When you’ve been binge-watched Emily in Pariswho have favourited the romantic workplace comedy Sex and the City Creator Darren Star, then you’ve already loved the show’s bright cast of French and American actors. There are seasoned powerhouses like Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Broadway stars like Ashley Park and some new faces like Samuel Arnold, who plays Emily’s fashion-conscious but judgmental associate Julien. Arnold’s appearance as a less impressed, disgruntled French office mate is absolutely perfect: Although Emily (Lily Collins) always wears a killer outfit and seems to enjoy the charms of Paris, she doesn’t speak French and doesn’t go with her staff at the marketing firm Savoir, in particular Julien, who makes his anger visible – and humorous – known.
25-year-old Arnold was born in Paris and grew up there. He started out as a professional dancer before switching to acting. He performed at the National Theater in London (where he lives today) Anthony und Cleopatra alongside Ralph Fiennes and then starred in the French television film Kill a man. Conditions I informed Arnold of Emily’s success in Paris, what did it right in French life, and am hoping for a second season.
What attracted you to the character of Julien?
I loved my character from A to Z as soon as I read the script. If I had a choice of choosing a character, I would choose him. What I like most about him is his freedom – he can say or do whatever he wants, he has his say, and it’s okay because he has that position at Savoir. With Emily, I think he sees her first as a rival and in the end she is an ally.
Some people have knocked on the show as a clichéd portrayal of Paris. As a Parisian, what did you think of this criticism?
I think the cliché on the show is the fact that Paris is beautiful all the time. Not only is it beautiful in real life, it can be gray at times! But the show praises the city by showing off its beauty and sights. I was not offended at all. When you do something in a particular place, the audience needs to recognize the place – the title is Emily in Paris, so of course Paris has to be shown. There is a great sense of pride in showing the city to the world in the best possible way.
Have you had American friends come to Paris to do those stereotypical Parisian things?
On the show, when she took a bite of pain au chocolate … everything my friends tried they made the same face. They say, “This is the best I’ve ever tried!” So it’s a cliché, but it’s true.
“In Great Britain and the USA, the customer is king. This is not the case in France! “
What did the show right that makes French life really different from American?
I live in London now and you go to a store in the UK or the US and the customer is king. It’s weird because it’s not like that in France, you’re on a par with the waiters, which is great too. In France, I would never complain about the food [like the scene where Emily sends back a steak she believes is undercooked.]
Was there a scene that was left out that you would like to see on screen? Maybe something that could show up in a possible second season?
The show was full of jokes and great lines, and I think what we did was the best that was written. I don’t think we sacrificed anything. At the moment we don’t know about the second season, but hopefully!
What do you think the show is offering people right now amid the ongoing pandemic if many of us cannot travel?
Honestly, I was happy to be part of the show now because it’s an escape from reality. The show is just simplicity and joy and beauty. Lots of people are struggling because of Covid-19, and I’m so glad we were able to offer something easy, fun and loving.
And the most important question: were you allowed to keep the clothes?
I didn’t keep the clothes! I didn’t even think to ask! But I was inspired by my character so now I can be bolder in the way I dress.
Assistant to the editor-in-chief
Liz Cantrell is Town & Country’s Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief for Arts and Culture and has previously written for Esquire.
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