Pop Culture

Netflix’s Emily in Paris: Inside the Perfect Binge-able Escape, from Sex and the City’s Mastermind

“It feels weird to have a show come out that’s about an American in Paris, when that’s not really a physical possibility right now,” says Lily Collins, the star and producer of Netflix’s Emily in Paris. The bingeable 10-episode series, created by Sex and the City’s Darren Star and costumed by that show’s iconic designer Patricia Field, premieres Friday and follows a young woman living freely abroad. Luxuriously filmed in Paris with a dreamy rom-com arc and career misadventures echoing The Devil Wears Prada, the series is the perfect vicarious thrill for homebound audiences nearing the seven-month mark of coronavirus restrictions.

Collins, a Sex and the City superfan, is the first to admit that Emily in Paris, and her character in particular, have “obvious Carrie Bradshaw vibes.” Both are spirited, stylish, career-driven women with romantic fixations on the city in which they live. Emily in Paris, however, is more of a fish-out-of-water rom-com—chronicling Emily’s crash course in French culture after being recruited to revamp social media strategy at a marketing company. Instead of expressing herself via moody voice-over, Emily shares her experiences via Instagram-style video interludes—social-media micro-doses of life in the City of Lights. “In the past, you’d be in Paris writing postcards in the cafe, and now you’re posting on Instagram,” explains Star, who used the social-media element as a “storytelling device and diary.”

Star says that he has been fascinated with French culture since childhood, and spent years mulling potential TV projects about an American assimilating.

“I was a bit of a French geek as a kid—I took French class from elementary school through college and had an affinity for Paris,” says Star. “I’ve always sort of imagined what it’d be like to live and work there. I had enough experiences myself where I understood what the challenges for a character might be…. I think every time you go to France, you’re a fish out of water…. It’s one of those cultures where it highlights your own sense of being an American when you’re there.”

Collins experienced this firsthand upon moving to Paris to film last year—when the series was slated to premiere on the Paramount Network, before being bought by Netflix. Almost immediately, she encountered the same cultural obstacles her character did in the scripts—running out of hot water in her apartment, ordering the wrong menu items at restaurants, mixing up apartment floor numbers. “I had so many parallel experiences to Emily,” says Collins, explaining that she began to feel like the show’s writers were pranking her to help her get into character.

To create Emily, Collins further drew on details from friends, loved ones, and characters she’s admired over the years. “I didn’t want to model her specifically on one person but more the attributes and characteristics of the women that I surround myself with, who I love, and make her kind of an amalgamation of all of those women. I’m very much a product of the people I surround myself with sometimes…. I wanted every young woman to be able to look at Emily and go, ‘Oh, there’s a part of me in her.’”

Photo by Roger Do Minh/Netflix

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