Lily Collins on being British-American: ‘I associate more with being British’


One of the things that I didn’t see about Lily Collins’ personality over the years is that she’s really Type-A. She comes across as someone quiet, driven, hyper-organized and like she has all of her sh-t together. She’s not unemotional or anything, but she has plans and she’s in charge and she made a schedule. That’s what really came across in this Elle UK cover story for the December-January issue, where she’s promoting Emily In Paris’s second season. The photos are ghastly and I hope she never works with these stylists again, but the interview was quite nice. Some highlights:

Being back in the UK: ‘It’s been almost two years. And usually I would be coming back a lot. And Charlie too – before we even knew each other [his father is the British actor Malcolm McDowell]. We would come during holidays or for vacations and we came here together last at Christmas two years ago. So we’re both like, “Oh my god, it’s good to be back.”’

Whether she’s more British or American: ‘I am British. I mean, I’m both, but I associate more with being British. When I play roles with British accents, there’s something about it that feels like I’m speaking naturally, even though I’m having to put it on. Whenever I land here, I feel like I’m coming home. Especially after not being able to for years. Just even hearing the accent when we boarded the plane [yesterday], there’s just such a comfort in it.’

The criticism of the Emily In Paris especially with diversity: ‘For me as Emily, but also as a producer on [the show], after season one, hearing people’s thoughts, concerns, questions, likes, dislikes, just feelings about it, there were certain things that spoke to the time that we’re living in and what’s right, and moral and correct and should be done. And [that was] something that I felt passionate about. [The producers] all believed in the same things. And I really wanted diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera to be something that we really put our focus on, in a lot of ways. Hiring new people in front of the camera, also giving new storylines to different characters, which was really important.’

How she handled lockdown: ‘I hadn’t been home for that amount of time for a very long time, and without knowing what’s next. It was very valuable time for me to spend with my now-husband and our dog, to be able to just exist and take the time to just sit and be quiet. Because I am someone who innately feels guilty for not doing something. I love to work. I’m a doer. So also I was able to kind of transfer what one considers work into self-work. I am also someone who is a huge advocate of mental health, of therapy, of meditation, of journaling, whatever it is that speaks to somebody in their process of finding out who they are, or bettering oneself or learning about oneself and expanding their mind and heart. So I really used that time for deep, deep, deep, sometimes very uncomfortable reflection, because we were having to stop and look at things.’’

On her dad, Phil Collins: ‘Starting out, when I was younger, I had lots of things taken out of context in interviews. I couldn’t be a more proud daughter, a more loving daughter. Like, it’s my dad! I love him and I am in awe….[Individually] I’ve always wanted to be me, and to have my own path and my own journey and my own failures and successes and all those things, like any individual wants. And, at the beginning, when I hadn’t done any of those things yet, I was anticipating people only being interested in my family. Of course, that’s the way in which the world works and a lot of media works. But I got frustrated being asked those questions. It didn’t mean that I didn’t love or respect my dad, it doesn’t change how I felt about my family. I just really didn’t want that to be my narrative.’

[From Elle UK]

“I mean, I’m both, but I associate more with being British…” But isn’t her “natural” accent American/Californian? It is! Although she’s likely bidialectal, she says herself that she has to “put on” the British accent, meaning it’s more of a conscious choice. Still, she’s a dual citizen and she can identify however she wants. As for what she says about diversity on Emily in Paris… she’s a producer on the show, and in other articles, I’ve heard the newly-diverse writing team and new cast members say that Lily really does “get it” and she used her power to strive to be more inclusive and supportive of diverse voices. So even if what she says here comes across a little bit PR-speak and word-salady, I kind of trust that her heart is in the right place.

Cover & IG courtesy of Elle UK.

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21 Responses to “Lily Collins on being British-American: ‘I associate more with being British’”

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  1. Melissa Melnychuk says:

    I get her. After years of living in Britain, I absolutely say the same words differently when I speak to my British friends as opposed to my Canadian friends. The same way I speak Spanish when I get to Mexico. It’s completely fine to adjust to a way of speaking, especially when it’s second nature.

    I’m looking forward to the next season of EIP.

  2. Aurora says:

    The most offensive aspect of Emily in Paris for me was the fashion. That over-the-top mashup of designer clothes seems so dated.

