Intimidating, icy cool, irrepressibly chic… Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu plays the formidable boss to perfection in the hit TV series Emily in Paris . She tells Laura Craik how she found her inspiration surprisingly close to home.
Even if she wasn’t starring in Netflix’s smash-hit Emily in Paris playing the formidable Sylvie ‒ boss and nemesis to Lily Collins’s Emily ‒ with such froideur, I’d still feel terrified about interviewing Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu. While it’s never polite to generalise, 20 years of working in the French capital have led me to conclude that while Parisian women are many wonderful things ‒ intelligent, passionate, focused, droll ‒ lighthearted chit-chat isn’t their thing. Banter? They’d sooner wear Crocs.
That Philippine has chosen to meet in a chichi London hotel is not surprising. That she is smouldering in a semi-transparent blouse and softly tailored jacket is not surprising either. That she looks radiantly beautiful in a natural ‘it’s just my genes’ Jane Birkin way is so far, so very French. And then she orders in impeccable English: ‘Earl Grey tea, please. And a little piece of cake.’
Philippine, I discover as we chat, is warm, quick to laugh and deliciously candid, even if she’s unable to give away details about the second season of Emily in Paris , the show created by Darren ‘ Sex and the City’ Star that was viewed by 58 million households in its first month of release. ‘I’m not supposed to say anything,’ she demurs. ‘Let’s just say that we’ll get to see a totally different side of Sylvie.’
French viewers will be hoping that this side includes fewer clichés, for it’s fair to say that in France, the first season of Emily in Paris went down like a lead baguette. ‘The berets. The croissants. The hostile waiters. The inveterate philanderers. The lovers and the mistresses. Name a cliché about France and the French, and you’ll find it,’ sniffed the French news outlet 20 Minutes . Although arguably, the entire cast is composed of caricatures: Emily is as stereotypical a portrait of the self-centred, over-confident American millennial as Sylvie is of her haughty, intimidating, chain-smoking French boss.
What does Philippine think of the criticism the show has received? ‘My answer is that Parisians have no sense of humour,’ she retorts. ‘A lot of the stuff that is said is true.’
To Philippine, Sylvie is a far more nuanced character: ‘She’s strong and vulnerable. She stands her ground. She doesn’t appreciatea little American telling her what to do or say.’
She says the casting process was very simple. ‘Although they were looking for a much-younger woman,’ she says slyly, with a throaty laugh. ‘But I read for them, and then it happened.’ You could say Philippine was born into the role: ‘My mother worked in fashion with Dior for 20 years. I’ve known women like Sylvie since I was a kid. They’re basically scared: scared of losing their beauty, scared of ageing.’
When Philippine says her mother, Françoise ‘worked with Dior’ she isn’t exaggerating: as head of accessories, […]