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What Darren Star wants to tell the world about “Ugly Americans”


Emilie in Paris showrunner Darren star is a master at creating a television that elicits a reaction. The man behind Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Square, Sex and the city, and Younger knows how to entice viewers with its proprietary blend of whimsy, romance and edginess. (Remember the 90210 episode where Brandon takes the U4EA drug in a rave? Or the beginning Sex and the city episode in which the gang advised Charlotte on the pros and cons of anal sex?)

In some ways, Emilie in Paris is a candy perfectly suited to the time of a pandemic. While many of us were in lockdown discomfort, Emily, a young marketing manager and social media ace played by Lily collins– wanders the cobbled streets of Paris wearing beautiful clothes and kissing handsome Gallic men. She is also regularly educated by her French colleagues. Although she does not know much about French culture beyond cinema Red Mill! and Ratatouille, Emily triumphs in her work, bringing the marketing sense of an American influencer to French culture. Her big victory, inspired by her work on a vaginal dryness product for postmenopausal women, is an Instagram post poking fun at the word vagina is male in France.

After its premiere last October, Emilie became Netflix’s best comedy, according to the streamer. This too irritated French critics, annoyed social media experts and sent Americans on hateful surveillance frenzy. The series’ surprise Golden Globe nominations sparked a backlash, especially after the Los Angeles Times alleged that members of the Hollywood Press Association had been transported to the Paris plateau and treated in a luxury hotel. Despite all of this, Emmy voters awarded him a nomination for Best Comedy, Netflix ordered a second season, and viewers kept watching.

Star, who had just returned from a shoot in Paris, spoke to VF. about the controversy that swirls Emilie, plans for season two, and his feelings about the Sex and the city to restart.

Vanity Show: Emilie in Paris reveling in the romance and glamor of France, but it must have been a somewhat glamorous filming season in the midst of Covid, with all the masks and blockages.

Darren Star: When we started filming at the end of April in the south of France, we took over what is probably one of the most glamorous places in the world, the Four Seasons Cap Ferrat hotel, where we stayed and filmed. The hotel was essentially closed except for us. We had our writers’ room in a villa on the property, so it was actually surreal – everything in France was closed at the time. If you throw writers together in a room with food and don’t let them go, you get a lot of work!

It sounds like the best TV writing job ever. Guess the pandemic won’t happen in Emily’s season two universe?

In the timeline of the show, that just hasn’t happened yet.

The show feeds on the cultural differences between Emily and her French colleagues. Was it inspired by the snobbery you’ve experienced when visiting there over the years?

I have been to Paris several times and obviously I love it. That’s why I keep going back there, I’m not a masochist! I feel like the French are lovely people, but I can see the Americans and what they look like from their perspective. There is something about this shot of the ugly American who comes to a foreign country, doesn’t learn the language or understand the customs, and just wants everything to be like in America. In some ways, it’s Emily at the start of the series. Americans are told we can do anything, be whoever we want. the French [see] their culture as the center of the universe, just like us. This is why there is a clash of cultures. [laughs]

Some French critics were exasperated by the show. Did you have angry reactions from French viewers?

No, this show was bigger in France than anywhere in the world. On the contrary, it was perhaps the first non-French series that really focused on French culture and the French. Maybe it was taken a little too seriously [by critics] but there was still a sense of humor behind the performances.

A few years before writing the pilot, I rented an apartment there and spent time at a French marketing company. After a few days there, I asked the woman who ran the company, what do the French think of Americans who work in Paris? She paused and said, “Actually, we don’t think about them at all.” This is the attitude! I like it as much as the Americans dream of living in Paris, the French, they really don’t think of us.

He’s a perfect French diss.

One thing that changes [next season] do we spend more time with a lot of french characters. Because the show was originally made for an American network, I didn’t know how many French people with subtitles an American audience would tolerate. Knowing that we are reaching a global audience, there is a lot more captioned content.


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Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds

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