Ashley Park on Finding Her Voice in 'Emily in Paris'

Caroline Hallemann
·6 mins read
Photo credit: Stephanie Branchu / Netflix
Photo credit: Stephanie Branchu / Netflix

From Town & Country

From Roman Holiday to Before Sunrise to Lost in Translation, there’s a grand tradition of Americans traveling abroad, even if somewhat jetlagged, in dazzling entertainment. The new Netflix series Emily in Paris, a romantic comedy from Sex and the City creator Darren Star premiering this month, triggers the same wanderlust as its globetrotting pred­ecessors, but it gives the formula a charming 21st-century overhaul.

Lily Collins stars as Emily, an ambitious Midwestern twenty-something who moves to Paris for a job at a luxury marketing firm. Between the language barrier and a culture clash—she’s been tasked with offering a wholly unappreciated American perspective on social media strategy—Emily doesn’t fit in with her Parisian co-workers, much less her Miranda Priestly–esque boss. Off the clock, her love life is equal parts passionate and complicated. She’s a fish out of water, at least until she meets Mindy, a fellow expat played by Broadway triple threat Ashley Park, who offers Emily a crash course in the French way of doing things.

Photo credit: Stephanie Branchu / Netflix
Photo credit: Stephanie Branchu / Netflix

“You see Paris through Emily’s eyes,” Park says, noting that Emily was shot entirely on location, including inside the Palais Garnier, on the banks of the Seine, and in front of the Eiffel Tower. “The show gives such a sense of being in the city, and if people can’t visit right now, what a great way to experience it!” And if Paris is a character, “fashion is the other lead,” Park says. Leave it to costume designer Patricia Field to inspire dressing up, even if the only destination is the next episode.

Here, Park spills on her character Mindy, singing on the show, and if she'd be interested in a potential season two.

How would you describe Emily in Paris?

It’s a combination of Sex and the City and Devil Wears Prada. It's a romantic comedy, but it's very much also a dramedy. And it's not a coming of age story—it’s about how Emily finds her way in her womanhood in this place that is new to her.

What’s Mindy’s role in the story?

Mindy is also an expat; She's a twenty-something au pair from Shanghai, and she becomes Emily's first friend in Paris. They have a really lovely friendship that is very synonymous to mine and Lily’s.

Our writers on the show were so collaborative. Darren [Star]'s characters are so genuine and complex and funny. I think he succeeds in that because he really starts to write for his actors, and what I immediately connected to with Mindy is that she's a really great friend. She's an effortless friend; she's really good at comforting while also calling someone out; and she leads with humor. Those are all qualities that I value in myself and the people around me.

Photo credit: Roger DO MINH/Netflix
Photo credit: Roger DO MINH/Netflix

And she sings! Tell me about that.

I’ve been watching back the scenes with singing, and I'm so moved by them. You can really tell when a team—the crew, and directors, and writers, and producers—care about the people in front of the camera. I felt so taken care of the whole time, and watching the scenes back, the way that they're shot, and the way that they captured certain parts of Mindy and of me, I'm just so moved by them. I've performed in thousands of Broadway shows at this point, but at the end of the day, I have nothing to really show for it.

The magic of theater is that you're there in that present moment with that alchemy of those exact people who are watching, and that cast that night, so there really is no way to capture it. That's the sacredness of theater. But I can't believe that I'll have these scenes forever of Mindy singing "La Vie en Rose" and "Chandelier."

Growing up pursuing musical theater, I'm so grateful for the spectrum of characters that I've gotten to play, and the sounds that they've made. Part of growing up as artists is we figure out what own voice is. And hearing "La Vie en Rose" and "Chandelier" were really the first times I've heard my own voice, how I would be singing if it was from my soul, and not because I'm in a certain period, or a certain character, or a certain art. That's my singing voice.

I love singing onstage with a scene partner for the purpose of a story—that's why I do musical theater. I'm not a concert singer. I get too nervous when it's just me, so this was a growing experience for me, too, to sing in a natural way. Music and laughter are the ways that we are able to open up people the most, and I'm so grateful that Mindy gets to do both.

The singing serves such a beautiful purpose in the story, and I'm so excited. My grandma is not able to come watch everything that I do on stage, but that she can see this is really cool.

Photo credit: CAROLE BETHUEL/NETFLIX
Photo credit: CAROLE BETHUEL/NETFLIX

Is there potential for a season two?

You have to ask Netflix, but I certainly think so. If the world allows, I would love for there to be another season. The way that season one ends, after you watch the 10 episodes, you're like, ‘How are there not already 10 more episodes?!’

And I freaking love that Mindy gets to move in. When we read that in the script, we were like, 'Oh my God, here we go. Now it's like Friends, and Mindy's in the building. What's going to happen now?'

I would love to see Mindy have a love interest.

Oh my God, thank you for saying that. What I love about the show is that Mindy's not looking for a new friend. Emily's the one with no friends. And it's kind of like me and Lily in real life. We both have our own lives and our friends, but as soon as we met each other, we were like, 'Oh, it's not that I was lacking in my life, but I never had a friend like you. I know exactly where you fit in.'

They become each other's priority, and soul sisters in a way. And Mindy, she is 1000% having all of the trysts, and friendships, and love. She threw that party; she knows all those people. I love that the first season focuses on her friendship with Emily and her relationship with her singing, but I wouldn't mind a sexy French man. [Laughs.]

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