When actress Lily Collins is asked to describe her newly anointed trademark role of Emily Cooper, the headlining character of Netflix’s buzziest new series, Emily in Paris, Collins keeps it candid.
“She’s bright and bold, and I love that she’s a little bit obvious,” Collins tells BAZAAR.com.
“She’s unapologetically herself at the end of the day.”
Emily—who at this point is on the mononymous level with Madonna and Prince and Mariah with no last name needed—seemingly overnight has become the center of a cultural conversation regarding what truly makes viral, can’t-miss, must-binge television. In a year when the political and cultural circumstances of our nation can be described at best as bleak, Emily in Paris has provided hours of lighthearted, kitschy, whimsical, romantic—and let’s face it, unrealistic—joy.
The show follows its main character, a Midwest-made, Chicago-based marketing associate who takes her boss’s place for a once-in-a-lifetime work opportunity that requires relocating to Paris to bring the “American perspective” to a brilliantly bougie, luxury advertising firm. Though, yes, Emily finds herself surrounded by a slew of Parisian clichés—not limited to croissants, berets, wine, and gorgeous, outwardly horny men—she also represents the new-age millennial: confident, work obsessed, and a little self-absorbed but harmlessly so. For Collins, whose résumé is brimming with dramatic films like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile and David Fincher’s upcoming Mank, exploring Emily’s world was a refreshing detour.
“When I first read the script, I was willing to fight to even just get in a room [to audition]. I read the pilot, which was the first two episodes combined, and everything from the fact that it was a Darren Star show, to the fact that it was based fully in Paris and would be the first American show to shoot completely in Paris, and the fact that I’ve wanted to do a romantic comedy role for a long time,” says Collins. “I do tend towards slightly darker, more emotional, harder-to-speak-about topics in terms of my roles. I was craving some sort of lightness, some sort of romantic comedy of sorts.”
After reading Emily, Collins says that she found the character to be “so inspiring” but also real. “She’s someone that I wanted to aspire to be more like in a sense that she’s so resourceful, she’s so optimistic, she’s so driven. These are all qualities that I associate with wanting to be more of every single day,” says Collins.
“To see a character who is so themselves, and even when faced with obstacles, maintains that sense of self and doesn’t apologize for it and is also very, very outspoken about the fact that she loves to work and that work makes her happy. She doesn’t have to hide the fact that she’s very driven, and you can be a romantic and be someone who’s work-oriented. You don’t have to choose between the two, and it’s a positive attribute to be a woman who loves to work. I loved that.”
Because the series is the latest creation from showrunner Darren Star—the mastermind behind Sex and the City—Emily in Paris was quickly compared to the hit HBO series leading up to its October premiere. (Not to mention, the master designer behind SATC’s costuming, legendary stylist Patricia Field, also served as head consultant for the sartorial choices in Emily in Paris.) Though Collins credits Carrie Bradshaw as one of television’s most iconic characters, she and Star both agree that Emily in Paris is its own story for a new generation—rather than a younger version of SATC clinging onto its predecessor’s legacy.
“I grew up watching Sex and the City. I loved Grosse Pointe, one of his shows that only ever went to one season,” Collins says. “I have been a Darren Star admirer in terms of his projects for a very long time. When I was asked to be a part of this, there was a creative anxiety, a little bit, in that every time I start a job, I get the jitters in an excited, creative way. But I knew when I read it, right away, that this was not Sex and the City. It’s drastically different in terms of the storyline.
“It’s about a female who loves to work and loves fashion. And Carrie Bradshaw was a woman who loved fashion and loved her job. So there lies similarities, but we never wanted to replicate or do a new version of a classic show like that, because why would you? I mean, it’s so iconic in and of itself, and Carrie Bradshaw is such an icon in TV. So we wanted Emily to stand out as her own character and to be her own woman.”
Regardless of the varying reactions to Emily in Paris, the overarching verdict of the new series via social media is that it is delectably binge worthy. Seemingly overnight, social media users couldn’t not chime in on Emily’s work fiascos, her on-the-nose wardrobe, and that looming love triangle between Emily, her new chic friend Camille (but of course her name is Camille!), and her downstairs neighbor/the extremely hot burgeoning chef Gabriel.
“Usually, when you’re promoting a show or you’re talking about it and you’re trying to get it out there, you’re traveling to different cities or maybe even different countries to do so. And so, you feel either the excitement or the talk, the chatter, the momentum or lack thereof,” Collins says. “You can feel all of that so much more when you’re surrounding yourself with it, and you’re around people either that have seen it or haven’t seen it. So it’s very strange to be experiencing it just through hearsay or numbers or looking at social media.”
Still, Collins finds that experiencing the public reaction to the show can be thrilling. “Part of that is nice, because I’m in it, and I’m so appreciative of it, but I’m also a little bit removed from it. So it’s not all-engrossing and all-encompassing. But it is a little strange to kind of be removed from it, and then look at your phone and just see how it’s taken off—to look at the TikToks and the memes and the GIFs and on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook—it’s everywhere!”
She continues, “I’m so proud of the way that it’s kind of globally reached every country, and that’s thanks to Netflix, really pushing it out there and believing in it. And then to be number one in the world still, it is mind-blowing. All of us are incredibly grateful. And the cast and crew, we’re really hoping to get the green light for Season 2.”
Collins recognizes that the core themes that make up Emily in Paris—romance, wanderlust, bold fashion—are all key to creating an addictive watch. And the fact that the show’s steamy chemistry isn’t confined to just Emily and the main male lead, Gabriel, played by Lucas Bravo, is a major plus. Emily’s Parisian confidante, Camille, portrayed by Camille Razat, also dishes a dose of subdued sexual tension for the show’s protagonist.
“When we first have that scene where Camille and Emily meet and they accidentally kiss, I remember talking to Darren and being like, ‘Was that on purpose? Does Camille like it? What does that mean? Is there a future?’ And [Darren goes], ‘I don’t know,'” shares Collins. “And we’re like, ‘Oh, okay. So there’s, like, a door open there?’ And he’s like, ‘It’s all ambiguity. Who knows? Let’s just see what happens.’ It was very ambiguous, and I feel like that’s the point of it. Maybe there’s something more, but Emily doesn’t know.”
Though Collins is in the dark just as much as the rest of us regarding the show’s brewing love triangle, the open-ended possibility (along with the major cliffhanger of a finale) has generated much anticipation for a potential Season 2. If Netflix were to okay another chapter from Emily, Collins would instantly be on board.
“I really hope we get to go into more episodes, because there’s so much that it leaves you hanging with. Emily has had to kind of pivot so many times in this experience already that I think she’s ready and able to kind of just go with it and see what happens,” says Collins. “But I kind of love that Emily’s going into all these new situations just open-minded, and she’s not judging it, and she’s not judging herself. But it’s tough, because she really doesn’t know anyone, and she wants to embrace friends and have these experiences. It’s complicated. I don’t envy her situation.”
In a dream second-season scenario, Collins hopes that Emily’s universe can break out of Paris and expand across Europe—maybe even with her best friend, Mindy (played by Ashley Park), in tow.
“At some point, I was joking with Darren and said, ‘Couldn’t they just, like, hop on the Eurostar and, like, have a British excursion?’ I think it could be Emily going to all these different places. It’s Emily in … and then insert the city. She could just take the train and go all over Europe, and Mindy and her could go together,” laughs Collins. “I think that there’s so much personality that we can dive into more in the second season if we get to go.”
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