‘Julia’ Cast and Producers on Julia Child’s Enduring Appeal
HBO Max’s new comedy series Julia explores the personal life and professional career of Julia Child, the extraordinary woman whose The French cook The TV show revolutionized public television. Premiere on March 31, 2022, Julia stars Sarah Lancashire (happy valley) as an iconic chef, best-selling author and larger-than-life TV personality who continues to fascinate us nearly 20 years after his death at 91.
So why are we still so interested in Julia Child? The cast of Julia and executive producers Chris Keyser, Daniel Goldfarb and Kimberly Carver shared their thoughts on Julia’s enduring appeal during the Television Critics Association’s Winter 2022 press tour.
David Hyde Pierce, who plays Julia’s supportive husband Paul, thinks Julia was one of a kind. “I think that’s why people have remained interested in her throughout the evolution of fashions, styles, foods and everything else, and why so many different versions of her have come about, because that she is one of a kind and eternally fascinating.”
Brittany Bradford (Broadway’s Bernhardt/Hamlet) plays Alice Naman, a producer who wholeheartedly supported Julia and The French cook. Bradford believes it’s the authenticity of Julia Child that continues to fuel her popularity.
“She [had] a great sense of humor. She’s someone we can really connect with and it’s also a joy to be with her,” added Fiona Glascott who plays Judith Jones, the editor who championed Child’s Master the art of French cuisine. “I think that’s also what makes her so popular.”
Bebe Neuwirth plays Julia Child’s good friend, neighbor and strong supporter, Avis DeVoto. Neuwirth recalled that as a child, the real Julia was fascinating to watch. Audiences of all ages loved his show.
“She was clumsy. She was brilliant. She was deep. She was funny, but she was also beautiful. And she did these amazing things and then fed you. It was a bit like mercury. She’s kind of like everything, very, very multifaceted… like you can’t help but look at her and say, “What’s going on over there? At least, as I said, from the point of view of a child who watches television and we are all children who watch television. It’s in all of us, that element,” Neuwirth said.
Fran Kranz, fresh off his critically acclaimed directorial debut with Massrooms The French cookfrom producer and director Russ Morash. “I thought the more I learned about her doing this show and being so lucky to be a part of it, I saw her as an artist. And great artists are forever. They stick around. years and years, centuries,” Kranz said. “There was an artist in her and I really like that.”
Find their child Julia
Series creator and executive producer Daniel Goldfarb said they were lucky to find Sarah Lancashire and she was able to work on it. Julia and happy valley at the same time. Goldfarb describes Lancashire’s performance as Julia Child as full and rich, and executive producer Chris Keyser thinks they wouldn’t have had a series if Lancashire hadn’t said yes.
When asked how she approached the role, Lancashire replied, “There are so many sources available online, so it was a starting point to reference her, in addition to reading the books about her and the letters between her and Avis. But at some point for me, I actually put the written material away. It didn’t necessarily make sense with what we were trying to do, which was a drama as opposed to a documentary.
I worked with a vocal coach for a very short period of time who, we were looking at the accent, really. And then for me, I moved away from that and started trying to create a parallel voice, really, that would basically create the essence of his vocal eccentricity and uniqueness but harmonized with the physical. And it’s important to find a comfortable place. It’s just a matter of time, really, of playing around and trying to find something that works.
Lancashire continued: “I am not a copycat. I can’t pretend to be. And, also, she had this extraordinarily complex vocal shift, which I don’t share with her. And, therefore, that, unfortunately, was not an in for me. I had to find something that works in parallel and that is comfortable.
But really, I spent many, many hours watching it. There are so many sources available and that’s really what I was doing. But it’s not a test. She is a joy to watch. You kind of want to be around her, and yes, she makes you feel better about the world, really. She is toned.
Julia Child’s Fierce Girl Squad
Alice Naman and Judith Jones were pivotal in securing The French cook on the air at a time when network brass were inclined to push the project through. Brittany Bradford was thrilled to explore Alice’s role in The French Chef success and learn more about black producers in the 1960s.
“That’s also what got me excited about the pilot, it wasn’t just exploring – you don’t hear a lot about black producers at that point, of which they were there, I just want say – sometimes you want to think something that is improbable is impossible, but it’s not. And thus having the chance to learn who Alice and the Alices of the world could have been and then having the opportunity to interact with Julia… They are two women who go through life and work in completely different ways but they are complementary towards the each other,” Bradford explained.
Executive producer Chris Keyser felt it was also important to fully explore the relationship between Julia Child and Judith Jones. Jones was already a well-respected copywriter when she discovered Julia Child.
“It was something extraordinary that they came together. I mean Judith Jones, her work before she got to cookbooks, is extraordinary,” Fiona Glascott said. “The amount of serious and impactful literary works that she did and was looking for at the time – without even realizing it, she was looking for a way of French cuisine in particular to teach in America and to cook at home. And then when this manuscript fell on his desk, it was as if worlds collided.
She is also an extraordinarily generous woman who was genuinely interested in bringing people together and uplifting them. And I think she not only fell in love with Julia’s work, she fell in love with her. I mean, who couldn’t? And so together they began to uplift each other.
Julia has been an answer to Judith’s wishes for years. They reunited and then Julia brought Judith back into this world of cookbooks. Judith, always a big fan of food and cooking, ended up writing her own cookbooks years later, which I think was hugely due to Julia and those women coming together and finding each other, then gathered around them.