Julia Child, the late American chef who is credited for making French cuisine accessible in the U.S., remains widely influential nearly 20 years after her death. In the last few months alone, she’s been the subject of a new documentary and the inspiration for a new reality cooking show.
Now, she is having another moment in the new HBO Max series Julia.
Actress Sarah Lancashire plays the woman considered America’s first “celebrity chef” and describes Child as someone who “took performance to a whole different level.”
“She was like this beautiful bird of paradise with this extraordinary energy and vivacity,” said Lancashire.
The show dramatizes how Child was inspired to launch her show, The French Chef in 1963 after an appearance on a sleepy public television show about reading. She was one of the first to host her own cooking show.
“She was bringing a new genre to the screen,” says Lancashire. “It hadn’t really been done before.”
Lancashire was born and raised in the U.K., so she wasn’t quite as familiar with Child as American audiences were. Still, she says the challenge of making a cultural icon feel human came easy to her.
“The starting point has to be their humanity and their authenticity,” she says. So she focused on the complicated person behind Child’s unique voice and exuberant public persona.
“She’s naturally very funny [but] I never approached the series as a comedy,” Lancashire says. “I didn’t really want that to be the launch pad.””I needed to know specifically who Julia was when she was away from the cameras, when she wasn’t on the show,” says Lancashire. “The Julia behind closed doors. The Julia when she was with her friends, when she was with Paul. That, to me, is equally as important as trying to portray the woman in front of the camera.” (NPR)