A Conversation With Lily Collins

Lily Collins has taken ‘The City of Lights’ by storm in Netflix’s hit series Emily in Paris, from Darren Star, the creator of Sex and the City. Collins stars as Emily Cooper, a marketing executive from Chicago who follows her dream job in Paris. As the daughter of superstar music legend, Phil Collins, Lily is no stranger to the spotlight. She has starred in many films such as Les Misérables, The Blind Side, Okja and the upcoming Netflix original, Mank with Gary Oldman. Emily in Paris is now one of the most-watched rom-coms on Netflix and has recently been picked up for a second season.

What attracted you to the role of Emily?
I have always wanted to do a fun rom-com with heart, and a character that is driven, witty, smart and sassy. I hadn’t read a script where a character stood out to me in a long time. When I heard that Darren was doing this, I felt like I could associate so much with Emily’s drive, determination and passion, so I wanted to fight to get the opportunity to audition for it. It was a nice refreshing role to play after having played a lot darker or slightly more emotional roles that I have been playing in the last few years, but I do like having a mix of both.

Can you talk about your experience in Paris while filming?
I was born in England, so I grew up going to Paris quite a bit. I’d go for work: press, filming or for fashion week, but I was never there for more than a couple of days. So, for me to be able to go there for four months and be a resident, or a local of sorts was really special. I think I went to every arrondissement and experienced all of the different areas. I also had somewhat similar experiences to Emily: my heating stopped working, and I didn’t have hot water for two weeks. There was also construction everywhere around me, and my elevator stopped working. Darren and the writing team wrote a majority of the episodes while living in Paris, so there were a lot of experiences that we all shared, which were written into the show.

Do you relate to Emily in any way?
I wanted to be a journalist and writer when I was young. I was going into these talk showrooms at 15-16 years old, pitching ideas and being told ‘no’ all the time. Every time I was told ‘no’ I would have to kind of pivot and decide how I was going to go about something differently, and that’s very much like Emily. She doesn’t take no as “no, this isn’t for you”; she takes it as “no, not right now”. I think those are the qualities I really loved about her, and when I read the pilot, I thought, wow, I can relate to this because I’ve been there.

The well-known costume designer, Patricia Field, worked on the show. Did you also have a hand in selecting your outfits?
Patricia Field is a genius at what she does. I think she has mastered the art of creating clothing as a character itself, as well as an extension of the character’s personality, which I love. I didn’t know that she would want my opinion so much. She would send PDF files of different designers and ideas of shoes, bags and outfits and ask me what I liked… I didn’t know that I would actually get to help pick the outfits. Every day we would create outfits together, and I just trusted her style. So, it was teamwork and I am so grateful for that because I grew up loving her style.

What is your favourite outfit in the show?
I think my favourite outfit was the black Audrey-esque outfit with a headpiece. It was the one I wore in the scene from the Paris Opera House. We were able to have that location all night to film, and I wandered around looking at the murals and the architecture, just feeling like I was in a dream world. It was definitely a moment I’ll never forget.

Emily In Paris has been compared to Sex and the City. Can you talk about that?
Like Carrie Bradshaw, Emily Cooper loves fashion, and she’s driven by her work. There is obviously romance and friendships just like in ‘Sex and the City’, but I think when you go down to the actual storyline and the characters, it is very different. It’s a wonderful compliment to be in the same sentence as a show like that, and I have expressed to Darren how much I have enjoyed watching it growing up. But I do think that we made a conscious effort not to be a new version of ‘Sex and the City’ and to have Emily not be a new Carrie, but be Emily.

How does Emily in Paris compare to other rom-coms?
Our TV show is actually reminiscent of the types of rom-com that I used to love watching, but these films just don’t get made anymore. I feel grateful to be able to be a part of a show that is something I would have liked to have watched. I miss the days of making films like ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Love Actually’. I love watching them, and honestly think those films make people smile and laugh, which is what we need more now, more than ever.

Being the daughter of Phil Collins, when did you first realize you have a famous dad?
I think it was a moment when I was at Disneyland with my dad, and I remember being on his shoulders. We were walking around, and I noticed a man walking towards us with my dad’s face on his t-shirt. The man saw my dad, walked up to him and asked for a photo. I didn’t quite get it… it was a weird moment of like, why does he want a picture of my dad and why is my dad on his t-shirt, but then slowly but surely, I started to understand and realize. But it was definitely a funny and weird experience.

As a public figure, how do you view social media?
I’m someone who sees it as a great way to communicate with people around the world: friends, family and fans. There’s also something to be said about not allowing it to run your life. There are pros and cons to anything, and I think social media is something that can be used as a positive tool and as a way to share your life. I certainly have shared moments of my life, and I continue to, but it’s also to what extent and how much do you want to keep private. I think these are individual decisions and there’s a way to balance it out and show your life but also keep some things to yourself.

Congratulations on your engagement to Charlie Dowell! What makes him the one?
I knew from the moment that we started dating that I wanted to marry him, but I didn’t know when that would happen. I am just very, very happy. It’s a very exciting thing and he’s just a wonderful human who completely understands and inspires me and I do him. I am really excited.

Sabrina Joshi
Hollywood Correspondent