Ashley Park is a woman of many skills. She has starred on Broadway in the musical adaption of Mean Girls for 18 months, is currently lending her comedic talents as Mindy, the former heiress turned Dior wearing nanny and best friend of dreams in Netflix’s new TV show Emily in Paris and she is a dab hand at breaking and entering after leaving her keys in an Uber. To say Ashley Park is our kind of girl, both on and off screen, would be an understatement.
We defy you not to become obsessed with her one-liners and drag queen levels of sass as she stars opposite Lily Collin’s Emily in Darren Star the creator of Sex and The City’s latest venture with Patricia Field on the costumes, too.
Here in between continuous laughing fits Ashley, who is making her on-screen debut in Emily In Paris reveals the hilarious antics off camera – including that breaking and entering story – and serves us the style as she opens up her backstage wardrobe diary with the surprising heart warming stories behind the costumes…
How was filming in Paris?
I’m obsessed! I had never been to Paris before and I forgot that my very first favourite book when I was a toddler was Madeleine. It’s my sister city and it was truly the best experience ever. It was a dream job but also, I truly grew so much as a person and as a woman. The running joke of the series was that Emily in Paris is actually Ashley in Paris, except my series was a little bit more HBO, PG-13.
Babe, what were you getting up to?
I literally said to all my friends ever, “if you ever wanted a free Airbnb in Paris, come now!” Somebody even said to me, “Ashley, it is like you have a revolving door,” and I was like, “Why wouldn’t I?” Luca, the guy who plays Gabriel and Samuel who plays Julien lived with me in my apartment the last month and a half, because I had two bedrooms. One time we went to this nighttime French carnival. On the way back we lost my key in an Uber and we couldn’t find them. I thought my window was open though. So, Luca climbed up the window up two flights, and he was like, “Is this the window?” And I was like, “Yeah, it’s unlocked, just bust it in.” He was like, “I don’t think it is.” And I was like, “I’m telling you it is.” He busted into the window, and he was like, “Do you play the cello?” And I was like, “What?” And he had broken into the wrong apartment, so we ran! That was just a little tidbit for you, it was wild – I’m so shocked we’re all alive!
What do you think is the thing you learned about yourself the most filming this, other than the fact that you’re a really rubbish burglar?
Oh my god – you make me miss my super British friends! I think grew in terms of an actor, by finding the stability and confidence to find the character for myself. But then as a person, I was doing a play out of town right before I got cast in this. The play was going to go to Broadway in November, so I had these couple months off and wanted to travel. I bought a one-way ticket to Florence. I had one carry-on, then I got this part, took my carry-on and moved to Paris for three months. I was also going through heartbreak at the time and it was all about getting out of my bubble. I got to Paris and I remember getting into this five-star hotel and I stood in this huge suite that was looking over the Eiffel Tower at nighttime, with this little carry-on and I just started sobbing – I think I was just so overwhelmed, not because I was sad. I felt like I was starting at zero again. I had not a person to call or anything and I had no one to share it with.
At the end of filming I threw a house party that was like my own wrap party at the end of the show, because me and Lily had to miss the wrap party. So, I called it the Denim Star party, and everyone had to wear Denim – Darren came, everybody came. The crew came to this apartment and again, we got reported to the police because we were too loud. But I was like, “Darren’s here, so if they want to sue me, what are they going to do.” But I was at this party and I thought, “I didn’t know any of these people three months ago and some of these people are my diehards.” I don’t think I’m the most talented or the prettiest or any of that, but I like being a person that makes work and life enjoyable for other people. This experience really helped me develop that.
It’s so wonderful to see you play more than the ‘Asian best friend role.’ How important was that to you to really give this character so many dimensions?
1000%. – very much so! In Mean Girls I never thought I’d be ‘a Plastic’ on the poster of the show. Growing up I never wanted to be identified as just the ‘Asian girl.’ I want people who look like anything and identify in any way to relate to the characters that I play, but not forget that I’m Asian, but not only identify me as that. I realised that for so long I wanted people to not know or not think about that, but actually that not true now as being Asian-American has very much shaped who I am as a person. To be frank, all of the characters in Sex and the City are all white characters. But I learned so much as a woman and about friendships and I found myself in those characters. It’s just very cool and moving that lots of girls and guys will see this friendship between Emily and Mindy and see it has nothing to really do with race, it’s very authentic in that way and it’s not about anything else. I feel like when Mindy and Emily are talking together, we were like, sometimes we sound like two drag queens, which I love, too. That’s because that’s who I am on the inside, realistically.
