The first two episodes of Apple TV+’s “Lessons in Chemistry'' premiere on Oct. 13. Based on the best-selling novel by Bonnie Garmus and created by Lee Eisenberg, the show stars Brie Larson as the fictional Elizabeth Zott, who unexpectedly becomes a 1960s cooking show host after being fired from her job as a chemist. Larson also serves as an executive producer, alongside Garmus, Jason Bateman, and Susannah Grant.
For those wondering how the limited series got cast, including audition advice for future Apple TV+ shows, we’ve got you covered. In our guide, you'll learn everything about what went into adapting the novel for the streamer.
- What is “Lessons in Chemistry” about?
- Who is in the cast of “Lessons in Chemistry”?
- Who is the casting director for “Lessons in Chemistry”?
- How did the casting process work for “Lessons in Chemistry”?
- Where can you find casting calls for similar series?
- What are the best audition tips for landing a role in an Apple TV+ limited series?
“Lessons in Chemistry” is set in the ‘60s and follows Elizabeth Zott, a scientist fired from her lab in a patriarchal era that routinely discourages women from pursuing their passions. With nothing else to keep her afloat, Elizabeth accepts a job hosting a TV cooking show, where the chemist uses science to reache beyond recipes, teaching a generation of women—and a select group of men—much more than how to bake an all-American apple pie.
“Lessons in Chemistry” features an array of new and familiar talent, including:
- Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott
- Lewis Pullman as Calvin
- Thomas Mann as Boryweitz
- Patrick Walker as Wakely
- Stephanie Koenig as Fran Frask
- Alice Halsey as Madeline Evans Zott
- Joy Jacobson as Shari
- Yasir Hashim Lafond as Junior Sloane
- Hero Hunter as Junior Sloane (age 10)
- Shoo Shoo Parsells as Amanda Pine
- Joshua Hoover as Anthony
- Caryn West as Mrs. Mudford
- Hannah Horton as Joan
- Kevin Sussman as Walter
- Aja Naomi King as Harriet Sloan
- Danielle Hoetmer as Iris Zott
- Beau Bridges as Wilson
- Barry Livingston as Pastor
- Jackson Kelly as John Zott
- Derek Cecil as Dr. Robert Donatti
Kristan Berona and Erica Warren of Central Casting served as the primary casting directors for extras on “Lessons in Chemistry.” Berona also cast extras for hits like “The Morning Show,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “S.W.A.T.,” while Warren has worked on “Fatal Attraction,” “Party Down,” and “Criminal Minds.”
For Garmus, serving as executive producer meant letting go of her perceptions as an author, allowing those with television experience take the reins on casting.
“I wanted to keep everything intact. This is why I had to remove myself. I mean, this is where the novelist can get in everybody’s way. I’m used to being edited, I think it’s really nice just to say to another creative person, ‘You have a vision, let’s see what your vision is. Let’s see what you want to do,’” Garmus told the Los Angeles Times. “Also, there are a lot of people. I’m used to working on my own. They have 9,000 people working on this. They have different motives, and they have different things that they’re trying to do. And I respect that.”
But she still got to interact with the actors hired to bring her characters to life. “I will say Brie Larson really immersed herself in this role. And I really appreciate all the work that she put into that because when she walks out on that stage, when she’s just Elizabeth Zott at work, that’s who I saw. And it was really amazing for me to see that on the screen. It was like, ‘Wow, there she is.’ It’s a different animal,” she said. “And so I would say to any viewer, this is their rendition. It’s different from my vision, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not as good at all.”
Garmus continued, “I got to talk with Brie—there were no agents on that Zoom call. Brie has great empathy. And she’s able to bring that empathy to the screen. When I watched her face change, when she was reacting to different people, that’s when you see a great actress. I was really astonished and so happy to see how seriously she took the role, and how she just kind of immersed herself in it. I really have a huge, huge amount of respect for her.”
While the rest of the cast fell into place, Garmus and the entire team knew one role would be particularly difficult to bring to life on-screen—the Zott family’s dog, Six-Thirty. “[I] knew it was going to be hard. It is so much easier to write that in a novel. I had the easy job there. So I really respected the fact that they wanted to keep it and that they weren’t going to have like the dog move his mouth or anything. Because Six-Thirty doesn’t talk, he only thinks,” Garmus explained. “I think it was a really hard thing to pull off. I’ll be interested to see how audiences feel about it.” She continued, “There are three characters of the fan favorites in the novel, and that is Harriet Sloane, Elizabeth Zott and Six-Thirty, and Mad coming in a close fourth. So with those four, I hear from people all the time, readers are like, ‘They better not change…' And I don’t know how I would have brought him on the screen. I think they did great with what they were trying to do.”
Most projects that were scheduled to film in the U.S. have halted production due to the SAG and WGA strike. However, these indie projects are still casting, since they’ve reached separate agreements with the unions.
Live your life to the fullest: As an Oscar winner, Larson clearly knows how to bring something extra to the screen. But believe it or not, her best advice for actors has nothing to do with the craft itself. “If there’s any acting advice I could ever give, it would be to have a robust life,” Larson said. “You can’t live your life being afraid of the goodbye and worried about the hello. It’s all together. It all wraps itself up and becomes a great opportunity to explore, and then hopefully to put it into whatever you’re working on… There’s all this good and all this bad and all these things that happen in the middle. It’s just life, man.”
Create something for yourself: Though some told Aja Naomi King, who plays Harriet Sloan, to pursue another career if she could imagine herself doing anything other than acting, the actor noted that she’d never reiterate this advice herself. Instead, she’d “tell them to figure out the story they want to tell, to figure out what artists inspire you and why, and then figure out a way you can create that for yourself. However you can fill that need, that hunger, figure out how to do it, then when you go in to those auditions you feel less desperate, because you are already creating something you’re passionate about, even if it’s, say, doing a reading with friends, or creating your own online video project,” she said. “Create something for yourself that you feel proud of, that you are in control of, that gives you a better understanding of the type of artist you want to be.
“Your artistry is a muscle that needs to be exercised so if all you are doing is auditioning, you’ll never get the satisfaction of fulfilling the need to play the part,” King added. “So create the part for yourself, so you can exercise that muscle, so you can be ready to go in that room, so that you aren’t looking to others for satisfaction creatively speaking, but instead have already empowered yourself creatively.”
Stay hungry and work hard: For Stephanie Koenig (Fran Frask), hard work continues to pay off. While she began her acting journey auditioning for Broadway, she eventually made the move to Los Angeles, trying her luck on the screen instead of the stage. It was this consistent effort that ultimately helped her land roles in hit series like “The Flight Attendant.” As she told Laura Kelly’s “You Might Not Like It” podcast, actors must devote at least one hour a day to honing their craft if they hope to work toward their larger vision for life. “It’s just following what feels right, and following what you love, and working every day at it. Once you find the thing that you love, you can’t get lazy about it,” she said.