Lucas Bravo on Baring It All in His Bold New Cannes Film—And Gabriel’s Future in ‘Emily in Paris’

It’s like an episode of Emily in Paris: on a gloriously sunny day at the Cannes Film Festival, I navigate the bustling crowds on the Croisette and enter the cacophonous lobby of Le Majestic. Up the elevator and down the corridor, I find myself at the door of Lucas Bravo, the actor who went stratospheric after being cast as chef Gabriel, the resident heartthrob of the Lily Collins-led Netflix romp. He opens it all smiles, dressed head to toe in black—a crisp shirt, pressed trousers, shiny loafers—and with his blue eyes glinting despite the late night he’s had.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s here filming new episodes of the frothy rom-com—the show has, of course, travelled to the Riviera before—but no, the actor is at the South of France showcase to promote another project entirely: The Balconettes, an eye-popping, side-splitting, and gory thriller from actor-director Noémie Merlant.

This is, in fact, the second time I’ve seen Bravo in less than 12 hours—last night, his new film premiered at a midnight screening and was met with a rapturous standing ovation. Waving to the crowd bashfully, he radiated Gabriel’s quiet charm. On screen, however, it was a different story: in The Balconettes, he plays a dashing neighbor, as he does in Emily in Paris, but in place of Gabriel’s clean-cut, boy-next-door good looks and gentlemanly manner, he’s drenched in sweat, frequently naked, his hair longer and scraggly, and his eyes lined with eyeliner, with something vaguely menacing lurking beneath his self-assured swagger.

Our setting is Marseille, in the midst of an unbearable heatwave, and he’s an object of desire for the film’s three magnetic leads—Sanda Codreanu’s anxious aspiring writer Nicole, Souheila Yacoub’s charismatic cam girl Ruby, and Merlant herself in the part of the glamorous and flighty actor Élise. Driven to the balcony of their apartment by the sweltering temperatures, they watch him strut around in various stages of undress. After a chance encounter, he invites them over to his place. Things get out of hand and, long story short, he eventually winds up dead. But what, exactly, happened, and what do the girls do now? Horror and hilarity ensue in equal measure.

The role marks a deliberate and exciting change of pace for Bravo, who’s made a habit of playing similarly sweet dreamboats in the likes of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and Ticket to Paradise when he’s not in Gabriel’s chef’s whites—though the point is that he can do both. This summer, he’s due back on screens as the latter for the hit show’s eagerly awaited fourth season, and he says it’s his favorite installment yet.

Ahead of its release—and before he departs the Croisette—the 36-year-old Nice native opens up about his imposter syndrome, his hopes for Emily and Gabriel’s future, and his next project, in which he’ll play a Lupin-esque jewel thief.

Vogue: Premiering a film at Cannes is always such a big moment. How have you found it? Is it your first time at the festival?

Lucas Bravo: I’m a bit tired, but running on excitement [laughs]. I fear, once everything’s over, I’m probably going to enter a coma phase. I generally don’t go out and I go to bed early, but our premiere was at midnight last night, so we finished at 2:30 a.m. and then I went to the after-party, because I knew friends, family, and people from the industry would be there and I wanted to hear what they thought of the film. Suddenly, it’s 4 a.m., and then you have to be up at 8 a.m. I’ve been to the festival before on commercial opportunities, but this was my first time actually contributing with art, and it’s a great feeling. The people you meet, the dinners—everything is way more focused on cinema and that makes the festival experience completely different. You feel like you belong.

It was wonderful to see the film get such a warm standing ovation. How did you feel in that moment?

It feels strange to have 2,000 people applauding you, and for that to feel legitimate, honestly. So in my head, with my imposter syndrome, I diverted all of it to Noémie and her great work. So, it didn’t feel too intense. It’s great to have experienced Cannes with this incredible crew of women. I’ve just been following them around and I’ve loved it. It’s going to be hard to top.

Fashion is also, of course, a big focus at Cannes. How do you approach dressing for events here?

I like to be elegant, and I don’t really want to make a statement. I like to feel protected and good in my own skin, and an outfit that achieves that is important when it comes to feeling comfortable on the red carpet. So, Zegna was perfect for the premiere.

Bravo with Nadege Beausson-Diagne, Souheila Yacoub, Noémie Merlant, Sanda Codreanu, Céline Sciamma, and Pierre Guyard at the Cannes premiere of The Balconettes.

Photo: Getty Images

The character you play in The Balconettes feels intentionally very different from the roles you’ve taken over the last few years. What drew you to the project and the part?

As an actor, I want to be challenged and show people I have range. I wanted to tackle something different—I was brought into the world, so to speak, with [Gabriel], a character who is pretty clean, and also objectified. I love playing him and I love that people connect to him, but I also love playing any character who’s interesting. This character in The Balconettes wasn’t fun to play, exactly, because I had to go to a place with him which was hard to digest once we’d finished shooting. But it was important, because he’s charming and fun but also a complete predator, and I wanted to bring that aspect to life. People like that aren’t always scary-looking—they can be your neighbor.

The film is set during a heatwave and there’s a lot of nudity, which feels really freeing and normalized by the end. There’s a final shot where the women walk down the street half-naked and it’s so celebratory. How did you find that in your scenes?

