Spoilers ahead for season one of Emily in Paris.
When one is a bright-eyed young American girl who moves to Paris, one must obviously end up living in an apartment just above a hot French chef with a cast-iron skillet and flirtatious energy at the ready. So it goes for Lily Collins’s titular character in Emily in Paris, the new Netflix series from Sex and the City and Younger’s Darren Star, when she moves from Chicago to her new French home and quickly gets entangled with her downstairs neighbor Gabriel. Lucas Bravo, a French model and actor, and as it turns out, former sous-chef, plays the chef downstairs whose budding relationship with Emily is inevitably complicated by the fact that he has a girlfriend of his own. Though, as Bravo explained, the actors were also playing it like Emily, Gabriel, and his girlfriend Camille might just cut to the chase and ménage. Calling in from Paris itself for a phone interview with Vulture, Bravo explained his perspective on the show’s jokes about French culture and why he’s not trying to brag about his cooking skills at the moment.
You’re playing a big, up-and-coming Parisian chef on the show. How good are your actual cooking skills?
I was a sous-chef in a restaurant a few years ago, so I have some cooking skills. But you know, we did some kind of cook-off competition with me and Ashley [Park, who plays Emily’s friend Mindy] to promote the show, and I completely burned my omelet and cut my finger off, so I’m trying not to brag about my cooking skills anymore.
What kind of restaurant were you a sous-chef in?
It was a fusion of Japanese and French cuisine, with a chef that was really passionate about his craft. I learned amazing techniques and ways to recycle everything you’re not using.
Did you think you’d become a chef full-time?
That was definitely my side job. I was auditioning at the same time. You know, you have ups and downs, and that was the slow part. I began bartending at the same restaurant, and the sous-chef left, and I asked the chef if I could help with a few things. Little by little he gave me more responsibilities.
Did you have to cook much for the show?
I just did the omelet in the kitchen scene. The rest was prepared by set decorators. I obviously didn’t have the time to cook for six or seven people while shooting. But yeah, I just did the omelet. Luckily that one was a success.
Were you a fan of Darren Star’s work going in for this?
I grew up with Sex and the City. I think it’s very informative when you’re a young teenager and you want to know what to do or not to do. When I saw that this show was coming to Paris with Darren, I was like, first of all, what an opportunity, and I was proud that my city was going to be filmed with his kind of production with this perspective and vision. Darren Star’s palette is always colorful and stylish and sexual and I was very excited to see how he would put Paris in the blender and what would come out.
When you say you learned a lot from Sex and the City, what did you learn?
I think I have some traumas from the show, things I wouldn’t dare do or try because I remember how the girls would react on the show.
How did you think about playing Gabriel and Emily’s romantic arc through this season?
He’s basically cheating on his girlfriend, so you cannot just be this confident, good-looking guy cheating on his girlfriend. You’ll just end up being an asshole. I wanted to find that sense of humanity and the love in him, and what I found is that he’s kind of lost. He’s emasculated by Camille, he wants to make it on his own, but he doesn’t have the tools. When Emily arrives on his doorstep, he’s at a point at his life when he hasn’t been happy for a while. To see that curiosity in her wakes him up. He vibrates, so of course he’s going to follow her and all the opportunities that come with it, even if it means he’s going to give up his principles and values. The choice is between your principles and your happiness.
Watching through the middle episodes of the season, I couldn’t help but feel like there was a spark between Camille, Emily, and Gabriel as a trio, that they might end up in a ménage à trois. Was that intentional?
Yes it was! I’m glad you caught that, because it was intended and we definitely played it that way. When I’m at the terrace at the café and I’m liking the picture because they’re both in bed, or when Emily and Camille kiss on the mouth and they’re like “I’m sorry” and “I’m not!” — there are little hints that we’re in Paris and anything can happen.
The show is full of Emily being shocked by aspects of Parisian life as she tries to adjust to living there. Were there observations that felt spot-on to you as a Frenchman?
When we started shooting, I was wondering if we would have a fair portrayal. I didn’t want the Paris to be too Americanized. I found that the jokes were pretty on point, when there was something that was a little too far from reality, we would be a part of the discussion and would say, “We don’t do that here.” But I found myself, many times, in those kinds of situations, like smoking after the gym. When your lungs are open and you’re ready to receive fresh air, Parisians love to smoke.
I was surprised at how many places I discovered and rediscovered through Darren’s vision. I’ve been here for 15 years, and it’s a new eye. For the months to come, when everybody left, I was a tourist in my own city and it felt amazing.
What were the places you discovered through the show?
The Atelier des Lumières, for example, when we were walking in the van Goghs. I remember going back for a Gustav Klimt show. Walking in this painting felt so magical. Also the Musée des Arts Forains, where we shot the Fortier party.
Some of my co-workers are certain that you look like a French version of Armie Hammer. Have you ever gotten that comparison?
I’ve heard that a couple of times. It’s really nice to say. I love him, he’s a great actor. It’s funny.
The show has a cast that’s half American and half French. Did you all get to show the Americans around when you weren’t shooting?
Ashley was the one connecting everybody, the first day she came on set. She had an apartment next to mine, and we sort of became roomies, and with Samuel Arnold as well. We were just out and about when we weren’t shooting. Just like when we went on that episode to the Loire Valley. Between scenes we would just go on wine tastings and stuff like that, knowing that we had to shoot right after.
Did you actually get to stay in a chateau?
No, we had a beautiful little auberge [an inn, basically], which was quite nice as well.
Well, it must’ve been less fun once that all ended.
I felt like the lonely abandoned child. You’ve been doing this for four months and you’re like, What was my life before this? But I went to New York to see Ashley and she gave me a tour of all the Broadway shows, so I didn’t feel too abandoned. Then I came back to Paris right in time for quarantine, and you know the rest of the story. I’m still here.