The comeback queen of ‘Emily in Paris’ 

The comeback queen of ‘Emily in Paris’ 

The comeback queen of ‘Emily in Paris’

To Netflix viewers, she is among the most famous French faces of the moment, appearing in three hits: “Call My Agent,” “The Crown” and “Emily in Paris,” which returns for a third season on tomorrow.

It is quite a turnaround for Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, 59, who never expected this level of international fame. She credits Cedric Klapisch, a director on “Call My Agent,” with pulling her “out of the coffin” after her career stalled in her forties.     

But it is her role as Sylvie Grateau, boss of a luxury marketing agency who reluctantly takes on the young naive American, Emily, that has turned Leroy-Beaulieu into a global star.

She relishes the caustic part. 

“There is a type of American, like Emily, who wants to conquer the world and thinks they know how to do everything better than the rest, but then comes up against someone like me who says: ‘I am Asterix and I will not let you pass!’” said Leroy-Beaulieu with a grin, invoking the beloved French comic-book star who fights the Roman Empire.

Leroy-Beaulieu’s career started strong in the 1980s, with an award-nominated turn in “Trois Hommes et un Couffin” (remade by Hollywood as ‘Three Men and a Baby.’)

But she never expected to become the embodiment of Parisian style for foreign audiences, having struggled to fit into the city after arriving from Italy as a child. 

Her character in “Emily in Paris” is a joyous collection of cliches about French women: Chic, thin, disdainful, perched on towering heels, cigarette permanently lodged in her mouth. Yet Leroy-Beaulieu says the show challenges stereotypes while having fun with them. 

“These characters show the importance of breaking certain rules of behavior, that people have many facets, and you can’t judge them on face value,” she said. 

There were moments in season two when Grateau’s tough facade was broken, such as when she was mistaken for the mother of her young lover in a restaurant. 

“In season three, we will see more of her vulnerability,” said Leroy-Beaulieu.

The sex life of older women has been a hot topic this year, featuring in “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” with Emma Thompson, and French film “La Passagere,” whose lead Cecile de France recently called on filmmakers to “stop showing only young women as objects of desire.”

Leroy-Beaulieu is cautious about the idea that French women are more liberated. “Compared to American women, who tend to be prisoners of certain codes, we have this reputation [for freedom]... but it is not necessarily true,” she said.

Still, despite the many light-hearted cliches in the series, her character has been inspirational for many. “Even if she is bitchy, she can handle any situation,” said Yvonne Hazelton, an American writer living in Paris. She can also relate to the character’s liberated love life.

“I got a divorce in my early 50’s and for someone of my generation, when you get a divorce, the level of freedom is amazing,” said Hazelton.