I love that we’re talking about this, because it’s the first thing I thought when I first saw the movie a few days ago. I was like, “Oh, the nudity is so normalized.” And it made me wonder if, for example, breasts would be so sexualized if we allowed people to be open and free with their bodies. I love that, by the end of the movie, you’re not even thinking about it. Noémie said something to me the other day, and it took me 24 hours to really understand it. She said, “That last scene in the movie, where the women walk shirtless, is science fiction.” I watched the film again, and I know what she means. I was like, “Why is this not just normal?”

Yes, it’s like a utopia. And you were part of it, too—I heard that Noémie gave you a call at one point to check you’d be comfortable doing more nudity?

She did. When we started shooting, I was supposed to be naked in certain parts of the movie but, at the beginning, I was wearing a shirt and tank. Then, Noémie called me at 3 a.m. and was like, “The girls are so naked. It’s only fair if you show your butt or a little more.” I was like, “You know what? Absolutely.” I’ve always been quite insecure about being naked, but the girls really go for it, so I needed to as well.

Beyond that, what was the most challenging thing you had to do?

Weirdly, the most challenging thing was playing dead. The days where I had to just lay in a fridge, I thought, It’s going to be an easy day. But it was the hardest because we shot during a really hot summer in an old chocolate factory that we turned into a studio. There was no air conditioning and I had prosthetics, fake genitals, fake blood, make-up, eyeliner, and greasy hair [laughs]. Everything was sticky. I had to keep my eyes blank and stop breathing, but then the vein in my neck was still moving. Someone said to me, “So, they made a wax double for you when you’re dead—it’s really good.” And I was like, “No, that’s me in the fridge… trying not to suffocate.”

After this, audiences will be seeing you in Emily in Paris Season 4. I know you’ve said this is your favorite season so far. Why is that?

This season is all about maturity. It’s been five years since we shot Season 1—since then, some of us in the cast have gotten married, some of us have kids, or new relationships, or new apartments. We’re getting old [laughs]. We’re all so close now, and I’ve never been so close to Lily before in terms of what we brought to Gabriel and Emily. We really wanted to take it to the next level, not in terms of passion, but in terms of maturity and the connection between them. There’s a lot of problems that weren’t addressed for three seasons which we’re confronting now. We’re finally communicating and fighting and addressing things. That was great to shoot. We have a few scenes like that where we’re yelling at each other, and at the end of the scene, Lily and I were like, “This is so fun!” We said to Darren [Star, the show’s creator], “You need to write more fighting scenes.” It was all this tension being released.

Gabriel’s in a tricky spot this season—he’s not marrying Camille but they are having a baby, and he and Emily are working together to secure his Michelin star. How did you feel about the end of Season 3?

When you portray someone for five months, even if you’re not Method, you almost become that character. And by the end of filming, I felt a bit lost. I was like, “I’ve no idea what’s going on. Like, I have a kid on the way and maybe a Michelin star, but maybe not.” So, Season 4 was about clarity—him taking matters into his own hands, addressing problems, and wanting to change and move forward. It was refreshing.

It sometimes feels like the show depends on Emily and Gabriel being apart. Do you think they’re actually well suited to each other, or is Alfie a better match for her?

It’s a good question, and it’s not really for me to answer. All I can tell you is that when I’m in Gabriel’s skin, I’m deeply, deeply in love with Emily. She’s the one—she’s my soulmate. So from Gabriel’s perspective, I think they’re meant to be together and I hope they will be. But from an outsider’s perspective, I think they need to communicate and be independent, and their relationship should be a bonus to them being separate individuals.

Was there one scene this season that was most fun to film?

I don’t know how much I can say, but there’s a ballroom scene which is one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever shot. Lily’s costume for that scene was mind-blowing. I have such tenderness and adoration for her and what we built in that sequence. It’s a defining moment—it was so cute and precious that we saved it for the end of the season.

I can’t wait to see it. Is there anything you’d like to do with Gabriel that you haven’t gotten a chance to yet?

Yes, I’d love for him to be a vegetarian cook and go for a green Michelin star, which exists. I’ve been telling Darren this since Season 2.

I love that. Do you think it could happen?

I don’t know, because I told Darren this and then Season 2 opened with Gabriel going to McDonald’s [laughs]. So, maybe the message wasn’t loud enough. I thought it was funny. But, I hope he gets there, because it’s important. So many people watch this show and identify with it, and I feel like we should use that platform to educate people if we can.

And finally, after Emily in Paris, you’ll have your first leading role in Mélanie Laurent’s Sulak, which will tell the true story of the prolific jewel thief Bruno Sulak. What was that like to work on?

It was the most fun I’ve ever had. I discovered that being a lead is also about being responsible for the group dynamic—it’s about welcoming the other actors and making the set a safe place for them to try to improvise and connect. I loved that, because it makes you a better listener and you’re more connected to everyone, and it’s totally different from when you’re just thinking about yourself and trying to be perfect in a scene. We’re in an industry where we look at ourselves a little too much—we live in a hall of mirrors. If you don’t take a break sometimes and do something else… it’s not healthy. So, this experience—it was magical.

Emily in Paris Season 4 will arrive on Netflix in two parts—the first five episodes on August 15, and the second five on September 12.

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