By now you’re probably deep into Netflix’s Emily in Paris, a new rom-com series from Sex and the City creator Darren Star that stars Lily Collins as a spunky millennial taking the City of Light by storm.
And if you’re a SATC fan, you’ve most likely spotted some subtle—and not so subtle—nods to the iconic show. There’s the obvious: Patricia Field is the costume designer, along with co–costume designer Marilyn Fitoussi, and the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, where Carrie stayed in the series finale, makes an appearance. But there are not-so-obvious references too, so we called up Collins, Star, Field, and more to fill us in on the secrets behind the making of the series as well as all the Easter eggs you probably missed.
Prendre plaisir! (That’s “enjoy,” FYI.)
The story behind Emily’s camera phone case
Call it kismet, but the phone case that becomes a signature item for Emily Cooper—much in the way that Carrie had her namesake necklace—almost didn’t happen because it actually belonged to Field. “I kept telling Patricia I loved it,” Collins tells Glamour. “She said, ‘You do?’ I kept thinking it’s super fun, and Emily loves photography. Plus, Emily is really obvious, so wearing a big camera around her neck says it all. It’s not just another phone case. That was Emily’s ode to Carrie, in a sense of having her own version of [the Carrie necklace].”
Star wasn’t sold immediately. “Patricia showed it to me, and I wasn’t sure because I knew we’d be seeing it onscreen all the time. But she was like, ‘Trust me, just go with it.’ That ‘I’m not sure thing’ is what Patricia is a genius at because she is sure. She gets it before anyone else does.”
“It’s an eye-catching piece,” Field tells us. “So I gave it to her to use in the show. I got it initially several years ago in Korea. Since then, I’ve also seen them on Amazon. My assistant Erica says the camera case is the new Carrie necklace.”
Emily’s earrings are also a nod to Carrie Bradshaw…
In one episode Emily wears hoop earrings with her name on them, similar to the necklace with “Carrie” on it that Carrie Bradshaw wore. Field created the earrings—you can even create your own version and buy through her website.
…so was Emily’s tulle skirt.
Collins told Glamour that anytime she walked over a bridge in Paris, she felt like Carrie. The outfits certainly helped. “There’s one at the party at the Eiffel Tower where I have this black corset top and big tulle skirt,” she says. “Patricia said that’s an ode to Carrie’s tutu, so arriving to that party in that look felt very Carrie for me.”
Collins considers Emily a fan of Sex and the City.
“I feel like Emily watched Sex and the City and admired Carrie Bradshaw in a lot of ways,” she tells Glamour. “Although Carrie’s stay in Paris was a lot shorter than Emily’s, there was a huge fashion tie-in. I think she took into consideration ‘If Carrie went to France, what would she wear, what would she do?’” While Emily is her own person, and not a Carrie clone, she clearly drew inspiration from the character. “She loves what she loves, so taking into consideration the modern woman has those characters that we all love…of course we draw inspiration from them.”
How Emily and Mindy got their names
Darren Star chose Emily because he liked the simplicity and the way it sounded. Star adds that he thinks he subconsciously picked the name because of Amélie—he loved the way the French pronounce it. While that’s not a direct tie-in to Sex and the City, can’t you picture Carrie doing the same thing?
Coming up with a name for Mindy, Emily’s first friend in Paris, was a lot more personal. “Mindy is named and inspired by a dear friend of mine in Paris whose name is also Mindy,” Star says. “It’s a little homage to her. She has an amazing spirit and was a great guide for me to everything in Paris.”
Emily in Paris was inspired by Darren Star’s love of the city
“I always spent a lot of time traveling since I was in college, and I got stuck on Paris and would go back whenever I could,” Star said during the show’s PaleyFest Fall TV Preview panel. (Perhaps that explains the location for Sex and the City’s finale?)
“I loved the city and hanging out there, so I’ve always been thinking about how to give viewers that experience and share that,” he added. “I personally wanted the experience of working and living there myself, and thought this would be a good way to do it.” Who can blame him?
Lily Collins and Ashley Park had their own Emily in Paris–like experiences
Collins says the longest she’d spent in Paris prior to filming the series was “maybe two weeks during Fashion Week a few years ago.” Now the U.K.-born actor can’t get enough. “We arrived last August and I came home [to Los Angeles] in November. I hope we get to do it again.” For Park, the thrill of being in France was even more special: It was her first time in Paris. Much like Emily’s character in the show and Carrie during her first days in the city, the two embraced experiencing Paris like locals. Park encouraged on- and offscreen friend Collins to try an espresso for the first time (“Now I love them,” Collins says). She also convinced Collins—a vegetarian—to try a bite of the famed cheeseburger at Ralph’s in Paris. “It’s just so good,” Park says.
Lucas Bravo had to audition a lot to get the part of Chef Gabriel
A big part of Sex and the City is Carrie’s romances with Big and Aiden, so naturally Emily in Paris needed its own leading man. Lucas Bravo is so dreamy as Gabriel, Emily’s neighbour, one would think he simply walked into the audition and got the part. According to Bravo, his first audition went great—“I was overprepared and so happy to have an opportunity like this”—but nerves got the best of him the second time. “Darren Star was there, and he’s so iconic to me. I respect his work so much, so I felt the pressure,” he says. “And then the person I normally read with wasn’t there, so I was thrown off and started stressing out. Darren came up to me and said, ‘It’s fine, but maybe just more energy?’ I was completely petrified. I went home and thought it was over. Thank God I was called back again, and this time it was good.”
