‘My parents still have no clue what I’m doing’: Lupin star Omar Sy on Hollywood, fame and fighting racismMay 30, 2021
After a decade in Hollywood, French actor Omar Sy returned home to star in Netflix’s much-loved hit, Lupin. He talks about playing the charming thief, growing up with Arsenal’s Nicolas Anelka and his battle with racism
Actors, obliged to exhaustively market their wares, will pose for hours in front of posters of their latest film or TV show. They’ll hop between city premieres, sit on dreary festival panels, tell rehearsed comic stories on night-time talkshows, then get up early to be on breakfast radio. Before meeting Omar Sy, a 43-year-old Frenchman who stars in the massively popular Netflix drama Lupin, I’d never heard of an actor picking up a bucket and brush to spend a day gluing up their own billboard posters on the Paris metro. Sy, who is 6ft 2in, born in a working-class Parisian suburb to West African parents, explains the thinking behind this unusual marketing stunt that took place just before the first series of Lupin debuted earlier this year.
“A lot of people know me in Paris,” begins Sy, who worked as a comedian in France through his 20s before becoming a film star there in his early 30s. “Because people in France have watched me in stuff for years, I’m used to meeting strangers who recognise me and who already have smiles on their faces.” In Lupin, lightly adapted from the classic heist books by Maurice Leblanc, Sy plays a French-Senegalese man called Assane Diop, an anonymous Parisian who is used to being ignored and overlooked in his home town, but who is willing to use that to his advantage while robbing the city’s jet-set blind. “The show is entertainment and we want to have fun with it,” he says, “but at the same time we’re talking about something very serious: that some people in France are simply not seen.”