Emily in Paris's Ashley Park Wants You to See a New Side of Mindy

The Netflix star talks to BAZAAR.com about Mindy's development in Season 2, the romantic nature of female friendship, and the storytelling power of good old musical theater.

ashley park poses in front of plants wearing cream fedora hat, white tank top, and jewelry
Erik Melvin

In the chaotic world of Emily in Paris, where Instagram hashtags, influencers, and all-American faux pas reign supreme, Mindy Chen is a reprieve.

Played by actress and Broadway star Ashley Park, Mindy acts as the lodestar to Lily Collins's enthusiastic yet naive Emily Cooper. Season 1 of the Darren Star–helmed Netflix series saw Mindy, a billionaire heiress estranged from her family, get fired from her job as an au pair and finally come to terms with pursuing her dream of becoming a singer. In Season 2, the narrative dives deeper into her character arc as a struggling artist in Paris.

"I'm just excited to be able to share different parts of an emotional spectrum that I don't think we saw in the first season," Park says. "We get to see so much more versatility from Mindy, actually see her thrust into situations."

Park also recently wrapped up filming on a new Lionsgate and Point Grey R-rated comedy that marks Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim's directorial debut. The project, co-written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, follows four Asian-American women traveling through Asia in search of one of their birth mothers.

"It truly is going to be the first movie of its kind, I think," Park says of the currently untitled film. "This was the first time I saw Asian women especially getting to be all of these different things that a human is—and for the benefit of their own story."

Ahead, Park talks more about exploring a new side of Mindy in Season 2, finding romance in female friendships, creating in a space with people who understand her, and pulling off her best on-set prank yet.


How did it feel to reunite with the cast and crew? Especially having to navigate COVID-19 for the first time together?

I believe first day on set, we started in St.-Tropez. Me and Camille [Razat] and Lily were the only cast members in that part of the episode. We were just so grateful to be together again, because we celebrated the premiere of our Season 1 separately in our respective homes—and mostly across the world from each other. I think there was just an overwhelming sense of, "Oh, my gosh, we're doing this, and we get to be together."

Also, none of us expected the kind of reception that the first season got. So we were just all so happy to be doing it again. It was interesting, though, because we were stepping back into these characters that we all love as different people. There's always time between seasons, but especially this one. Our entire world, every single person, had been through a monumental thing, and we are in a world—in a city, especially—that was still experiencing all the repercussions.

In Season 1, we last saw Mindy while she was moving into Emily's apartment. She was fired from her job as an au pair, and she had just rekindled her dream of becoming a singer. Without giving too much away, what are you most looking forward to fans seeing from Mindy this season?

We're going to see sides of Mindy that we haven't seen before—not because they were being hidden, but now she's living with Emily, so we're getting to see a lot more of Mindy through Emily's eyes. We see a little bit more of Mindy's journey in finding herself in the city and in this world too. I'm just excited to be able to share different parts of an emotional spectrum that I don't think we saw in the first season.

emily in paris l to r lily collins as emily, ashley park as mindy, camille razat as camille in episode 202 of emily in paris cr carole bethuelnetflix © 2021
Lily Collins as Emily, Ashley Park as Mindy, and Camille Razat as Camille in Season 2 of Emily in Paris.
CAROLE BETHUEL/NETFLIX

In many ways, this show is about romance as much as it is about friendship. What's the most important part about portraying a female friendship onscreen to you?

I think that me and Lily are just constantly grateful and proud to show the kind of sisterhood that we strive for in our lives. A lot of times, we see female friendships that have been going on for a long time, whether it's in Sex and the City or Friends. Some of them are siblings. People who've known each other and have a history. What I think is so cool about Mindy and Emily's friendship is we see the birth of it, right? We see these two women really be there for each other. There are those moments we associate with romance, love at first sight, and I think that goes for friendships too.

What's important to me is that we show how much women can empower each other. That comes from honesty, telling each other things that are going to be hard to hear, but also being problem solvers with each other. Without question, Emily lets Mindy stay with her, and without question Mindy says, "Let's go to dinner. Let me help you through navigating France." It can be that easy, even though a lot of times we build this idea that friendships are hard.

Do you have your real-life version of your own Mindy or Emily?

I definitely do. With every project I do, it's important for me to find one, if not seven, friends for life. Me and Lily are just constant. We're very much Mindy and Emily, maybe not in the characteristics of us as each individual, but in the bond that we have. She sent me a quote the other day, something like, "You know you have a friend when they're going to defend you in your absence." And she was like, "That's me." That's what feels so good about talking about the show. I know that we're showing a genuine friendship, because it really reflects our own.

emily in paris l to r lily collins as emily, ashley park as mindy in episode 205 of emily in paris cr stéphanie branchunetflix © 2021
STÉPHANIE BRANCHU/NETFLIX

Do you remember any behind-the-scenes antics that you or the cast and crew got up to while filming?

