When it comes to television, Darren Star has delighted decades of viewers with romantic takes on what the modern woman’s life could look like if the fantastical were reality. From Carrie Bradshaw’s enviable career (and shoe closet) as a Manhattan sex columnist on Sex and the City to Liza Miller’s miraculous second act in Younger, Star’s shows, with their unabashed embrace of wild desires and dreams, have become pop culture canon for their escapism and fun. Perhaps the most outsize example of Star’s brand of fantasy has been Netflix’s Emily in Paris, the effervescent series he created about Emily (Lily Collins), an indefatigable optimistic and career-obsessed American in Paris, whose work and play in the City of Love, are truly the stuff of dreams. Ahead of the third season, which released this week, TIME caught up with Star to talk about girlbosses, the power of positivity, and attachment theory.
Out of all the seasons of Emily in Paris so far, this one has really given the most pathos to Emily, who’s being forced to make big decisions when it comes to work and love. What prompted you to give Emily these kinds of looming life decisions?
I think it’s just the evolution of her character in the story—you know, she hasn’t been in Paris that long, so it’s took a number of months for her to develop the relationships that have now deepened on the show between her and the rest of the characters. This season, I also feel we spent more time getting to know the rest of the ensemble.
It’s definitely the most that I’ve seen her signature optimism be challenged on the show. Do you think that she needed to have a little opposition to her constant ebullience?
She needed challenges, both personally and professionally. She came here without having connections, but over the course of the three seasons, she’s gotten herself much more emotionally involved with the people she met here. Plus, she made a decision to make a life in Paris. She doesn’t feel like she’s passing through anymore, so her connections are deeper and her and her intention to be in Paris is so much stronger than it was for the first two seasons.
Obviously, Emily’s living in the city of love and has continual romantic dilemmas, but one of the greatest loves of her life is her job. This season, this is really apparent after she loses her job. And throughout the series, a running storyline is how her American work ethic of living to work instead of working to live is perpetually putting her close relationships in peril. I think Emily is in some ways, the most earnest, unabashed girlboss I’ve seen on TV—would you agree?
She is very earnest. Her heart’s always in the right place, she’s very concerned with making the right decisions and good decisions. I think she’s hard on herself and she’s very driven and career-oriented. She came to Paris for a job that gave her a sense of purpose; for the episodes where she was out of work, it was like her whole life is up in the air because she made a decision to stay in Paris for a job and that’s also why she [originally] came to the city. Every decision she’s made about her life was very career-oriented. I definitely think it was a good wake-up call for her to be unemployed for that brief moment, but even then, I think she had trouble with it.
In recent years, there’s been a backlash against the girlboss in the zeitgeist; especially in media, there’s been a wave of content that skewers workplace ambition and girlboss feminism, but I found it surprising and honestly, kind of endearing, that Emily still really, truly believes in the power of the girlboss.
I feel like Emily is somebody who derives a lot of meaning from work. I don’t think she needs to run the world, but she likes to work. She’s smart. And she really sometimes can’t help herself when she thinks she might have the best ideas in the room. But I think that’s what turns her on—working. She derives a lot of happiness from it. I don’t think she’s doing it to climb the ladder unnecessarily. I think she’s doing it because it gives her life a lot of meaning and she can she enjoys it.
Emily isn’t the only ambitious working woman that you’ve brought to life onscreen. Looking at your work with both Sex in the City and Younger, many of your main characters have put a lot of value in their careers.
They’re all characters who derive a lot of pleasure from working; in the case of Younger, it felt like Liza had to go back to work in order to regain a sense of self.
Do you think it’s important to see this onscreen?
I can relate to characters who enjoy their work, find meaning through their work, but more than that, just have some passion for what they’re doing. And I think it’s a gift to be able to find meaning in your work and actually be excited about it; audiences like to live vicariously through characters who have found that and find meaning in not necessarily their their job, but in their life that they’re pursuing.
Do you think that the events of season three have given Emily a better grasp on the work-life balance of her French colleagues?
Emily is continually, by the fact that she’s living in France, being put in situations where she is forced to find a little work-life balance. I don’t think it comes naturally to her and she finds ways to almost evade it whenever she can. But I definitely feel she’s softened in that respect since she arrived in Paris to the end of season three—she’s a different person now.
This season, Emily faces the consequences of her avoiding confrontation both at work and in her personal life. I know Emily, with her social media savvy, would probably know this, but attachment theory went viral on TikTok this year. Do you think she has an avoidant attachment style?
Yes. Well, I think it probably ties into her being a bit of a people pleaser. She’s a character who wants to make everybody happy and feels like there’s a way that she can do that. In that respect, she is also very controlling. I think sort of that controlling aspect of her personality backfires on her quite often.
In spite of it all, Emily is still the most optimistic character on TV right now. How do you think she keeps her sense of positivity in this day and age?
It’s ingrained in terms of who she is. She definitely struggles, but she has a strong sense of perseverance—she always sees the glass as half full.
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