Although neither of them had the idea of telling Julia Child's story on television, veteran Chris Keyser, creator of "Five in the Family" among many other series and Daniel Goldfarb, one of the producers of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" , have been responsible for launching "Julia", whose second season arrives these days on HBO. Chris is the showrunner and Daniel the creator, and the two have found in the British Sarah Lancashire the perfect actress to play the woman who brought French cuisine to American television, becoming the icon of the '60s that has already played Meryl Streep for the big screen.
What made you want to set the second season of "Julia" in the south of France?
Chris Keyser: We always wanted to bring the story to France. It was in the plan for the first season. But then, with covid, everything became very complicated. That's why, while we were recording the first season, we told ourselves that if they gave us a second one, it was going to start in France.
Daniel Goldfarb: Even in last season's finale, Julia tells Hunter that he has to go to France. To rest, but also to seek inspiration and feel stimulated. Let's say we left everything ready, and when they finally gave us the green light, we had no choice but to take the story to the south of France. Then, we were able to add Paris, which didn't hurt at all.
What does Sarah Lancashire bring to her Julia Child?
CK: For starters, she's not doing an imitation. Sarah creates the essence of Julia from a voice that is unique and specific, but not Julia's. And she doesn't try to make it one either. What she does is amazing. Many times I watch him work and I realize that I am not paying attention to the dramatic tension of the scene. I just watch how she moves, and I feel like I'm in front of Julia Child. It's very interesting how she walks and how she tilts her head.
DG: When we did the pilot, the first scene we shot was her in the kitchen with Paul. And there was a moment after the first take where we felt like Julia was there. It was something truly magical. Many of the guest actors have told us that they had the same feeling. Plus she makes very interesting decisions. Sometimes I know how the scene should play out, but she does something so unexpected and so authentic that I end up opting for her version. She is a truly creative actress. She is very intuitive and has a lot of presence, but she also works very hard. She constantly practices her lines and watches old footage of Julia. She takes the responsibility of playing him very seriously.
Why Julia Child doesn't go out of style?
CK: That's a good question. What makes people want to continue seeing Julia so many decades later? It's not that she was the best cook in the world, something she herself admitted. Nor did she change the way America cooks, especially since French food is not our specialty. But I think it's amazing the way she lived her life. Through it you realize that whatever your passion is, you should try to follow it. You have to find enjoyment in everything you do. And you must also accept your own limitations. There is nothing wrong with failing while trying to reach the destination you have set for yourself. She was able to make her dreams come true because she had a great partner.
DG: I read Stanley Tucci's book about his relationship with food and he spends several chapters talking about Julia's authenticity, explaining that she showed herself as she was in front of the camera. There is a scene in the pilot in which she says that she feels like she gained a new life when she made an omelet on television. And there's something very charming about someone who isn't trying to show something they're not. It's a very rare authenticity, which makes you want to see more of it.
How do you ensure that your Julia looks like the original?
DG: We have done a lot of research. Luckily there is a lot of visual material with it, but we don't feel that this is a biography in the strict sense of the word. It's more of a fable about Julia. Everything we do in the series is based on our research and are things that could have happened. But it's not that this happened on this date and this other thing happened on that date. We are not telling that story. That would make the series much slower. In this way we can include many intimate scenes of Julia, inventing situations that are not in any of her biographies.
How did you build this second season?
CK: We thought about the ideas we wanted to include, based on the idea that Julia changed the world in very subtle and unexpected ways. She was a woman who came from a very conservative and wealthy family. She met Paul, who was also a product of her time, and at the same time an advance. We wanted to show how people who try to change the world work, and who at the same time have resistance to change. That allowed us to talk about many things that happened in the '60s, which was a period of transformations. This season begins after the death of John F. Kennedy, but before the radicalization that came at the end of the decade. It is an intermediate period in which the conversation was about how the world was going to be and what role each person was going to play. We always tell ourselves with Daniel that the series has to be light as a feather. In a sense it is like cotton candy. He has to make you happy and not realize that something serious has happened.