Actress Brie Larson perfected cooking skills – and lasagne – for new show
LOS ANGELES – The heroine of Lessons In Chemistry is a brilliant woman who knows her way around a laboratory as well as a kitchen.
And the makers of the show say Oscar-winning American actress Brie Larson was the perfect person to play her.
Now streaming on Apple TV+, the eight-episode drama series is based on the wildly popular 2022 novel of the same name written by Bonnie Garmus.
Larson, who won a Best Actress Oscar for the kidnapping drama Room (2015), plays Elizabeth Zott, a gifted chemist fighting to be taken seriously as a scientist in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.
After being forced to abandon her doctoral studies and take a job as a laboratory technician, Zott finds herself sidelined by her male bosses and colleagues at the lab.
So, she decides to take a job hosting a television cooking show instead, and ends up using it to teach housewives not just recipes, but also science – and how to believe in themselves.
Larson worked closely with the show’s food consultant Courtney Broom, an American chef who cooked and came up with recipes for the mouthwatering dishes seen on Lessons In Chemistry.
These included retro classics such as strawberry shortcake and chicken pot pie, and the lasagne that Zott’s fellow scientist Calvin (Lewis Pullman) falls in love with her over.
“Brie is a great cook,” reveals Broom, 43, over a Zoom interview.
“She’s cooked for me several times and it’s always delicious. The last thing she made was this really delicious miso soup with kelp and spinach in it. It was so warming and nourishing.”
This means the actress did not have to start from scratch in terms of culinary abilities.
Broom says: “She knows how to chop and has all the basic skills, so that part was easy. The close-up shots were my hands doing the cooking, but Brie nailed it. She did such a good job.”
Larson worked especially hard to perfect her character’s lasagne recipe, which figures prominently in the storyline, each ingredient and step tweaked like the variables in a scientific experiment.
“She made a bunch of the lasagne leading up to the show,” Broom says.
“Part of the story of getting the show made was just Brie at home making lasagne after lasagne,” she jokes.
On a more serious note, American director Sarah Adina Smith – who helmed the first two episodes – suspects that one reason Larson was drawn to the material was because “she’s a lot like Elizabeth Zott”.
Larson served as an executive producer on Lessons In Chemistry as well, and American showrunner Lee Eisenberg says she took this role seriously.
“A lot of times, actors take an executive-producer credit and it’s in name only. Brie did not approach it that way. She was in every meeting, whether it was for props or set design or wardrobe, and she sat in the edit with me for weeks.
“And she loved the book. She read it several times, she met with scientists and she was working with chefs long before production started,” says the 46-year-old writer and producer, who worked on the American version of hit workplace comedy The Office (2005 to 2013).
The actress was also uniquely able to bring this multifaceted character to life.
“Brie has a rare ability where her face is able, from one moment to the next, to play vulnerable and to play steely. And she’s incredibly dry and hilarious,” Eisenberg says.
Lessons In Chemistry is available on Apple TV+.