Here comes a new star—or should that be étoile? Broadway singer-turned-actress Ashley Park discusses her smash-hit Netflix series Emily in Paris and why filming in France was the happiest time of her life
American actress and singer Ashley Park has been a star on Broadway for years, appearing in productions such as Mamma Mia!, The King and I and Mean Girls, the latter of which earned her a Tony award nomination for best supporting actress in 2018. This year she has made her mark on the screen, appearing as Lily Collins’ quick-witted and fearless best friend, Mindy, a nanny with a hidden singing talent, in Netflix’s hit Emily in Paris. With the second season of the show dropping on Netflix this month, take a look back at this article with Park, which was first published in December 2020.
What was the audition process like for your character Mindy?
In June 2019, I received an email from my agent to audition in New York. A few weeks later, I was rehearsing for a play in Massachusetts and my agent called to tell me that [series creator] Darren Star wanted to call me personally from Paris to discuss the character. As soon as I heard Darren’s voice on the phone, I immediately felt comfortable and relaxed. He said lovely things about seeing me in Mean Girls on Broadway. I got the part a few days later and in less than two weeks, I was in Paris.
What drew you to Emily in Paris in the first place?
Seeing a project with these names attached: Darren Star, Patricia Field, Lily Collins. Then seeing Paris in the headline. It was a city I’d always wanted to go to. I read the audition scene, which was Mindy’s very first scene in the pilot when she meets Emily. I immediately felt connected to her. It has only happened a few times to me before, when I have read the scene once and I feel like I’ve already memorised it. I was drawn to Mindy’s warmth, genuine nature and instinct for friendship.
How was working with Lily, Patricia and Darren?
I actually met them all on the day of our very first table read, which was also my first full day in Paris. I was intimidated, but each of them greeted me with warmth. I hadn’t spoken to Darren since our phone call, but we embraced with the biggest hug. I adore Patricia. When I first met her, she was wearing a huge sunhat she’d just bought at a vintage store on her way to our meeting—with Mindy’s wardrobe in mind. She’s always creative and finding inspiration. I learnt so much about the language of fashion from her.
With Lily, the bond was even more instant. We are grateful every second that we get to go on this journey together. Our chemistry as actors and scene partners, as well as soul sisters, was there from the start. In fact, lots of people came up to me and Lily at the end of the table read and asked how many years we’ve known each other, to which we giggled and said, “We just met like, 45 minutes ago.”
Did you ever think the show would become a hit like it did?
I think the only thing I really hoped was that it would bring as much joy to people as we’d had in making it. We really had no idea that it would be embraced by the world and pop culture like this. We were so excited to share it with everyone, but I never had put thought into the show’s commercial success. It’s a wild thing to be isolated and separated when the show launched in the pandemic, yet feel connected to the world as more people watch the show.
What do you hope people take away from the show?
At an unprecedented time, when we can’t really travel or meet new friends, I hope that people can live vicariously through this show. I hope that it can be uplifting and enjoyable for those five hours that they’re watching, and that it inspires people to think outside of their cultural norms and be curious about the world. And especially for young women, I hope they are inspired to find friendships like the one Mindy and Emily have together: a sisterhood that’s based on being supportive and loyal, and having a mutual zest for life.
What was it like moving to Paris for four months last year?
My four months in Paris were the happiest of my life. Lily and I were the only American actors living there for that long. Every location was as beautiful as it seems on screen. I luckily had my own personal Mindy to show me Paris: Lucas Bravo [who plays Emily’s love interest Gabriel]. He is an exuberant friend and guide, and it was fun to discover Paris as he was rediscovering it. He and Samuel Arnold [who plays Emily’s colleague Julien] moved in with me our last month of shooting. We all adored each other. I’d always wanted to study or live abroad, but with a Broadway theatre schedule, that was never really possible.
My filming schedule gave me big chunks of free time, so I travelled to Geneva, Milan, Rimini, Budapest, London, Versailles and Greece. The running joke was that “Ashley in Europe” could be its own series. I told every friend in America that if they ever wanted a free Airbnb in Paris, then to book a flight and I’d host them. I think I had more than 30 friends take me up on that. We did macaron and croissant-baking classes, denim jacket-designing workshops and plenty of wine and cheese tastings. The best was just walking along the Seine and wandering through the historic district of Le Marais.
At an unprecedented time, when we can’t really travel ... I hope that people can live vicariously through this show
What was your favourite fashion moment from the show?
Singing Chandelier in that red dress with the rainbow stilettos and butterfly necklace felt very special. The allgrey snakeskin trench and boots moment is definitely a favourite. I wish I could’ve taken that with me. Or perhaps the plaid suit that Patricia and her team tailored for me. It used to be a boy’s suit from Asos and they cut and shaped it into a one-of-a-kind suit design. I just loved that outfit with its bracelets and Dior leather boots.
Have you had any celebrities praise you for your role?
Two of my all-time favourite women and role models did: Mindy Kaling and Drew Barrymore. Mindy tweeted about almost crying when Mindy overcomes her inhibitions and sings Chandelier. When I read that, I yelped. And I’ll actually be singing as a guest on Drew’s new talk show [The Drew Barrymore Show], which I still can’t believe. I think the world of Drew and I’m so thrilled she’s a lover of our show.
What are your plans for the future?
I just started shooting Girls5Eva [a comedy series created by Tina Fey], and it’s a truly fun project. It’s a Nineties girl band dream come true. In terms of the future, as clichéd as it sounds, I’ve really learnt to go with the flow. I hope to keep working on projects I love with people I love, while telling stories that are meaningful. That’s my sole focus.