Sarah Lancashire created 'parallel voice' to Julia Child

Sarah Lancashire plays Julia Child filming "The French Chef." Photo courtesy of HBO Max
1 of 5 | Sarah Lancashire plays Julia Child filming "The French Chef." Photo courtesy of HBO Max

LOS ANGELES, March 31 (UPI) -- British actress Sarah Lancashire said she did not want to duplicate chef Julia Child's voice when playing her in Julia, premiering Thursday on HBO Max.

"We were looking at accent, really," Lancashire said on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "Then for me, I pulled away from that and started looking at trying to create a parallel voice."


Lancashire, 57, said she did work with a vocal coach, but attempted to capture "the essence of her vocal eccentricity and her singularity."

Viewers heard Child's distinct voice on her cooking show, The French Chef. And Julia chronicles the creation and production of the show in 1962.

Lancashire said her own voice does not have the vocal range that Child's did, so she had to find a voice that was comfortable for eight episodes. She said watching footage of Child made her appeal apparent.


"You kind of want to be in her company, and she makes you feel better about the world, really," Lancashire said. "She's a tonic."

Lancashire also had access to letters Child wrote to her book editor Avis De Voto. However, the actress decided those were not relevant to Julia.

"I actually put the written material away," Lancashire said. "It didn't necessarily make sense with what we were trying to do, which was a drama as opposed to a documentary."

David Hyde Pierce stars as Child's husband, Paul. Pierce, 62, said the series shows what a strong partner Paul was to Julia, though behind the scenes.

"I feel a great responsibility to try to honestly convey to people just how singular he was," Pierce said. "What a unique and iconic partnership this was, including the conflict, which we don't know about in the public life, because that's the part that's not written about."

Pierce said he also learned about Paul Child's accomplishments outside The French Chef. Pierce did not say whether these would be included in the series.

"He played the violin," Pierce said. "He was a black belt in judo. He built furniture. He did all these things, and had a career as a diplomat."


Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci previously portrayed the Childs in the movie Julie and Julia. Lancashire said that 2009 fim was her first exposure to Child.

"She did not have a presence in the U.K., and so the marketing around the film was the first time that I became aware of her," Lancashire said. "The benefit from the film for me was the first time I'd ever heard of Julia."

However, Lancashire said she is not concerned about overlap between the film and the series.

"The tone of the project is different," Lancashire said. "You do 50 different Hamlets, you [cast] 50 different actors, they'll all be different."

The French Chef aired from 1962 to 1973. Child continued to lead cooking segments on talk shows and host her own shows like Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home.

Child died in 2004. Pierce said he had a theory about why Child had so many fans in her 42-year TV career -- and after her death.

"I think she's one of a kind, and I think that's why people have stayed interested in her throughout changing fashions and styles and foods and everything else," Pierce said. "So many different versions of her have occurred, because she's one of a kind and eternally fascinating."


New episodes of Julia premiere Thursdays on HBO Max.

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