The actress from Emily in Paris is enjoying a moment of great success with the third season of the series. An Anglo-American, daughter of Genesis drummer Phil Collins, she brings with her a wealthy but not easy life, as she recounted in her autobiography. But now she appreciates the French-style "vie en rose." And she reveals that she played on the knee of King Charles III….
When American Emily finally begins to wreak some real sentimental havoc, Parisian Sylvie exults, "Ah Emily, you are becoming more and more French with each passing day." Puritanical, work-obsessed Americans, libertine Frenchmen concerned first and foremost with enjoying life: the planetary success of the Emily in Paris series hinges on the contrast between the two sides of the Atlantic, the eternal charm of Paris, and the wide-eyed Lily Collins, the actress who plays the inexperienced (at least at first) Chicago girl struggling with savoir vivre on the Seine.
Lily Collins, my Emily in Paris
Stereotypes? We asked the protagonist: 33 years old, Anglo-American, daughter of the great drummer Phil Collins and California actress Jill Tavelman, Lily Collins has had a life that is certainly comfortable but not easy, which she herself recounts in her autobiography Senza filtri (Fabbri, 2017), amid eating disorders and the pain of feeling abandoned by her rock star father.
But the young actress and ambassador for the Cartier fashion house, whom we meet at the Hotel Bristol just a stone's throw from the Elysee Palace, today more than the anorexic girl Ellen in the film Up to the Bone makes us think of Emily's joie de vivre and enthusiasm.
Did you know Paris before filming the series?
Yes, I came there often, but as a tourist. I grew up half in England and half in America, and I traveled often to France and Switzerland. But I was only in Paris for a few days, never for five months straight as happened because of the series. I got to know the city in a different way.
Which areas of Paris did you like best before, and which ones now?
Before Emily in Paris I used to frequent the classic tourist spots, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre… Magnificent places, but now I prefer to walk along the Canal Saint Martin, ride my bike along the Seine, get lost in the narrow streets of the Marais, hang out in certain fantastic jazz clubs that my Parisian friends introduced me to, and maybe buy macaroons not in the big store that is famous everywhere, but in the excellent boulangerie on the corner.
What are your thoughts on the success of Emily in Paris around the world?
The first season came out in October 2020, when we were still immersed in the pandemic. It is a series that celebrates escapism, travel, fashion, fun and joie de vivre, and it allowed everyone to smile at a time when we needed it most. When we went back to Paris to film later seasons, the residents gave us a fantastic welcome.
That Paris is so perfect
Yet there was no shortage of criticism in France. Many have accused the series of painting a postcard Paris, too beautiful and glamorous to be real.
But it is a TV series that builds on the suspension of disbelief we all have when we watch a movie. Especially the first season chronicles Emily's naiveté, her landing in Paris full of innocence and curiosity. Gradually, her gaze becomes more complex and realistic, but Paris in the series is a protagonist, a character created by Darren Star (former director of Sex and the City, ed.), who builds stories destined to remain in pop culture using a very specific aesthetic. If you're looking for a documentary, that's not what we're going to give you, but I think the heart and soul of the city still emerges from the explorations of the various characters.
Why is Paris so important in the American imagination, from the "we will always have Paris," line from the film Casablanca, onward?
In Paris you find access to the past and momentum toward the future. History and culture are more rooted and extend for much longer than in 'America, it's an irresistible charm. It has something exotic and at the same time comfortable because it has been told on film for decades. People feel they know it, yet it still remains foreign enough to be intriguing to explore. It is a city where you can get lost and always find something new and beautiful, without being afraid.
La joie de vivre
At first Emily seems very impressed by the sexual freedom of Parisians.
She is a curious person who wants to fit more and more into the new environment, and she knows she can't do it if she doesn't understand it. So she asks a lot of questions, which turn out to be quite amusing. His confusion, whether it's about the sexual freedom of Europeans or their work ethic, really surprises his French colleagues. Then she learns from them and becomes more open and free in the second and third seasons.
As for work ethic, one of the themes of the series is that the French seem to work less than Americans. Is this just stereotyping, or is there some truth to it?
That's one of the reasons why Paris is so attractive: the quality of life. In Paris you don't live to work, you work to live. The profession is also crucial here, certainly, but the even more important drive is the ambition to live well. This work-life balance is extraordinary, and it makes Paris and France different from the United States.
Emily is a feminist
Can you say that Emily in Paris is a feminist series?
We certainly celebrate women of all ages in a way that not many shows have done. And even outside of the series, the actresses in Emily in Paris show themselves in powerful, eclectic and confident ways-from Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu (Sylvie), who is fantastic, it was an honor to work with her, to Ashley Park (Mindy) to Camille Razat (Camille) to Kate Walsh (Madeline). They are unapproved women who can commit to their work and be in love with love, without having to choose one or the other.
The streets of Paris are full of girls in berets like Emily. What do you think about the fact that so many are inspired by your character?
I know that the red beret has been around for a long time as well as the fringe, however, now they are back in fashion. It's amazing to think how influential the series is, there are people who are inspired by what you say or what you wear. This pushes me to try to be as authentic as possible.
Do you feel the responsibility?
Yes. I've always been a person who compares myself to others, and I don't want that to ever be diminished. There are people who have told me that they were helped by my book, or by the film I made, or that they cut their hair because I cut it. It is a personal contact that helps me grow. I learn a lot about myself through these interactions, and I appreciate it very much. It doesn't cause me anxiety, but it's certainly not something I take lightly.
Why did you choose to be an ambassador for Cartier?
As I said before I try to be authentic in everything I do, and if I chose Cartier it is because my parents both had Cartier watches. My mother in particular wore a men's watch, very large for her wrist, which I was very fascinated by. There is a dualism in the fashion house that I like: hard and soft, practical and dreamlike, masculine and feminine.
What directors would you like to work with in the future?
I would like to make a film again with David Fincher, who directed me in Mank, and with Bong Joon-ho, whom I met for Okja. Directors I have never worked with and whom I admire very much include Ruben Östlund and Pedro Almodovar.
Is it true that as a child King Charles of England held you on his knee?
Yes ( laughs), I was with my family at an event of the Prince's Trust, the charity organization founded by then Prince Charles. He made me play, but I was so small that I didn't realize what I was doing.