Lily Collins definitely had a perk working on her latest project late last year: She lived in Paris for four months while filming the Netflix series “Emily in Paris.”
Created by Darren Star (“Sex and the City,” “Younger”) and debuting Friday, the new series follows Collins as a woman from Chicago who gets sent to Paris to be in charge of social media for a luxury brand company.
Her character, Emily, has an eye for what will pop online and snapshots of her posts and clever captions often appear on screen. (Emily’s puns, by the way, are a fun callback to Carrie Bradshaw’s writing in “Sex and the City.”)
Collins says apart from the writers and directors and one other cast member (Ashley Park of Broadway’s “Mean Girls”), the crew was French. They even found themselves experiencing the city through her character’s eyes.
“We had access to so many incredible locations,” said Collins. “It was so wonderful to experience that with the camera crew and everyone behind the scenes because they were going, ‘I never thought I’d have access to this either,’ so everyone was having these wide-eyed moments together.”
Collins sometimes felt oddly in sync with her fish-out-of-water character, like the time she lost hot water in her rented apartment — just like Emily.
“I kept saying to everybody, ‘Are you guys doing this to me on purpose to make me have empathy for Emily? Because I already do. I need hot water.'”
The series isn’t all croissants, cafes and wine (although there is plenty of that). Emily also has a lot of work to do to be accepted by her French colleagues. They don’t appreciate that she isn’t fluent in their language, believe she speaks up when she should stay silent, and her enthusiasm is off-putting.
Emily is willing to take in her criticism and try to evolve, and Collin appreciates that.
“I feel like that’s what we’re all doing right now. We’re educating ourselves and learning and growing and being forced to look at ourselves in the mirror, while also hopefully doing that for other people in a loving way,” she said.
“There’s a lot of hard conversations, I think, that we’ve all had to have recently with ourselves, with our friends, with our families, whether about current events, voting and Black Lives Matter. As long as we’re open to learn and educate ourselves and also lovingly do the same for others, that’s how we grow.”
The show also has great fashion, which is a hallmark of Darren Star productions. He’s once again enlisted the famed “Sex and the City” and “Younger” costume designer Patricia Fields to outfit Collins and her co-stars. A highlight is when Emily wears a sweater decorated with the Eiffel Tower to her first day at work.
“What would you do if you knew that you were going to a country where that was like the iconic symbol?’ reasoned Collins. ”Emily’s like, ‘I’m going to wear it.’ And that’s just so what Emily does. It’s just so endearing and it makes you laugh.”
Added Star: “It captures her enthusiasm for wanting to be there and sort of her tone deafness for how it will be perceived.”
The irony isn’t lost on Collins that the series is premiering at a time when travel is down or impossible because of the pandemic.
“It’s so strange because I look at the episodes and as I’m talking about my experiences in Paris, there’s a sadness, right? Because it’s like, ‘Wow, that was the world before everything that happened in the past five, six months happened.’ It’s a really interesting time for it to come out. But I think it’s right. I think it was meant to come out now.”
Star hopes the series encourages people to explore the world, when it’s safe to do so.
“Americans have a big country and we don’t travel as much as everybody else does around the world and I hope this show inspires people to do that.”
Follow Alicia Rancilio online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar