Netflix's Emily in Paris: Interview with Lily Collins and Darren Star
New girl, new city
If there's anyone who knows how to make a woman dazzle, it's Darren Star. The creator of iconic shows like Sex and the City and Younger returns with a new series on Netflix, which stars Lily Collins as the leading woman. Think wide-eyed protagonist in an enchanting foreign city, Emily in Paris speaks of young fervour, ambition, romance, and a relentless ensemble of jaw-dropping looks. After all, the show's costume designer happens to be Patricia Field, who had worked on Sex and the City as well as The Devil Who Wears Prada.
Emily (played by Collins) moves to Paris after her company in Chicago acquires a French luxury marketing firm with the task of revamping their social media strategy. Along the way, she ruffles a few feathers at work, experiences the daily cultural differences of American vs. Parisian, and ultimately falls in love.
"I have a lot of strong female friendships in my life so I think of them from my own point of view and projected myself into their shoes and imagining their issues. Men and women share, a lot of universal feelings but at the same time I find women really fun to write. I really like writing about empowered, strong women," remarked Star during our roundtable chaired by Netflix.
Below, we chat more with Star and Collins ahead of the series' release in Singapore.
The show is really all about cultural differences between Parisians and the rest of the world, was it something that you personally experienced and wanted to feature in the series?
DS: First of all, I think it's done with a sense of humour on both sides. Americans have had a big love affair with Paris for you know... culturally forever. Going back to time with Jefferson, you know, we love Paris. But at the same time, there's a little bit of a love-hate relationship between the French and the Americans. I think the cultural differences are there to be highlighted and celebrated, in a way that we're not all the same and different in our own way. But the important thing is to spend time with each other and understand each other, and I think that's the message of the show. To travel and understand the world a little bit. I think some of the intrepidity comes from a sensism where an American girl might come and work at a French firm and not know French. And she ends up learning a lot from them, and they too learn a lot from her and I think that really is the message of the show. At the end of the first series, Emily makes some true French friends.
When it comes to working with Darren, do you have any insight to why he's able to create these amazing characters and do what he's done?
LC: Well, Darren, you're very vocal about the fact that you write about either experiences you've had yourself or ones that your friends have had. Like Sex in the City, you said that you had friends like that. You can feel the personality and the genuine nature of each of his characters because they're based partly in reality. Darren and the rest of the team, they wrote so many of these episodes, if not a majority of them, while living in Paris with us. So, all of the characters feel so real and so genuine because they're actually written in the place that they are living and breathing in. And that really makes such a difference in the evolution of a character. And I feel that with all of his characters throughout the years... I grew up loving Sex in the City and I became obsessed with Younger. I even watched Grosse Pointe, which sadly was only one season. But, I was so enamoured by the way Darren wrote female characters, so for me to get to be one was so special.
From Darren's perspective, what made you cast Lily for the role of Emily?
DS: Lily's a fantastic actor. I've seen her work and admired it a lot. When I met Lily, I was just so taken by who she was personally, and I already could see she had so many of the qualities that I wanted in Emily. When you hire an actor to be the lead of the show, you want to be inspired by the person who is in that role, for all the episodes that haven't been written. Which she did. I would say the unexpected thing for me is that how Lily was able to play Emily's toughness and determination. And that's something that I think she did such a brilliant job with and playing the balance between that with charm and vulnerability at the same time.
There's so much positivity and optimism in Emily's character. Do you see similarities between her and yourself in real life?
LC: I'm definitely someone who likes to see the bright side in a situation, and you know, it's kind of innately optimistic. I'm also very passionate about what I do and the people that I love and any experience that I'm part of and I'm very determined. So, I don't take a no as a finite no. I like to take no as maybe not right now or maybe later, or perhaps I need to pivot in some way, so I definitely feel connected with Emily. I'm super in love with what I do. I love to work; it makes me happy. Emily literally says that in the show, so I think that we're similar in that way.
We see Emily in a lot of amazing outfits, but she's also this very strong-headed, feminist character. How do you think her wardrobe plays into her strength and her ambition?
LC: I think for me, she's bright, bold, a little bit obvious, and fun. And I think that her outfits do just that, you know, she's not afraid to take risks and chances in work and in her private life — her professional and romantic life. And her outfits speak to that as well. She mixes colours, prints, styles, design and all of that, and I think that's very much her aesthetic.
Emily in Paris premieres this 2 October on Netflix Singapore.