Star laughs at the memory. “I put him through the ringer for months,” he says. “I first saw him on tape and he was fantastic, but I had him read about a half dozen times after that. He was even hiking in Corsica at one point, and I made him come back because I wanted to see Lily and him read together. Once I saw that, I think we all knew. The chemistry was there.”
The cast dined at many of the same restaurants as their characters
One of the best parts of Sex and the City is seeing which of-the-moment New York City restaurant would be featured next. In Emily in Paris, dining out is also a key part of the show. In fact, sometimes if the cast had an hour break or more they would actually go shopping for groceries or stop at a local café. “We could eat at Café de Flore and have dinner, or a nearby market to pick up food,” Collins says. “Or walk next door to a local spot and get a coffee or a juice. The city was at our fingertips. It was a real treat.” When the cast shot the episode that takes place at Camille’s family’s country estate in the Loire Valley, Bravo says they went wine tasting: “In between scenes we went because there was a vineyard nearby!”
The luxury hotel made famous in the SATC finale made a cameo
Any diehard SATC fan will recognise the luxurious Hôtel Plaza Athénée as the one Carrie stayed at during the series finale. It’s where she splayed out in bed in that Oscar de la Renta dress of all dresses and where she ran after Big on the stairs. Collins says she got a thrill from being there: “Of all the hotels, to be able to shoot there and run around the hallways and see all of the interior and go, ‘This is where [the SATC finale] lived and breathed, and now we get to breathe new life into it and bring the Emily aspect into it…’ is so amazing.”
Star himself says Emily definitely would have watched SATC growing up and remember that episode. “She would have had that influence in her head. And she would have gone to Plaza Athénée,” she says.
Collins used to speak fluent French but stopped years ago
Interestingly, Emily Cooper knows barely five words in French, much like Carrie, but Collins grew up studying the language. “I used to speak and dream in French, read in French, and was pretty fluent,” she says. “But then I stopped practicing.”
When Collins got the part, she thought it would be good to brush up on the language for the show…until she found out Emily doesn’t speak French. At all. But Collins says she started dreaming in French again while filming, so if there’s a season two, she’s going to make an effort to relearn it again. “It was really difficult to vent about not being able to understand the language as Emily, and then switch into totally speaking French,” she says. “But now that I know who Emily is, I’m going to embrace it.”
Something else that’s interesting: Ashley Park took French for six years growing up, but admits she doesn’t remember a lot of it now. C’est dommage.
The Emily in Paris writing team lived in Paris as part of their research
In order to create a more authentic world for Emily’s fish-out-of-water story, which mirrors Carrie’s time in Paris in a lot of ways, Star wanted some of his writers from the United States “to have the experience of coming to Paris and being there before we wrote some scripts.” (Now that’s how you do research.) “I knew it would inform their writing since some of the writers hadn’t experienced Paris. This way it would help them mirror the experience of Emily and find the nuances and reality of the situation.” He says many of the storylines on Emily were planned way in advance, but the actual writing was done in Paris. “We wrote down to the wire.”
Patricia Field wanted Emily to have an Audrey Hepburn moment
Carrie isn’t the only reference in Emily’s fashion. The Christian Siriano dress that Emily wears to the Palais Garnier Opera House was Field’s first choice for the scene. “I wanted to do an homage to Audrey Hepburn, when she goes to the ballet at L’Opéra [in Funny Face]. Lily’s a doppelgänger when you look at her,” Field says. “I was a big fan of Audrey Hepburn, so I gave the hair department a photo of Audrey with her hair pulled back and was able to create that look on Lily. Christian was delighted we chose his dress.”
So was Collins. “Emily in Paris is the first American show completely shot in Paris, so when you get access to these incredible places like the opera house and can shoot there at night without crowds, you’re roaming the halls going, ‘What is this? This is crazy!’”
Mindy was never supposed to sing until Ashley Park was cast
“Casting is so important because it informs the show,” Star says. “It’s alchemy, and you have to get it right.” Case in point: Imagine Sex and the City without the chemistry of Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, and Kim Cattrall.
That also means not being afraid to change course when something—or someone—amazing comes along. “I had seen Ashley twice [as Gretchen Wieners] in Mean Girls on Broadway and I loved her. She just destroyed me, she was so amazing.” In fact, Mindy originally wasn’t supposed to sing on the show, but Star was so taken with Park’s voice that he made it part of the character. “I selfishly wanted to hear Ashley sing,” he says with a laugh.
Emily wears a few items from Patricia Field’s personal closet
Patrica Field to the rescue, again! “I brought to Paris this short black rain jacket with a hood by Hood by Air along with my MCM backpack,” Field tells Glamour. “I didn’t like the ones available, so I said to Lily, ‘I have an original MCM backpack, so here, wear mine.’ I love to use many of my personal things in my work, like my Hood by Air jacket. It’s not conceit or anything, but I swear to God, I can go into my closet and find better things there than anywhere else.” Spoken like a true icon.