Sex And The City and Younger creator Darren Star has given us many flawed heartthrobs over the years, from SATC's Mr. Big and Aiden, to Younger's Charles Brooks. In Emily In Paris, Star's latest venture for Netflix, that man is up-and-coming chef Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), Emily's très gorgeous, emotionally complex neighbour.
When we first meet Gabriel in Emily In Paris, American transplant Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) is just getting the hang of her Paris walkup and mistakenly thinks his apartment is hers. Hearing someone fumbling outside, he opens his door and — well, let's just say that she isn't that sorry for the mixup.
Gabriel isn't sorry either, as Bravo tells Refinery29 over video call. "When Emily comes to his doorstep, he feels something vibrating in the air," he said.
This may be the first time you've heard of 32-year-old Nice native Bravo. But it won't be the last. Emily In Paris is the actor-slash-model's breakout role, and one that will likely launch a tidal wave of "Emily In Paris hot french chef neighbour" Google searches.
The way that many of these "American-in-Paris" shows go, you might expect to run into a flurry of bad fake accents (remember Mary Kate and Ashley's Passport To Paris?) and overblown stereotypes. Emily In Paris has its share: In one scene, Emily walks by a spin studio and notices some women enjoying a post-workout cigarette. In another, she snaps a photo of an uppity, done-up woman nonchalantly letting her dog do its business on the street. But the stereotypes pile up so comically that Bravo sees it all as very intentional.
"The tone and vision of Darren in his work pushes these clichés a little higher to make them funny," Bravo says. "I knew they existed but I never saw how funny they could be. And to be able to see the city through other people’s eyes and Darren’s eyes is a gift. I felt like a tourist in my own city, which is good."
And yes, Gabriel is very French. He says things like "enchanté" and whips up delicious omelettes with ease. But so is Bravo — he says that while getting drinks with American friends and co-stars, they'd often laugh at things he'd say when he didn't intentionally try to be funny. "There's my attitude and my way of speaking, but most of all my accent and where we put it, and the right syllable, makes them all crack up, " he says, laughing.
But while the show does, in the most part, see French culture through the eyes of an American, Bravo feels that it's that aspect that gives Emily In Paris its charm, and even helped him appreciate his heritage even more. "It is lighthearted and supposed to be a feel-good show, and all those clichés that [the French characters] embody are really part of our culture," Bravo says. "Maybe some French people are going to be bittersweet about it, but it made me love Paris so much more."
Working on the show made Bravo appreciate his own culture for both its beauty and, at times, amusing dissonance, traits that are reflected in his character as well. "In order to organically embody a character you need to love him, flaws and all," Bravo says. "I needed to figure out how I was going to find the love in a guy who, in many respects, is loose with his principles and values."
Without giving away any spoilers, let's just say that Gabriel faces a love-triangle-related moral quandary during the show. Bravo wanted to make sure that he wasn't putting forth an idealised heartthrob who didn't have his share of limitations — he needed to be real.
"Gabriel embodies our generation," Bravo says. "He wants to make it on his own and open his own restaurant without help, and when Emily comes into his life, he feels this new feeling when meeting her that he just wants to follow, like a [moth] drawn to the light. That’s why he gives all sense up — he just wants to feel alive for the first time in years. He’s a lost French guy who tries to find the light."