Darren Star Wanted to Act

Eliot and I watched “Emily in Paris,” not so much for the story line, but rather for all of the Parisian sites. It was wonderful to spot the streets and landmarks we know so well. The following story appeared the other day in the WSJ about its creator, Darren Star, and I thought you would enjoy it. If you watch the series take notice of the camera cover Emily uses on her smartphone. I loved it so much that I ordered it on Amazon. I should be getting it this week.

Before He Created ‘90210’ and ‘Emily in Paris,’ Darren Star Wanted to Act

Despite his love for theater, the writer, producer and director realized in college that acting wasn’t his strength

Dar­ren Star, 59, is a TV writer, pro­ducer and di­rec­tor best known for cre­at­ing “Bev­erly Hills, 90210,” “Mel­rose Place,” “Sex and the City” and “Younger.” His lat­est com­edy se­ries is “Emily in Paris” (Net­flix). He spoke with Marc My­ers.

Even as a lit­tle kid, I was a film geek. My grand­fa­ther, Lou, and I of­ten sat in front of the TV to­gether watch­ing old movies. I loved screw­ball come­dies, like “What’s Up, Doc?” They had lots of di­a­logue and fast-talk­ing ac­tors.

My fam­ily first lived in Bethesda, Md., but when I was 13 we moved to Po­tomac. My par­ents were young when they bravely built a one-story con­tem­po­rary with lots of glass.

Po­tomac was a bu­colic sub­urb of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in the early ’70s. There was a horse trail in our back­yard, so I’d of­ten go on long hikes. Sum­mers were spent at the Del­aware shore. My fam­ily had a place there at Bethany Beach.

My mother, De­bra, was sup­port­ive. When I was in ju­nior high school, she went back to col­lege and got her jour­nal­ism de­gree. She re­mains a cre­ative force.

My fa­ther, Mil­ton, was an or-thodontist and an avid ten­nis player. I was never able to match him on the court.

My younger sis­ter, Bon­nie, and I are a year apart in age. Grow­ing up, she was smart and head­strong. She was the model for Brenda Walsh in “90210.” My brother, Marc, is 8½ years younger than me.

Every­one in my fam­ily was a big reader and liked to tell sto­ries, so writ­ing at an early age wasn’t a stretch for me. By third grade, I was writ­ing plays and stag­ing them at home with my cousins and sis­ter.

At 12, I heard about an au­di­tion for Eu­gene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilder­ness!” at George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity. I asked my par­ents if I could go, and they took me. They prob­a­bly re­gret­ted it. I got the role and they had to drive me to George­town three days a week to re­hearse.

Sens­ing my pas­sion for film and di­rect­ing, my fa­ther bought me a Su­per-8 cam­era. I en­listed my friends as ac­tors and made short films. I edited them on a lit­tle set-up with tape and a splicer. Edit­ing made me re­al­ize that mov­ing scenes around let me tell a film’s story dif­fer­ently.

In high school, I loved the­ater and per­formed in plays. I also au­dited a screen­writ­ing course at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity. But act­ing wasn’t my strong suit. Af­ter I ap­plied to USC as a cinema ma­jor, I was ac­cepted only in their the­ater de­part­ment. There, I saw kids who were tal­ented ac­tors and re­al­ized quickly that I wasn’t in their league.

Be­cause I didn’t get into the film de­part­ment, I trans­ferred to UCLA. But I was re­jected by their film de­part­ment, too, so I ma­jored in Eng­lish and cre­ative writ­ing. That turned out to be a great move. I read all the clas­sics and had an amaz­ing in­struc­tor—Irish nov­el­ist Brian Moore. He urged me to be­come a TV and film screen­writer.

At UCLA, I man­aged to talk my way into every un­der­grad film class and ben­e­fit­ted from ter­rific teach­ers, in­clud­ing Lew Hunter. The first film I worked on as a pro­duc­tion as­sistant there was “The Dorm That Dripped Blood.” I rec­om­mended my room­mate, Daphne Zu­niga, for a role. Later, she was cast in “Mel­rose Place.”

Af­ter I grad­u­ated, I took a job as a waiter at Ham­burger Ham­let in Brent­wood. The money was good, and I had free time to write. But I be­gan to no­tice that some wait­ers had been there for 10 years wait­ing for a break. That scared me.

I de­cided to find a job closer to the movie busi­ness. I found an open­ing at a pub­lic­ity firm—Guttman & Pam—work­ing for Su­san Geller, a PR dy­namo. She gave one of my screen­plays to friends of hers who had a deal at Warner Bros.

Then an ex­ec­u­tive I had writ­ten a screen­play for at Tri­S­tar be­came head of drama at Fox. He asked me to write a TV pi­lot about a high school in Bev­erly Hills. Aaron Spell­ing pro­duced “90210,” which took off in its sec­ond sea­son. The show’s Walsh fam­ily was a bit of a stand-in for my own.

To­day, I have homes in Los An­ge­les, New York and the Hamp­tons. I spend as much time in the Hamp-tons as pos­si­ble, all year round. The two-story shin­gled car­riage house was built by Fran­cis Fleet­wood and is open and light. It’s my happy place.

My par­ents moved out to Cal­i­for­nia, and I see them of­ten. My mother calls with books for me to read and TV se­ries to check out. My dad still keeps me in line on the ten­nis court.

What’s “Emily in Paris” about? A hip, up­beat 20-some­thing re­lo­cates to Paris to work at a mar­ket­ing firm ac­quired by her Chicago com­pany.

Why is she there? To ad­vise on Amer­i­can-style so­cial-me­dia mar­ket­ing.

In­spi­ra­tion? At 19, I back­packed in Eu­rope and fell in love with Paris. I vis­ited of­ten over the years, even­tu­ally rent­ing an apart­ment for a few months.

Lightbulb moment? I wanted to do a show about an American in Paris—to live out my dream of living and working there.    


  1. We loved it too and Sandy was the one who wanted to watch it. We watched it mainly for the Parisian sights as well and now can’t wait for season 2! Loved the phone case as well.

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