In a lot of romantic comedies, the men tend to be hunky props. They can be the object of our desire for the leading lady that we root for, but the writing ultimately fails them in the end. Darren Star’s Emily in Paris doesn’t let the men off the hook, and while Lucas Bravo is the ideal French paramour, he gives his character way more nuance than you might expect.
Gabriel is literally the boy next door. Well, he’s the boy upstairs (maybe it’s different in Europe?), and he’s so spirited to be around. You get the impression that he is always flirting with Lily Collins’ Emily, but maybe that’s just how men are in France. If you look deeper, you will see that Bravo has given Gabriel a lot of qualities that make him a more progressive love interest. He respects Emily’s independence and never tries to be the white knight. He’s more of an on-call support system for her.
The difference between American romantic ideals clash sweetly throughout Emily in Paris‘s first season, but Bravo makes Gabriel a modern beau worthy of our ambitious protagonist.
Awards Daily: At one point, Gabriel tells Emily, “You don’t come to Paris to be good.” Do you think Americans—or people in general—romanticize Paris too much?
Lucas Bravo: I think it’s applied to the general idea of traveling abroad. I remember when I moved to LA, I had a sense that I was going to make discoveries and encounters. I think it’s not good in terms of being all over the place and losing my values, but it’s more about allowing yourself to experiment and thinking outside the box. That’s what I think Gabriel means. He also just really wants to kiss her.
AD: I wondered how Emily had any confusion about Gabriel’s feelings. After his first impression of her, is it his intention to be very direct or is that just how Gabriel is with everyone?
LB: Gabriel is a very direct person with everyone. I want him to be that way. When Darren [Star] approached me, it was about literally being the boy next door. Every time I take on a role, I have to start from love and that influences me to how the character acts the way he does. I follow the path from there. I wanted him to be a very modern version of what a man should be, and that means he is very connected with his feminine side and very vulnerable and compassionate. He is kind of lost. In this process, one of his tools growing up was his charm, I think Gabriel does that effortlessly. It’s part of how he communicates. He’s not that confident but he’s been navigating life with this mask of confidence. It goes through that channel of charm.
AD: I wondered how much of that charm was put on. Camille might say something about her family and Gabriel automatically looks defeated. It’s very different from when you feel freer to be more flirtatious.
LB: I really appreciate that. If he was this charming, confident person when he has to deal with the family, it would be a one-note character. One layer. It wouldn’t make him interesting. He’d get the girl and nothing else, but I wanted to show he was emasculated, and Emily represents that curiosity he hasn’t felt in a while. He doesn’t see himself as a savior but the fact that he can help her navigate this unfamiliar world helps him feel better about himself. It gives him a sense of purpose.
AD: And you don’t ride in on the white horse. Gabriel lets her know that he’s there for her and doesn’t insert himself before he is asked to. I feel like that’s a dynamic we don’t see very often.
LB: It’s really important. I like feminism of reconciliation. It goes through the channel of, “Stop invoking the white horse there to save the day.” Emily is a strong-willed woman. She doesn’t need him for anything but he wants to help if he can.
AD: When Gabriel is talking about Camille’s family offering to help with the restaurant, you say, “They would own me.” Do you think his reservations are only about the money or is it more about his pride? His dream is on a silver platter and he doesn’t want to get it that way.
LB: That says a lot about Gabriel’s personality. It’s not a question about being his own man, but it’s a question about doing it the right way. He needs to feel like he deserves what he gets. Cooking is love. You see how they navigate their cooking and the love is in the little details. I was really happy when I found out that he was a chef. It says a lot about his personality. Having it in a way of not deserving it would betray his values and principles.
AD: And he would always feel like it’s not entirely his.
LB: He wouldn’t feel free to experiment or do something crazy with his cooking because he would have something to prove or something to be grateful for. The entire feeling would be messed up and he wouldn’t be productive.
AD: How do you think Gabriel likes to challenge Emily’s views on relationships? We Americans can be very rigid when it comes to rules and boundaries and Gabriel seems to enjoy shifting her perspective.
LB: Yes, and I think it goes beyond an American vision of it. I think he’s open to the world and he’s not a judgmental person. He’s kind of a man child and connected to it. That’s why he’s always smiling, and he finds love or fun in everyone in every situation. Emily, to him, is a fun character because he sees what she’s struggling with even though she’s so passionate and independent. He sees those little armors and that’s what he wants to pick at. If not, changing anything, he’s trying to make her conscious about it.
AD: You and Lily Collins have an easy chemistry with one another.
LB: That means a lot. Honestly. We met at the last audition and we had an instant chemistry. I’ve never experienced that before. Sometimes chemistry comes along the way or sometimes there is none. I just came into the room and we connected in the first scene. Lily is so giving. When you have someone like that, you can easily react. She always pushed me, and I’m also very giving. I like to play.
AD: In the final moments of the finale, Gabriel accepts the offer to stay in Paris. How much did Emily play into Gabriel’s acceptance of his new backer?
LB: Either way, it’s a win-win, I think. If Emily wasn’t there, the restaurant would’ve been a great opportunity. If the restaurant wasn’t there, the chance to stay with Emily would’ve been wonderful. His life has been turned upside down and a flame has been revived. It’s honestly—neither has an entire impact on the other. It’s a perfect coincidence because he was devastated to leave and leave the story with Emily unfinished. It’s a great opportunity.
Emily in Paris is streaming on Netflix.