There are so many things that happened off set. We were in a city that was shut down because of COVID. So there's not as much gallivanting as the first season. But I think the best prank I've ever pulled on set … our very last scene of the entire season was going to be the scene in Episode 9 where Mindy is really devastated and crying in bed, and Emily comes to comfort her. First of all, we were like, "How dare you put that scene as the last thing we're shooting?" But you know how Mindy is underneath the blanket when Emily comes in? [Lily] had to be standing outside the door, and while she was out there, we were like, "Okay, we got the take. We don't need anymore. So let's get [director Andy Fleming], who's a full-sized man, to hide under the blanket." [Lily] came in, and she thinks she's doing the scene again. She's like, "Mindy, what's wrong?" I was like, This man is truly much bigger than me. I can't believe she didn't notice. And then he popped out, and it was just so funny. We got it all on camera.

You previously told BAZAAR that you didn't want Mindy to be a character who sings just for the sake of singing, but to actually use singing as a plot device to support the story in a substantial way, because singing can be such a vulnerable act. This season, we get to see a lot more of Mindy's singer side. Do you think this goes hand in hand with her character development in terms of her becoming more vulnerable as well?

We get to see so much more versatility from Mindy, actually see her thrust into situations. Frankly, I get to sing all of my dream stuff. I was like, "I would love to do a K-pop song, and I would love to do a Celine Dion song, and I would love to do an old standard Broadway, and a contemporary Broadway, and a French song."

To answer your question in particular, [the song in the season finale has] lyrics that go hand in hand with what's happening in the scene. Freddy Wexler is a composer friend of mine, and we decided the finale song would be a completely original song that was written for Mindy. He wrote this song because we wanted to infuse an original song into the story. What I love about that scene so much is also the reason why I love musical theater. The lyrics are there to propel the story forward. Characters sing when there's nothing else that they can do to express themselves. That song in the finale really does such a beautiful job of literally moving the story forward and underlying so many things that are going on, so it's not just a performance. I think that's why that song is very moving to watch, because you also are looking at all the storytelling elements of it.

emily in paris ashley park as mindy in episode 206 of emily in paris cr stéphanie branchunetflix © 2021
STÉPHANIE BRANCHU/NETFLIX

How involved were you in the creation of Mindy's wardrobe this season?

I feel so lucky to be an actual collaborator in Mindy's fashion this season. I mean, these fittings, they're just so much fun. And [costume designer] Patricia Field and Marylin Fitoussi and Erica Guzman, who is the costume associate, were in every fitting. We would go through and try to map it out. It was fun, too, because Mindy was in more scenes this season. So what would she be wearing at home? What would she be doing here? We would mix and match—we would try something, and I'd be like, "This is amazing. We have to put it in somewhere," and really try to figure out how Mindy was feeling, what was happening in that scene, what I'm going to have to be doing in that scene. They're so lovely in letting me have a say in a very collaborative way.

I also wanted to talk about your upcoming role in Adele Lim's directorial debut. In recent years, it seems as though Hollywood has been a lot more open in sharing space for Asian voices to tell their stories on their own terms. And I love what you posted on Instagram about wrapping up that movie. You wrote, "We officially wrapped a movie that was the kind I never thought I'd see, let alone be a part of." Can you talk about your experience being part of a creative space where it's predominantly Asian people taking the reins and how that might be different from other work you've done in the industry?

It was very moving for me, because it's really not just about having a splash of color on the screen or even having a lot of color on the screen. I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to be just a completely, fully fleshed-out human in that way. And to not have to navigate it for myself, but to understand that everybody there had the same perspective. Everyone is different, and everyone has their own journey, but we are all interested in telling the story of the people that we are playing against the backdrop of being Asian.

[Costar] Sherry Cola and I were talking on the way home after set one day, early on. And Sherry is like, "Man, every scene in this movie is a moment." We were so thrilled by it, but so exhausted. I was like, "I guess that's what being leads feels like." Being the protagonist, where you get to explore a scene where you're fighting with someone one day, and then you're having a romantic thing the next day. I never even knew what I was missing out on.

And it wasn't about being the leads. It was just literally about not having to just be one or two dimensions. Especially having writers and a director who are Asian females, who have been through similar things that I have … I don't know. I worry about calling it the safest space I've been in, just because I'm very lucky in that a lot of the spaces I've gotten to work on have been safe. But I felt like I could make it about the work, without having to explain where I was coming from at any point.

It truly is going to be the first movie of its kind. We had a gag reel, just for fun, the very last day of shooting, as a wrap gift. And I had a moment of dissociation—I really couldn't process that that was me or my friends there. I just had never seen Asian women be portrayed like that. Even if we've been able to be funny or sexy or smart or any of these things, it has always been one. It has always been for the benefit of another character, for the story at large. This was the first time I saw Asian women getting to be all of these different things that a human is—and for the benefit of their own story.

Having people in the writers' room who understand you must be powerful.

One of the greatest gifts of Emily in Paris is that Sarah Choi is one of the writers in the writers' room and has been in Paris both times. Having a Korean American, or just an Asian in the writers' room, especially as Mindy takes more space within the series, was just very vital.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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