What was this like building Mindy’s style with Patricia Field?
Truly the best experience ever. The most genius people are the most collaborative, but I would wear whatever she wanted me to wear. She was literally on her hands and knees making suggestions. What I love about it is some the things are designer and cool, or handmade but some of this stuff is literally just Zara, ASOS and H&M and it’s not thrown together it is placed together in such a smart way. It really has changed my fashion. I went over to Lily’s the other day and she was like, “I don’t know what to pick out for something,” and I was like, “Let me go at it.” It makes me so happy because I feel like then it’s accessible to the people watching the show. You’re not like, “oh my god, I have to be wearing a ballgown to be Emily and Mindy!”
What was the look that really spoke to you, that you think sums up Mindy the most?
Oh, god. That’s really hard. I always talk about that plaid one. In a fitting Patricia said she wanted to take a little boy’s suit and change it, “We’re going to use all the parts of your body that I love. So, your shoulders, we’re going to make it a halter because she didn’t like it with the collar. We’re going to show your cleavage, and we’re going to make little cuff links.” In my head I was thinking, “What do you mean a halter and shoulders… sure?!” Have you ever seen a suit designed like that! I also love the yellow one at the end, too, with the beret. I was like, “Should we just put some netting on it?” And she’s like, “Yes.” They spent a long time in lots of fittings getting it perfect.
With the reptile look it was a long trench coat and Patricia was like, “Ooh, we like your legs. Let’s just cut it really short.” They put it with reptile boots, and I said, “Guys, I cannot pull this off, what are you talking about?” I remember walking onto set and all of the French crew was just like, “Oh my god.” They loved that outfit!
Which pieces meant the most to you?
The pink hat I wore was the only piece of clothing that that was my personal hat and it was the hat that I wore for my audition. On my way to my audition, I was running late, and somebody tapped me on the shoulder behind me. I was going over my lines on the train, which I usually hate doing, because I don’t like people in my business and I think it’s tacky a little bit, to be like, “Oh, I’m an actor.” But someone tapped me on the shoulder, she had all these Doc Martens, and she said, “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but I love your shoes, and these are actually Doc Martens for Lily Collins fitting I’m on my way to right now!” Instead of memorising lines we just talked to her for 10 minutes.
I get to Paris and I told Lily the story saying, “I met somebody doing a fitting with you!” Erica who, the person was, came to me right before I did my camera test, and said, “Ashley, Lily just told me the story you told her about the Doc Martens girl. That was me on the train!” She showed me a picture and said, “The reason I saw your shoes is because I was taking a picture of you to send to Patricia for inspiration for Mindy’s style.” I still have the picture, I’m so hunched over, I’m so stressed, I have that pink hat, I have an all-black, slick outfit, these leather leggings from Spanx or something, these little Zara black boots, and my yellow corduroy jacket that I got from LA. It’s already spooky enough that I saw her on the train, and she was on her way to the fitting. But the fact that she literally took a photo of me that she sent to Patricia – it’s spooky!
This is the most stylish nanny I’ve ever seen in my whole life, babe. Let’s just serve the tea on that, you are making children’s dinners in Dior basically…
Darren Star said first of all, “she’s an heiress, I’m sure she had her staples, her staple outfits and her staple pumps!” All I wore was stilettos, but their universe is so specific that you don’t think about it for a second, you’re just like, “Yes, bitch, whatever!” Everybody was always like, “Do you need to change out of the shoes off camera?” And I was like, “I have been jumping around in stilettos and dancing cardio in stilettos eight times a week on Broadway for the past year and a half. The corns on my feet are already blistered. This is a breeze!”
You’re like, “Hold my clutch, bitch, I’ve got this!”
Yes! It was always so fun to see what they did with the fashion and when me and Lily came together to do our scenes together, we had these joint moments of saying, “Oh my gosh, yes!” We would turn up in similar outfits and we seemed like we came from the same catalogue, but from different sections.
Emily In Paris is available on Netflix now