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Emily in Paris Actor William Abadie On Life, Fashion, and the Role of his Life

Photo: Axle Jozeph

William Abadie arrives on the set of Vogue Man Arabia donning a very French-chic look of linen shirt and pants. Famously known as Antoine Lambert of Emily in Paris, Abadie considers himself both a secret fashionista and a minimalist. “The thought of having a piece of clothing I would only wear occasionally two, maybe three times a year makes me cringe, so I’m constantly giving away clothes. And I’m left with just the strict necessary,” he smiles. “I’m quite envious of Antoine’s wardrobe, frankly,” he says of his character’s clothes, adding, “I would love to take home all these pieces from the Vogue Man Arabia photo shoot. What an incredible selection.”

A seasoned member of the colorful cast of Darren Star’s Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated hit Emily in Paris, Abadie plays the role of the charming and successful fragrance-house owner Antoine Lambert. It’s not the first time he’s worked with Star – the actor also had a role playing a Prada salesperson on the director’s Sex in the City series. Meanwhile, Abadie hints at an upcoming role. “It’s another feel-good series through a villainous appearance in the adaptation of the celebrated classic British children’s book The Famous Five.” Abadie is also working on opening a restaurant on the Upper East Side in NYC, spending time in Rome, improving his Italian, and training for the 2023 NYC marathon.

Photo: Axle Jozeph

At a young age, Paris-born Abadie moved to a small coastal town called Agay near Cannes with his nature-loving family, after his father decided to venture into the restaurant and hotel business. Abadie’s family later settled in Megève, a picturesque ski resort at the foot of Mont Blanc. It was here that he spent his formative years. Reflecting on his upbringing, he recalls, “I had an idyllic childhood – despite being a rebellious kid. Thankfully I loved sports, I played ice hockey from a young age, practiced snowboarding, skiing, I was a trail runner in the summers… It kept me out of trouble.”

Young Abadie would come to find another escape in American films. Little did he know that these early interests would shape his future. “When I closed my eyes at night, I thought of myself as a make-believe movie star… but I never thought it could become my profession. It felt too far, too unattainable… just like a dream.” Looking back, he observes, “Robert De Niro and Al Pacino had the strongest impact on me… their excellence stands as unparalleled to me.”

Photo: Axle Jozeph

As a young actor, Abadie’s favorite movies were the ones he had watched as a child. Growing up with two older brothers who were also movie enthusiasts exposed him to a diverse range of films from the golden age of the 70s and early 80s. Movies such as Midnight Express, The Deer Hunter, Ghostbusters, and Rocky all left an indelible mark on him. These films, both emotionally stirring and feel-good classics, became a part of his cinematic DNA. “It’s a bit later, after ‘lightning strike’ number two, when I became a hard-core student, that I opened my palate and rejoiced in discovering the Fellini, Godard, Bergman, and Truffaut of the world,” he comments.

Lightning strike number one took a whole other form. An unconventional chance encounter that set the stage for his future in the entertainment industry. “It was love. It was a woman…” At that time, he was still searching for his path in life, having left school prematurely. He was looking for a way to channel his energy and replace academic learning with another way to discover the world when he met an established French actor while waiting tables at a restaurant in Paris. “I would normally pick her up after the show, outside the theater, or meet her at a nearby restaurant. One day, I came early and sat in for the second act. That’s when lightning struck.”

Photo: Axle Jozeph

His early days were far from smooth sailing – during one audition for drama school, he froze after uttering just the second word of a tiny monologue. Despite this start, the dean saw something in him beyond his obvious lack of preparation, and decided to enroll him. However, Abadie says his carefree attitude continued for a while. “I was an arrogant rebel, too cool for school. I thought that was it, thought I had made it. After two temporary expulsions they made me understand that my absences and lack of dedication would get me expelled for good,” he says.“Nosir…I was not going to be expelled and fail this school, too. The ‘good ego’ kicked in, and I started to work. Hard.”

Despite his efforts, the budding actor soon realized that he wasn’t quite ready for the industry. Then came a choice, “a fork in the road, and a big risk: one of my friends was doing a course internship in New York … The memory of all those films I revered as a kid kicked in, and I jumped.” Abadie embarked on further training and found himself immersed in the heart of American acting. “I first arrived in New York to pursue what would be the remainder of my drama studies, but I never left.” Reflecting on his experiences as a French actor in America, he says, “Wonderful and easy. Kidding. Haaard,” he emphasizes. “It’s already a tough industry without trying to do it where you don’t belong.”

Photo: Axle Jozeph

Throughout his career since that challenging start, Abadie portrayed a diverse and memorable range of characters in some of America’s most acclaimed and iconic TV shows: The OC, ER, Entourage, Ugly Betty, 90210, Gossip Girl, as well as the Golden Globe-winning show Homeland, to name a few. But one role stands out. “I love Antoine [Emily in Paris] … This role is my longest-standing engagement of any production I’ve been a part of.” Abadie’s life has changed significantly since joining the show, and he recognizes the privilege of being a part of it. “So far, [it’s] the role of my life… I live a dream; that dream I’ve been chasing for 20-something years is now happening,” he says. “Thanks to Antoine, I train more, work more, and as a result get better, faster.”

Beyond acting, Abadie has a deep passion for sports and physical activities, which he views as vital to both his career and his productivity. An accomplished Alpine snowboarder, triathlete, Iron Man, ultra-distance-athlete as well as a devoted marathon runner with dozens of races under his belt, Abadie believes that sports not only keep him physically fit but also help him stay focused, while providing an outlet for his boundless energy. Balancing his athletic pursuits with his acting career is a testament to his commitment and discipline. “I was good at all of them, but not exceptional at any … I made sure to add passion to each. I’m trying to get back into snowboard competing and want to participate in the World Championship in St Moritz in 2025 – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?”

Photo: Axle Jozeph

Style: Ellen Mirck
Grooming: Ilham Mestour
Style assistants: Gijs Taher, Chiara Campanozzi, Paulina Torre, Guadalupe Guerra
Light technician: Elena Santolaya
Light assistant: Alexia Pisaniello
Production: Anaïs Isabelle
Production on set: Francesca Polerà
Talent manager: Caroline Simon-Schreiber

Originally published in Vogue Man Arabia Fall/Winter 2023 

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