“Emily, like myself and so many of my friends, grew up loving Sex and the City and admired Carrie Bradshaw,” Lily Collins told Refinery29 during an afternoon Zoom call, referring to her new character, Emily in Paris’ Emily Cooper. “She would find it a huge compliment to be in the same sentence as her.”
Now that Emily in Paris season 1 is out on Netflix, its titular heroine should be feeling very complimented: Emily is about to receive many, many comparisons to Sex and the City’s well-dressed heroine, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). As Collins points out, her new show “is a Darren Star and Patricia Field collaboration,” name-checking SATC’s creator and costume designer. Still, Collins promised the series isn’t a carbon copy of Star’s most famous work.
“We really wanted to make sure that it wasn’t recreating Carrie, because Carrie is Carrie. And how can you recreate that?” Collins continued. “We wanted Emily to kind of stand alone as Emily. If you really pick apart the storylines and the characters, they really are so different in a lot of ways.”
Collins has a point, especially when it comes to the “sex” portion of Sex and the City versus Emily in Paris. While the latter is extremely horny for the gorgeous views of Paris and its equally beautiful residents, Emily isn’t nearly as explicit as its predecessor. Emily might have a gigantic old-school vibrator, but she never uses it on camera. She may have hot sex with a handful of hunky men, yet viewers rarely glimpse the nitty gritty of their exploits. We’re far more likely to hear sex in Emily in Paris than we are to see it. When Emily does reveal one of its leading lady’s hookups, it’s for comic effect rather than carnal sensuality.
Sex and the City, on the other hand, is famous for its no-holds-barred sex scenes. After all, in the second episode of the series, Carrie stumbles upon an art installation of one man’s secretly captured sex tapes with various models; by the end of the instalment, Carrie’s BFF Samantha (Kim Cattrall) requests to be the latest star in one of those very videos.
It’s likely the stark contrast between Emily and Sex comes down to their goals. While Emily loves to throw a new romance at its protagonist — Emily had three major love interests and a slew of desperate, lovestruck suitors — the dramedy isn't laser-focused on Emily's sex life. Instead, Emily — like Darren Star's other TV confection, TV Land's Younger — is a study in how a place or decision can slowly change a person for the better.
“You know what I love about this show? It's that we didn’t have a transformation scene where Emily came from the Midwest and she went to Paris, went into a dressing room, and came out ‘Emily in Paris.’ And was all of a sudden accepted and embraced.” Collins gushed. “No! She stays Emily from the Midwest, as a girl who comes to a foreign city and is all of a sudden exposed to so many new people and experiences.”
The ways Paris affects Emily lead to some of the most thrilling visuals of the series' first season, from her stunning ensemble for a trip to the ballet to her successful marketing scheme during Paris Fashion Week. “Like anyone, Emily starts to mould parts of what she’s seeing and hearing and tasting and experiencing into her own being,” Collins said. “She doesn’t change who she is. She loves who she is, and she isn’t afraid to ask for help and teach other people, as well as be taught.”
By the close of season 1, Emily gets taught a thing or two about romance from an older, handsome businessman (Charles Martins) — which will sound familiar to any Sex and the City fan. If Netflix orders a second season of Emily in Paris we’ll find out if Emily follows in Carrie’s footsteps and adds a dashing carpenter or an insecure writer to the love list. Either way, we’ll all be rooting for one very tall chef.