British Actress Playing Julia Child in HBO Max Series Hadn’t Heard of Famed Chef Until ‘Julie and Julia’

“Happy Valley” star Sarah Lancashire’s portrayal of Child is “completely different” from Meryl Streep’s

Julia HBO
Sarah Lancashire in Julia (HBO)

British actress Sarah Lancashire, the star of Netflix’s “Happy Valley” and “Last Tango in Halifax,” was not the least bit daunted in taking on the role of famed chef Julia Child, despite the cooking star’s hard-to-nail voice and the fact that Meryl Streep so memorably played Child in 2009’s “Julie and Julia.”

The HBO Max series, called “Julia,” debuts on March 31 and co-stars David Hyde Pierce as Child’s husband, Paul Cushing Child (played in the film by Stanley Tucci), and Bebe Neuwirth as Avis DeVoto, Child’s editor.

“For me, it’s quite simple. It’s a completely different project,” Lancashire said during an HBO TCA panel on Tuesday when asked about how the series differs from the film, “The nature of the project is different, the tone of the project is different. You get 50 different Hamlets from 50 different actors.”

“The benefit of the film was for me was, it was the first time that I ever heard of Julia Child, because she did not have a presence in the U.K.,” Lancashire said. “And so the marketing around the film is the first time that I became aware of her. Other than that, it didn’t really play any part in my preparation or participation in this piece at all.”

Meanwhile, Pierce, quipped, “For me, I’ve always wanted to play Stanley Tucci, so this is as close as I’ll probably get.”

Lancashire briefly consulted a vocal coach and watched hours of the chef. “There’s such an awful lot of source material online, so that was the starting point to reference. Plus, reading the books about her and the letters between her and Avis, but at some point, I actually put the written material away, because 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, but I pulled away from that and started to work on a parallel that would create her essence,” she said, adding she didn’t aim to “mimic” Child, but to capture her “vocal eccentricity.”

But one aspect of the role came very easily to her. “The thing I have in common with Julia is, my favorite recipe is her favorite recipe, the sole meunière,” Lancashire said.