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Interview: ‘Julia’ Executive Producers Daniel Goldfarb and Christopher Keyser on the Delicious First Season

Last week, Awards Radar sat down with Julia Season One executive producer’s creator Daniel Goldfarb and Christopher Keyser. Julia Season One is about the creation of The French Chef. Julia Child (Sarah Lancashire) rises to icon status during the season. Goldfarb describes the series as a “comedy-drama that tells the story of an extraordinary once in a generation woman who had a deep passion and joy. Through sheer force of will, she invented the cooking show as we know it.” He noted that Child did all the that while navigating a “wonderful working marriage” with Paul Cushing Child (David Hyde Pierce).

THE FRENCH CHEF

Keyser explained that part of the reason they decided to focus on The French Chef era of Child’s life was that it’s a chapter that has never been deeply covered in the media. He went on to say, ” We (Daniel and himself) felt that it was during a transformative moment in this country. She (Julia Child) had already written Mastering the Art of French Cooking Part One. In that sense, she was already a public figure, but it (the cookbook) had begun to fade from the bookshelves. Then, on a whim in early 1962, she decided to cook an omelet for a small television show at a public television station in Boston. A tiny station in a relatively small market. She begins a process of changing several things in the 1960s, including the development of the cooking show.” Child changed the meaning of what is a television celebrity. Keyser shared that Goldfarb” felt like it was the perfect inflection point to discuss American culture. And Julia embodies all of that.”

THE CHILD’S MARRIAGE

Goldfarb pointed out that the early 1960s was also a transitional moment for Paul and Julia Child, ” it felt like a beautiful time to begin a new story, a new chapter, a second act for them both. Paul has retired. They’ve moved back from Europe, and then this thing happens. Suddenly, Julia is in the driver’s seat of the marriage for the first time.” They were able to tell an “intimate human scale story” and explore the social issues of the early 1960s.

We discussed how Paul Child subverted normative ideals of masculinity out of love. Keyser said, “I mean, Julia does come into her own. She does it by supporting him (Paul) and bringing everyone along. But Paul does a remarkable thing in stepping back and becoming a supporting figure in that marriage. It’s no small feat to do that with love. And they did; their marriage was full of love from the beginning.” Sarah Lancashire and David Hyde Pierce did an extraordinary job bringing this beautiful marriage to life.

CASTING

Goldfarb spoke a bit about how they cast Sarah Lancashire as Julia Child, ” We had a list, and she (Lancashire) was on it. It was like one of those things where everyone thought she was Julia. She has the authority, the gravity, the depth, the comedy, the facility with language, and the charisma. Sarah felt like a perfect fit. It was unanimous, with Chris and I am feeling the same way. The people at HBO, Lionsgate, and Three Arts all agreed. We crossed our fingers and hoped. Thank goodness Sarah responded to the material, and the rest is history.” The Paul Child role was written for Pierce. However, the actor was unavailable when they were initially supposed to shoot Julia Season One. Keyser noted, “It was only because of our COVID push that he (Pierce) became available.” Without Covid, the audiences wouldn’t be able to witness the on-screen chemistry between the two incredible actors.

Keyser discussed their casting for all the recurring characters, ” Adrian Lennox, Robert Joy, and everybody else is remarkable. The theater’s sadness somewhat advantaged us because the series was shot down during the shutdown. We were a first-year television show, and no one knew what we were. And often, it’s challenging to get people of that caliber to work on a show that’s still having to prove itself. But since we were the only game in town, they were willing to play.” Another selling point was everybody wanted to work with Lancashire, an Award-Winning British actress.

It turns out that Alice Naman (Brittany Bradford) is not precisely based on The French Chef’s real producer Ruth Lockwood. Keyser corrected that misconception by explaining that she was loosely rooted in several Black men and women who worked at WGBH when The French Chef was initially airing. He said, ” Alice is someone who might have existed. We imagined what it would’ve been like to be a young woman of color working in early 1960s Boston.”

FAVORITE THINGS

We spoke about Keyser and Goldfarb’s favorite things about Julia Season One. They worked hard to establish a tone for the whole series but designed all the episodes to feel distinctive. Keyser said,” The first three episodes develop the show. Then four, five, and six show Julia as she initially enters the cultural zeitgeist. Episodes seven and eight are her coming to terms with what that means.” The executive producers adore seeing all the characters hang out together. Goldfarb stated, ” We both love the moments where we can get a bunch of our characters together. There’s something enjoyable about it because we grew so close with everyone.”

JULIA’S THEMES

The executive producers tackled different themes throughout the first season. Goldfarb said, “Chris and I always talked about the arc of the season being about the invention of the modern marriage. The Child’s marriage was always beautifully loving, but when the season starts, it’s a traditional 1950s idea of what a marriage is. By the end of the season, it becomes a real partnership. We were excited to dramatize a loving marriage that grows and evolves.” Keyser mentions how Child continued success was because ” they (the audience) see the joy in her cooking that they can apply to the way they might live the rest of their lifetime.” Child inspired others to embrace their imperfections and go on passion-filled adventures.

JULIA CHILD AND FEMINISM

Keyser ended the interview by speaking about Child’s complex relationship with feminism. The 1950s, right before The French Chef aired, was a vital part of feminism’s advancement in the United States. Julia Child finds herself in the middle of the action in this series. Keyser said, “She (Child) is a living embodiment of a woman who takes control of her own life by essentially becoming CEO of her own company. She changes the world based on the idea that women can do things even better than men. The world of great chefs was always male-dominated. While cooking at home was the domain of women. Julia blends those two worlds. She says women have endless possibilities but dress like a typical 1950s housewife while cooking for her family on television.” The series asks if Child is a vital part of the feminist movement or a “relic of the past.”

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. The last episode airs on Thursday, May 5th, so you have time to catch up if you are late to the party. Check out the newest episode of Julia Season One this Thursday, April 21st, on HBO MAX!

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Written by Paloma Bennett

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