  3. ML says:

    As an immigrant and the daughter of an immigrant, who often sees herself as being on a bridge between cultures, I resonate with what Lily Collins is saying. It’s not the accent so much as how you think. I believe Lily is alluding to how she interacts with the world is more British, which gets disguised by her American accent.
    My mom immigrated to the States and literally and figuratively became American. Her sister followed, but stayed her original self so to speak. One of my two cousins has an American worldview and lives in the States; my other cousin lives in my mom and aunt’s original country. The latter cousin sounds 100% American when they speak, but they usually do not think that way. Their sense of humor is also different.

    • Venus says:

      I completely agree. Being British-American is a dual identity, just as if she was Haitian-American or Vietnamese-American or French-American. My parents both emigrated to the US from the UK and I’ve always felt caught between both cultures, and definitely feel a sense of homecoming when I’m in the UK.

    • AmelieOriginal says:

      Same here as French-American. I obviously don’t have a French accent when I speak English, my dad does. But I also don’t have much of an accent when I speak French and on top of having a French last name, I have a French first name as well. I do feel more American in a lot of things as I was born and raised here but I am very in tune to how the French think and act. And I’m the same, whenever I’m on a plane heading to France and hear the flight attendants speaking French, it makes me happy as it’s a nice change of pace as I do not get to speak French very often day to day.

    • MF1 says:

      Yes, I have dual citizenship and I totally agree with this. I look and sound American, but culturally, I often feel I don’t fully belong in the US.

    • molly says:

      This is really well said. Being “British” or “American” is so much more than just your accent.

    • Ms. says:

      I get this. My family lived in New England for generations. I have lived there, but spent most of my life in Texas. I’ve never felt “home” here, even though I live here now by choice. But when I go back to New England, I seriously feel like I’m home and not like a tourist. When people ask me where I am from I usually say “New England.”

      The further the difference between a person’s identities, the bigger that draw can be, I imagine. Texas and New England are super different but not as different as US/England, or other places where people could claim two identities.

  4. Leanne says:

    I think I’m just jaded, but this feels like a PR move- better to be aligned with British actresses because the industry just believes they are better trained actors

    • Annabel says:

      Same, but I was thinking of it more in terms of tailoring the message to the publication. Like, if you have dual US/UK citizenship and you’re speaking to a British audience (in an interview for a UK magazine) of course you’re going to say you’re more British than American.

    • Bex says:

      That’s exactly what it is.

      She’s just lucky enough to have an American passport/citizenship so she doesn’t require a work visa to work here.

  5. Justwastingtime says:

    Yeah, I am just here to say that the eyebrow-hair color mix is not happening for me.

  6. MsIam says:

    Is she wearing a wig for the photo shoot? If she really dyed her hair then the eyebrows look a bit harsh. But I liked Emily in Paris. At the time it was the silliness the world needed.

  7. Hello kitty says:

    yeh what she’s saying is not that far fetched. My husband was born here to Greek parents. He spent every summer in Greece and has dual citizenship. He would live in Greece full time if it offered better opportunities for doctors trained in the US. He speaks English with an American accent obviously but I’ve been told his Greek is so impeccable that native Greeks can’t tell he is not native. He reads write and thinks like a Greek man and often speaks to me about our children growing up surrounded by Greek culture and in a “Greek house”. People are who they are, regardless of their accents 🤷🏻‍♀️

  8. Anne Call says:

    I’ve followed her husband, Charlie McDowell on Instagram for awhile. I like his directing work and they have a very cute dog they post with a lot. I believe they live down the coast from Santa Barbara north of LA and seem to be out of the Hollywood scene. His mom is Mary Steenburgen so they’ve all got quite the pedigree.

  9. tladydrake says:

    The styling seems like a nod to her father in law’s role in Clockwork Orange.

  10. Eve says:

    Love everything about the hair! 😍

  11. Valerie says:

    I do too, actually, even though I’m also part Italian and live in Canada. I’ve only recently realized how British my musical tastes are. That’s definitely my dad’s influence, even though we don’t exactly listen to the same music. I just saw Phil and the gang last week, and I’m so glad I went! He still puts on a good show, seated as he is the whole time.

  12. House of No says:

    Even in the U.S., if you come from one section and you live elsewhere, you can have a different accent. While I live in L.A., I dull my Philadelphian accent. But, when I’m home or talking to a native Philadelphian, that bad boy shows up unconsciously strong.

    So, I get what she’s saying.