The actor Lucas Bravo is so symmetrical, so charming and insightful, it’s hard to believe he is a real person and not some French Adonis carved out of stone. Incidentally, the characters he’s played—Gabriel in Emily in Paris, André in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Giorgio in The Honeymoon, Ticket to Paradise’s Paul—are exactly that person. Gabriel is known as the so-called “hot chef” whose coquettish friendship with Emily, played by Lily Collins, will continue into the series’ highly anticipated third season, out December 21. In the touching 2021 film Mrs. Harris, he takes on the role of the chiseled intellectual, talking Sartre at every turn, toting books around as he courts Dior model Pamela Penrose (Rose Williams) with his intellectualism. The Honeymoon sees Bravo as a dashing Italian gangster opposite Maria Bakalova, for whom he falls. And in Ticket to Paradise—which provided him with a taste of the rom-com alchemy that is Julia Roberts and George Clooney in the same movie—the actor plays a space-cadet pilot in love with Roberts, obsessing over her and tending to her every need.
If these characters sound like men you’d never meet in real life, I would say that categorization is not too far off—and it appears you, like me, are a hardened cynic. At first, I was skeptical of Bravo. There was no way he was this nice, caring guy in real life. I resolved to find his true nature, which very well could be the furthest thing from the men he plays, those who hawk notions of true love and old-school romance. I imagined throwing back the curtain on a real dude, free of Hollywood BS—a revelation of James-Corden-at-Balthazar proportions.
But as soon as Bravo materializes on Zoom, nestling into the bedroom of his newly purchased Parisian apartment, it’s clear the conversation won’t go in the direction I thought it would. He is kind and approachable, calling my phone directly to tell me he’s running late ahead of the interview and allowing extra time when I have more questions. He speaks in similes (as any good French artist does)—“Everything needs to work like a clock,” he says of being on set. And “being written about is like having a mirror held up to you,” in his eyes. It’s all pretty tempting catnip. Nonetheless, the critic in me holds fast to my journalistic duties.
Bravo has just arrived home from a whirlwind past few months: doing the press rounds in Los Angeles, attending the premiere of Ticket to Paradise, then making his first appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! before flying to the Philippines for three days and more press. It’s a fast-paced lifestyle to which he’s grown accustomed, especially after filming Mrs. Harris in Budapest, then working with Roberts and Clooney on a private island near Australia in addition to Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, from October 2021 to early March of this year. That experience, he says, was a “big shot of medicine, of love and compassion and empathy,” which provided him “10 years of wisdom and experience.” In order to nab the part, leaned deeply into Paul’s goofiness, going off-script when it came to the physical comedy (he improvised a faint-and-fall-on-the-floor moment in his audition tape that made it to the final cut).
Bravo does not deny that he was the proverbial third wheel in the on- and off-screen Clooney-Roberts relationship. (“I’m not delusional,” he says. “It’s the best way to live a happy life when you’re an overthinker like I am: when in doubt, truth it out.”) Watching their jolly dynamic provided an antidote to any feelings of awkwardness Bravo might have encountered on set. “Whenever George opens his mouth, Julia is just crying laughing,” he recalls. “And George is always telling stories that have people in it like Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep and Ryan Gosling. So you’re torn apart because you want to act and do your job, but at the same time…I want to hear about that story!”
The positive energy surrounding the filming of Ticket to Paradise was key to Bravo’s acting process. “I’m very sensitive,” he says. “So I’m not good at my job when the dynamic onset isn’t safe, when it’s toxic. Seeing that two of the most iconic actors in the world are operating out of love gave me fuel for my own career. I know now that you can get to that level with kindness.”
Perhaps that’s how Bravo chooses which projects to take on. The actor gravitates toward feel-good narratives with positive outcomes. He loves rom-coms, both for his career and as a personal preference (he spent lockdown running through “all the Richard Curtis films: Notting Hill; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Pirate Radio; and Love, Actually” and notes that 500 Days of Summer is one of his favorite movies. “Every time I had a bad breakup, I watched that movie. It accelerated 50 percent of the [healing] process.”). The 34-year-old has no imminent plans to become an auteur who only works with directors of a certain provenance. He is happy to make other people feel good, to provide fun, and help viewers escape the difficulties of real life, if only for a couple hours.
That’s the gist of Emily in Paris. The show premiered in 2020, when the entire world was locked up at home. Americans who were unsure of their futures could be transported straight to the City of Lights while delighting in Emily’s low-stakes, entertaining world. More than 58 million households worldwide watched the show the month after its debut, making it what Netflix described as its “most popular” comedy series that year.
Bravo’s character, Gabriel—Emily’s neighbor who cooks at a restaurant near their shared apartment building—is a real fantasy of a guy. That is, until he starts flitting from Emily to his ex-girlfriend Camille, back to Emily, unsure of what he wants from his romantic relationships, and, in turn, his own life. “I was frustrated with Gabriel in season two,” Bravo says, adding that season three was his favorite to shoot thus far; his character’s story arc becomes more mature. “He needed to grow. He’s making bad choices, and he technically cheated on his girlfriend—you can’t act like a victim all the time when you don’t play by the rules. I wanted him to take ownership of his fuck-ups and do something with them.”
