Julia is the new HBO Max comedy series from creator Daniel Goldfarb (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), and just like the 2009 bifurcated biopic (Julie & Julia), it's named after its subject — the great chef and TV personality Julia Child. Her life and career are certainly fascinating enough to warrant it, although it remains to be seen whether the new series can manage to qualitatively separate itself from a film that starred Meryl Streep. The TV series will get more space to tell the fascinating story of Child's TV series The French Chef, however, and that could be all kinds of fun.
So who's on hand to play Julia Child, her devoted husband, the TV people who stood in her way, and the other figures who populated her life? Here's a rundown:
Julia Child was a phenomenon of American food culture, and especially American food culture on TV. She co-authored the landmark cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and went on to star in the public television staple The French Chef, where she brought accessible yet ambitious cooking into the living rooms of countless American homes. She's played in Julia by English actress Sarah Lancashire, who is probably best known for her her roles in the BBC series Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley. She's won BAFTA TV Awards for both performances.
Paul Child was a diplomat working for the United States government in the middle part of the 20th century, and he was also Julia Child's loving husband. While working for the Office of Strategic Serviced in World War II, he met Julia McWilliams, and they married. After the war, Child worked in the United States Foreign Service, stationed in various European locales, including Paris, where Julia attended Le Cordon Bleu and got her formal training. Played in Julie & Julia by Stanley Tucci, the TV version of Paul Child is played by David Hyde Pierce , the Emmy- and Tony-winning actor best known for his role as Niles Crane on the long-running sitcom Frasier. He won four Emmys for Frasier, a Tony in 2007 for Curtains, and was nominated twice more, most recently for starring opposite Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly!.
Avis DeVoto was a culinary editor and book reviewer who struck up what would become a lifelong friendship with Julia Child after Child wrote a response letter to one of DeVoto's husband Bernard's columns on the subject of kitchen knives. They were pen pals for years before becoming IRL friends, and Avis would eventually help Julia get Mastering the Art of French Cooking published. She's played by Bebe Neuwirth, another luminary of stage and screen who, like David Hyde Pierce, found her breakaway TV success playing opposite Frasier Crane). She won two Emmy Awards for playing Dr. Lilith Crane on Cheers, to supplement the pair of Tony Awards she took home for her performances in Sweet Charity and Chicago. Most recently, she spent four seasons starring on the CBS drama Madam Secretary, appeared on the HBO Max series The Flight Attendant, and was one of the many Broadway luminaries who made a cameo in tick, tick… BOOM!.
Simone Beck, known as "Simca," befriended Julia Child in Paris in 1949 and the two, along with Beck's writing partner Louisette Bertholle, authored Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In Julie & Julia, Simca was played by theater actress Linda Emond; while here she's played by famed actress Isabella Rossellini. The daughter of screen legend Ingrid Bergman, Rossellini became a star in her own right with performances in films like David Lynch's Blue Velvet. She's managed to work wonders with small roles in films like Death Becomes Her and as Jack Donaghy's first wife on 30 Rock.
Actor/writer/director Fran Kranz is coming off a breakthrough year, in which his Sundance hit Mass — which he wrote and directed — was one of the best reviehrwed films of 2021, earning awards from the Independent Spirit Awards, among other places. As an actor, he's best known for his roles on the FOX sci-fi drama Dollhouse and in the horror comedy The Cabin in the Woods. In Julia, e plays Russ Morash, a TV producer who is initially quite skeptical that they can make a TV show work with Julia Child at its center.
Newcomer Brittany Bradford has only made brief appearances in TV shows like New Amsterdam and Fear the Walking Dead, but she takes on the role of Alice, a producer at the public television station who sees potential in a Julia Child TV shows and champions her eventual series.
James Cromwell is a veteran actor who will be familiar to many TV and film audiences. His best-known role may well be as the kindly Farmer Hoggett in Babe, a role for which he received an Oscar nomination. He's also starred in films like L.A. Confidential, The Queen, and The Artist, has won an Emmy for his performance on American Horror Story, and currently plays Logan Roy's disapproving brother Ewan on Succession. In Julia he plays John McWilliams, Julia Child's disapproving father.
Adriane Lenox is best known for her roles on the Broadway stage, where she won a Tony Award in 2005 for her work in Doubt, playing the role that Viola Davis would go on to play in the movie version. On TV, she's appeared as Reven Wright on The Blacklist, Barbara Lacks in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and recurred for a few episodes on 30 Rock as Jack Donaghy's baby's nanny.
Theater veteran Jefferson Mays has one Tony Award to his name — in 2004 for I Am My Own Wife — and two more nominations, for the shows A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and Oslo. Though Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt fans might remember him as the titular character in "Daddy's Boy!" He'll be playing Albert Duhamel in Julia, a snooty public television host who doesn't think women's shows about cooking are suitable PBS fare.
Blanche Knopf was an American publishing titan who, alongside her husband Alfred A. Knopf, published the likes of John Updike, Toni Morrison, Joan Didion, and Cormac McCarthy. Knopf also — SPOILER – published Julia Child, so try to act surprised when Blanche's misgivings about Julia's outward demeanor are won over. She's played by Judith Light, one of the great stage and screen stars best known for her roles on One Life to Live, Who's the Boss, Ugly Betty, Transparent, and more. She won back-to-back Tony Awards in 2012 and 2013 for Other Desert Cities and The Assembled Parties.
Known to foodies the world over, James Beard was an incredibly influential cook and TV personality after whom the famed James Beard Awards are named. He also was one of Julia Child's closest contemporaries. He's played by character actor Christian Clemenson, best known for roles on Boston Legal and Veronica Mars.
Julia debuts on HBO Max Thursday, March 31st.
People are talking about Julia in our forums. Join the conversation.
Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: Julia, Adriane Lenox, Christian Clemenson, Bebe Neuwirth, Brittany Bradford, David Hyde Pierce, Fran Kranz, Isabella Rossellini, James Cromwell, Jefferson Mays, Judith Light, Julia Child, Sarah Lancashire