The Academy Award winning actress is bringing a love of the arts to the next generation with “Julie’s Greenroom.”
May 2, 2017
Julie Andrews’ latest project is one 30 years in the making.
The Academy Award winning actress famous for films like Mary Poppins and The Sounds of Music has partnered with Netflix to bring Julie’s Greenroom, her new educational arts show for kids, to the small screen. The show, which stars Andrews as Ms. Julie, a theater teacher, and a handful of child Muppets she affectionately calls her “Greenies,” is aimed at inspiring a love of the arts in the next generation. It’s also a passion project for the Hollywood icon.
“I’ve long been a passionate advocate for the arts and, for the last thirty years or more, I wanted to do a show for children that brought the wonder of the arts to them, that embraced them, and, hopefully, infused them with some passion too,” Andrews tells Guideposts.org.
The show also gave Andrews the chance to partner with her daughter, Emma Hamilton, who, like Ms. Julie, ran her own theater program for kids. Hamilton and her husband championed a professional, regional theater in Sag Harbor, NY for 17 years, introducing the arts to that community and partnering with area schools to teach kids about the value of the theater.
“I have actually lived Ms. Julie’s life myself,” Hamilton says.
Andrews had the idea for the show decades ago, but life got in the way and, as she says, Sesame Street beat her to the punch.
“The Muppets and Sesame Street got there before me,” Andrews jokes. “But it’s as far back as pre-Jim Henson that I hoped to do something.”
The actress stayed friends with the Henson family and when Lisa Henson came to her wanting to do a new kind of Muppet program, it was a full circle moment for Andrews. She worked with Netflix, the Henson family, Hamilton, and a team of writers to produce the 13 episode series that follows Ms. Julie and her students as they put on a stage production. The show gives viewers a look at what goes on behind the scenes of a show, but Hamilton hopes it can instill even more in the children who might be tuning in.
“We’re both passionate advocates for the arts, particularly for the value of the arts in young people’s lives as a way to enrich their world view, to help them solve problems, learn critical thinking skills and collaboration, tolerance, and empathy,” Hamilton explains. “We wanted to be able to bring the arts to children around the world, perhaps children who don’t have access to Broadway or to some of the larger cities with huge art centers. We wanted to bring to them all that the arts encompass and hopefully pique their curiosity.”
Andrews hopes the show can fill a void that might exist thanks to extensive budget cuts now being imposed on schools and national programs.
“The arts are so threatened by budgeting these days,” the actress says. “So many really important funding organizations are so challenged because of the administration at the moment saying there are going to be big cuts. The arts are always the first thing cut. So to the extent that we can make children aware of the value of them, maybe that helps just a little bit.”
The duo also looks to educate parents and faculty on the importance of the arts. From music helping with math to the critical thinking skills learned in the theater aiding children studying the sciences, the synergy between the arts and other subjects in school is hard to ignore and both Andrews and Hamilton think introducing kids to the arts at a young age produces a more fully rounded human being for the future.
“If children are exposed to the arts at a young age, later in life, there are such rewards and benefits,” Andrews says. “They’ve proven if you’re exposed to the arts you’re much more likely to vote …”
“And to be more philanthropic,” Hamilton chimes in, citing studies done by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ultimately though, both women have a very personal reason for wanting to get the next generation interested in the arts. For Andrews, performing on stage and in films has taught her the joy of giving and communing with an audience. For Hamilton, a very specific moment comes to mind when asked what the arts have meant for her.
“One of the productions we produced at the theater I ran with my husband opened on the night after 9/11,” Hamilton shares. “It was a light-hearted comedy starring Alec Baldwin and my husband was directing. For a moment we wondered if we should continue with the production because we worried it might be in some way disrespectful of this enormous tragedy that had occurred. We chose to go forward, my husband made a lovely speech to the company just as we were about to go on and he said, ‘Tonight, I invite you all to literally and figuratively stand in the light.’ Audiences just came in droves and they lingered in the lobby afterwards and they were so grateful for the opportunity to be together and laugh and forget their fears and sadness for those two hours. That was such a lesson for me in the power of the arts.”
Another thing Andrews loves about the arts? Their ability to reinvent and change with the times. Mary Poppins made Andrews a household name when the film debuted in 1964 and now, 53 years later, a new movie is in the works. There’s also been talk of remaking another famous Andrews’ film, The Sound of Music.
For her part, the actress is fine with both.
“I hope they might consider it one day,” Andrews says of a Sound of Music reboot. “There won’t be a lack of talent to find for a film like that. And the second Mary Poppins is shooting right now. This is not going to be a recreation of the original but a further episode, more to do with the stories of Mary Poppins. It will stand on its own and be equally important. I’m a huge fan of Emily Blunt and I wish her well. I think she’s going to be terrific.”
Julie's Greenroom is now streaming on Netflix.