him that Gabriel needed to also have. He had to have this mysteriousness about him and this just readily accessible excitement. I felt that he just brought that in his essence and was very easy to talk to and get along with. He lives and breathes the city, so it was really great to have him on set. It made it even more real. He was so wonderful to work with and we all just got along so well. It was actually really eerie sometimes when we figured out how long we'd only known each other and we're like, ″Wait, we only just met.″
STAR: When I had Lucas and Lily met for the first time, I was just like, ″Oh.″ Something just clicked. Chemistry doesn't always happen. You cast actors for a role and be like, ″Okay, let's hope." But I feel there's just a natural chemistry between those guys as people. He's also one of the most charming guys you'll ever meet. You get in a room with him and he'll just talk and you just want to be in a room with Lucas Bravo. You just want to spend time with him.
Emily also has an incredible wardrobe — particularly her hats and purses.
COLLINS: Yes! Anything that [costume designer] Patricia Field (Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada) touches turns to fashion gold. It’s an experience of the senses when you watch anything she’s done, because she’s not afraid of mixing color, patterns, styles, textures. I think Emily was a fan of Sex and the City and was heavily influenced by people she saw going to certain cities in certain episodes. So, yeah, she’s going to wear her Eiffel Tower shirt when she goes to France.
Emily in Paris arrives on Netflix Oct. 2. Watch an exclusive clip above (video courtesy of Netflix).