Ashley Park knew Netflix's Emily in Paris was a project she wanted to be a part of the moment she first heard about it. With Lily Collins and Sex and the City creator Darren Star behind the show, she knew the series was going to be filled with romance, humor, and great clothes. It turns out the producers wanted to work with Park just as badly. Once she was cast, they even made a big change to the script to showcase the Broadway star's vocal talents. That's right — Ashley Park's Emily in Paris character Mindy wasn't going to sing until Park stepped into her designer shoes.
Warning: Light spoilers for Season 1 of Emily in Paris follow. Emily in Paris follows Emily (Collins), a twenty-something who moves from Chicago to Paris after unexpectedly landing a dream job there. She navigates all kinds of adventures in romance and at work, and she also makes some lasting friendships. That's where Park's character, Mindy — a fellow expat working in Paris as a nanny — comes in. After realizing her life in Paris isn't as charmed as she thought it would be, Emily meets Mindy, who has fully embraced the Parisian lifestyle and quickly offers to take Emily under her wing.
"I love that first scene because [Mindy's] not trying so hard to be [Emily's] friend," Park tells Elite Daily. "Friendship is effortless to her. That’s something that I strive for in my own life."
But Mindy isn't the stereotypical best friend side character who only exists to help the star. She also has a detailed life outside of her storylines with Emily — including, as fans find out around the midpoint of the season, her secret talent for singing.
Of course, singing is a not-so-secret talent of Park's. Before Emily in Paris, Park was in several Broadway shows, including originating the role of Gretchen Wieners in the musical adaptation of Mean Girls, for which she earned a Tony Award nomination in 2018. Knowing all this, the Emily in Paris team decided to make some changes to Mindy once they had Park locked in for the role. Star called her directly after the first table read to discuss the possibility of Mindy performing on the show.
"He asked, 'As we’re writing the rest of the series, would you be OK if Mindy sang?'" Park explains. "He saw me in Mean Girls on Broadway, twice he says. And he was like, 'How could we not include singing for you?' And of course I was so excited."
Park had one major requirement: She didn't want Mindy's singing to come out of nowhere. "I said, 'If it can maybe be in the later part of the series and it’s developed in a way that’s story-driven," Parks says. "I think singing is the most vulnerable thing you can really do sometimes, even more than speaking — definitely more than speaking — because it’s from the heart, and if that can be used to somehow show a different side or open up the character ... I would be so honored.'"
Star abided by Park's wish, giving Mindy an entire storyline devoted to her rediscovering her voice. After getting to know Mindy, Emily learns her friend has great pipes, but has been afraid to sing after embarrassing herself on a Chinese reality show as a teen. With help from Emily, Mindy regains her confidence and begins singing again, starting with a heartfelt rendition of "La Vie En Rose" in the park where she and Emily first met.
"In the way that Mindy is singing, it’s the most raw," Park says. "It’s just what she’s feeling in her soul and that’s how she taps into it, and she’s sharing it very privately and then publicly for the first time in a while."
While Park is a vocal pro, there's a big difference between performing on Broadway and singing for Emily in Paris. "In musical theater, on Broadway, there’s definitely different periods and different styles of singing, and different needs for the character, and also if you’re doing a show eight times a week, certain ways you have to sing," she explains. "[Singing on Emily in Paris], because it’s a one-and-done [scene], I don’t have to keep singing it eight times a week, so it could be however I want and I don’t have to think about it. The voice that Mindy sang with was one that was just pure heart and soul for me."
You can hear Park sing, and see all of Mindy's journey, in Season 1 of Emily in Paris, which is streaming on Netflix now.