HBO Max picked up “Julia” for a second season on Thursday, the same day its Season 1 finale dropped on the streamer. With that good news, fans of the Julia Child scripted series can rest assured they will be learning more about The French Chef herself (played by Sarah Lancashire) and the people who made her the icon she is in Season 2, including Judith Light’s Blanche Knopf.
And there will be plenty to uncover about Blanche, the publisher of Child’s best-selling “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” books, in particular. The finale episode, titled “Chocolate Soufflé,” revealed the powerful co-founder and leader of publishing house Knopf is going blind, and only her mentee Judith Jones (Fiona Glascott), who was editor for Child, as well as novelists like John Updike at Knopf, knows about the dire situation.
Much like many other details depicted about these real-life people on the first season of “Julia,” this fact about Blanche, the wife of literary giant Alfred A. Knopf, is not widely known.
“It was very much kept a secret. She was very, very vain about it and very uncomfortable about the dynamic of what was happening to her with her sight,” Light told Variety. “It’ll come out this Thursday, people will see it. But that was a thing she could only open up to Judith about. I mean, talk about the irony of that. As she says, ‘This is my life. I am essentially losing my life…’ And it was Judith who said, ‘I will be your eyes.’ But very few people know and knew. So the fact that, how ironic and how heartbreaking that this was happening to her and it was happening quickly. There’s stuff in Laura Claridge’s book, ‘The Lady with the Borzoi,’ where she talks about how Blanche would just walk across the street, not really being able to see, and people in the office like Judith were just frantic. They were like, ‘Oh, my God! She can’t do this!’ She was incredibly obstinate in that way. She was not going to let it pull her down. She was not going to have this be her end. And she didn’t want people to know.”
Light says that, despite Blanche’s deep trust in Judith, this plan to keep her descent into blindness is not one that Blanche is going to be incredibly cooperative with.
“No, it’s not going to be easy because the dynamic between the two of them would not be easy,” Light said. “Blanche would not want to be babied or coddled in any way, and she would be making sure that nobody knew about it. So, yes, there would be a lot of conflict and a lot of complications and a lot of challenge for Judith Jones. But she never wavered, Judith never wavered. She was always there for Blanche. And with somebody as wonderful as Fiona Glascott playing Judith Jones, and we have a lovely connection, that will be really glorious.”
There’s also room for “Julia” Season 2 to explore the direct relationship between Blanche and her client Julia Child, a person Blanche does not at all understand, or respect in the same way she does her prized novelists, whom she wishes Judith would spend more of her time with than Julia.
“That was, in a way, Blanche’s Achilles heel,” Light says. “It was her grandeur. It was her literary genius. It was her intuition and her instinct about great writers that she brought in. But Blanche was proving herself as well, that she was the person who could really run this publishing world in a very dynamic way, because she had been so pushed aside. So there is all of that other psychological stuff that I think was going on as well.”