Bravo stresses that playing a cheeky fuckboy, or as he describes it, a “boy next door,” couldn’t be further outside his comfort zone. “I’m very different than Gabriel,” he says. “I brought him a lot of compassion, femininity, and vulnerability because those are qualities that men should have nowadays.” In the actor’s case, playing Gabriel was the complete opposite of life imitating art. He drew from Darren Star’s fantasy world of fashion, fun, and hijinks for inspiration. “I have a bit of distance from the show,” he says. “It’s brought me many beautiful things, but at the same time, it’s still one character. In movies, you can jump all the way into your character, give it all you’ve got, and then it’s over. With a show, it’s an open wound. Until your character dies, or the show ends, or you leave, it’s still there. At the same time, you spend a year experiencing life, growing up, getting wisdom and experiences, and then you go back for the next season and the character is exactly where you left him. It really feels like jumping back in time—devolving, in a sense.”
I ask whether he worries he’ll get pigeonholed in cotton-candy roles too early in his career. He cracks a good-natured joke, then says: “Someone told me on the red carpet, months ago: ‘Emily in Paris during COVID; Mrs. Harris: bubbly; and Ticket to Paradise taking place in beautiful Bali…you’ve just been the bearer of good news!’ I love that. It’s a niche I’m proud of.”
As a kid, Bravo and his three brothers and sisters moved often. His father, Daniel, was a professional soccer player; his mother, Eva, a singer. Bravo lived all over the world, from Nice to Paris, then Italy, Spain, and even Los Angeles in his teenage years (his friends in L.A., he recalls, introduced him to a few of America’s key cultural pillars: jello shots and Taco Bell). Although his lifestyle exposed him to “different microcosms and ways of thinking,” the actor felt pressure to assimilate to each new environment. “I was always a fish out of water,” he says. “Everywhere I went, I was in chameleon mode. In the end, I didn’t really know who I was. I was always living through other people’s expectations.”
The actor describes himself as a naive child, gullible to the point where his friends, siblings, and parents knew they could always get away with playing a trick or two on him. “It wasn’t meant to be mean, but the way I experienced it, it was a humiliation,” he says. “I became sarcastic to battle it. But in my 20s, I let that go—an ex-girlfriend of mine told me ‘sarcasm is the language of sad people,’ and she was right.”
Bravo would hole up in his childhood bedroom drawing comic books based on the shows and movies he loved most, including Ghostbusters and Jurassic Park, while singing their theme songs to himself. His deep love for Hollywood ephemera persists to this day; he still has a Ghostbusters Ecto-1 toy car, which he proudly holds up to his computer’s camera to show me. In the next instant, he thrusts forward a The Dude doll based on The Big Lebowski character—complete with a miniature bowling bag, White Russian, and removable sunglasses.
Back then, Bravo consumed every piece of media he could. He watched movies from Stephen King’s It to Dances With Wolves—the latter film became a source of inspiration as he dreamed of being an actor. “That was the first time I felt connected to a character,” he says. “I felt like it was, metaphorically, my story: this guy fits in by choosing to embrace an existing culture. Instead of trying to change the people around him, he changes himself.”
At 15, he acted in his first play. “I felt so reassured by the blueprint of a character: this is how he talks, this is how he walks, this is what he does. During a time of my life where I had no idea what I was doing, it was reassuring.” And as he found the tools to build a character, he’d use those same tools to find himself. The journey of self-discovery is constant, he says, and has accelerated in the past few years—coinciding with his acting career taking off. As such, each of the characters he’s played thus far represents a different portion of his life. Paul is Lucas when he was eight years old—“hopeful, naive, trusting, innocent, and intoxicated by the promise of life without any traumas or problems.” André, the shy bookworm in his horn-rimmed glasses, has a bit of the discomfort Bravo experienced as a teen “when I couldn’t verbalize my feelings to the person of the opposite sex.” And although he’s felt frustrated with Gabriel’s dodging accountability in the past, the actor has chosen to infuse his Emily in Paris character with the things occupying his mind now: handling relationships with care as an adult and remaining in the present.
One of the ways Bravo does this is by taking photographs. He bought a Rolliflex camera from the 1950s, which he wears on a strap across his body; he toted it to the Venice Film Festival, and while filming The Honeymoon, along with all three of the Emily in Paris seasons. Inspired by Vivian Maier, the photographer who famously did not develop any of her film until after her death, Bravo still hasn’t processed the pictures. Hundreds of rolls sit, untouched. “It’s just gonna be so much more powerful in 10 years, when I’ve forgotten about all this,” he says. “It’s important to have also side interests that don’t make your main job so serious. If you don’t have a unique passion, it becomes too big and important and then it devours you.”
By the end of our interview, I must concede that my initial misgivings were incorrect. Meeting a genuinely earnest and thoughtful person can be a hard pill for a skeptical reporter to swallow, especially in this industry. But it is nice to hear genuine positivity in the face of doubt, and I tell Lucas Bravo so.
“There are a lot of personas that actors have to come up with in the public eye,” he replies. “I just don’t have time to be someone else.”
Special thanks to Deux Chats in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.