Occasionally I get asked if I am related to the talented character actress Jane Lynch. I think it's the short blonde hair we have in common. I’m sorry to say I’m not because if I were, I’d have a personal connection to half of Hollywood. Jane has been in too many movies and TV series to name so let's just say she can pal around with everyone from Will Ferrell to Meryl Streep. It is Streep with whom she stars in Julie & Julia, (that's Lynch, far left in movie photo) and, accomplished as Lynch is, she admits she was a little frightened about playing Streep’s — that is, Julia Child’s — sister. Our Jon Tollestrup interviewed Lynch about the new movie. Click read more for his full Q & A.
You haven’t done too many period pieces. Was this film a new experience for you?
No, it’s all the same thing really. I’ve worn wigs in other shows, even though it’s been mostly contemporary. It did call for a little more research into how they moved, but basically it’s playing people and people kind of remain the same. The culture was different back then and you have to keep that in mind. But it was just another given circumstance where they held their cigarettes differently and they ate a little differently and people were much more polite.
Did you know a lot about Dorothy McWilliams before doing this role?
I knew of Julia Child, but I hadn’t read My Life in France, which of course I did in preparation for this role. But I actually didn’t know much of Dorothy. I knew a lot more about Julia Child, just kind of generally, that she married this guy named Paul who was in the SS. She worked for the CIA, as well. In fact, that’s where she met Paul. I knew that they came back to Boston and started doing the show. So I knew generally and I just had to fill in the blanks. But it was joyous research, I must say. What a life. What a big personality.
Besides being her sister, in what ways was Dorothy important to Julia’s life?
They were best friends, as well. It was a very tight-knit family and they had a very conservative father and they, by nature, were more like their mother, very liberal and adventurous. They lived all over the world and they loved food from all over they world. Also, they were very sympathetic to the more liberal side of the political aisle.
Did Dorothy have a unique voice and personality like her sister Julia and if so, how did you go about cultivating her unique traits?
She did. In fact, her daughter was on set and she kind of sounds like Julia Child. So it was little intimidating at first because I was playing her mother. But she watched us for a little bit, me and this fellow who plays my husband, and met the two of us before we had even started acting and she had tears in her eyes and said, “Oh, I feel like I’m seeing my mother and father.”
Do you resemble her mother at all?
Not really. She was very tall and thin. She was about 6 feet 5 inches, which is even tall for now. But she was completely unaware of it and completely unselfconscious and that is how [she and Julia] won the French over.
But you’re fairly tall yourself. Did that give you an advantage in Nora Ephron choosing you for the role?
[Laughs] Probably, yeah. I might be the only 6-foot actress that she knows.
So what types of research and exercises did you do to capture Dorothy’s voice?
I went by what I had, which was the show [Julia] did on PBS for many years. The Child sisters were from Pasadena, but they both had this upper-crust kind of affectation, which wasn’t as affectation on them, at all. It was just absolutely organic to who they were. So that is where I got the bulk of my inspirations, just listening to that show. Also, I showed up on set a day early to see where Meryl [was with her vocal choices] and then I thought “OK I know where to go.”
I know you first met Meryl Streep doing Lemony Snicket. Did that take some of the edge off in meeting her or was it still an overwhelming experience to work with her?
I was scared, I must say. I was a little nervous about it because it was a period film, as well, and we were in wigs and I made big vocals choices and I thought “I hope I can pull this off.” But Meryl was great and she was huge and the life force of Julia Child was definitely in her.
Given that you play sisters, did you hang out at all off camera to generate sisterly chemistry?
[Laughs] No, it just came naturally. She is really available and open. So it came easy.
Did you have a favorite moment off-camera with Meryl?
[The shoot] was kind of business-like because you do your thing. But we were walking back to our trailers from a restaurant in Brooklyn and as I was crossing the street she took my arm and walked across the street with me and I thought “Where are the paparazzi when you need them?” It was a really nice, sweet gesture.
I know on set they had professional chefs preparing the food. But did Meryl cook any food herself for you or anyone else to get into character with more authenticity?
[Laughs] No, she just left it to professionals. We had a French-trained chef who made the food for the film. But even the craft services were quite amazing. Nora is a foodie, although she weighs about 10 pounds and is the size of your pinky.
Do you possess any culinary talents at all?
I’m not good at cooking. But I’m having a renovation done and I’m going to get a nice kitchen out of it and I vow to start cooking. I’m a big fan of food and butter, as well [laughs].
Did you end up having to eat a lot of the same food in doing take after take?
Yes, I had to eat a lot of Brie cheese, which I love. But I tell you by the end of the day I couldn’t look at Brie for a whole week [laughs]. But I’m sure Stanley [Tucci] and Meryl experienced this a lot more than I did because they had to eat duck and all sorts of things and all I had to do was scarf down some bread and Brie.
Finally, you have a great career that’s paired you with really talented people and now here you are doing a movie with Meryl Streep. Do you ever reflect on your professional life, and, if so, what comes to mind?
I rarely step outside myself, but I do occasionally, and when I do step outside and take a look I do think this is pretty neat and that I’m pretty darn lucky and that I’m living the dream. But then I get right back into it and do what’s in front of me.