Julie Andrews Previews Netflix Kids Series: Expect Celebrity Guests, Diverse Puppets

The legendary actress created the arts education series with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, along with Lisa Henson and The Jim Henson Company.
Marion Curtis / Netflix
Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton, Lisa Henson (and puppet Spike)

Josh Groban, Alec Baldwin, Idina Menzel, Sara Bareilles, Ellie Kemper and David Hyde Pierce are just some of the star voices shown in the new trailer for Julie Andrews' upcoming children's series, Julie's Greenroom.

"It was a dream list," Andrews told reporters during a Netflix press event Wednesday. "People kind of fell into place and had a ball."

Julie's Greenroom, a Jim Henson production, is a scripted educational show in which Andrews, as Ms. Julie, teaches seven children, played by puppets and their puppeteers, a different performing arts skill with each episode. Andrews created the show with daughter Emma Walton Hamilton and enlisted Lisa Henson and the famous Jim Henson Company to bring her vision to life.

"I've long wanted to do a program to convey the arts to children and to families and to just specialize on that," said Andrews, insisting the program will attract children and adults alike. "There's something for everyone."

Each episode plucks from the series' impressive roster of celebrity guests, but there was one star who didn't play herself: Carol Burnett.

"She comes on and keeps asking me to call her 'Edna, dear,' but I have to call her Mrs. Brightful," said Andrews of her old pal's Greenroom persona. "She's decked out in this orange suit, and her first entrance is through double doors, and she says, 'Howdy!'" She's exactly what we hoped for, and then what she adds [to the script] is just so brilliant."

When it came to casting the puppets, Andrews and her team set out to design an intentionally diverse class of students.

"We wanted it to be a good mixture of different types of kids," said Henson, naming one of their boy characters who is a wheelchair-bound pianist as an example. "We have all kinds of diversity in the casting. We definitely wanted a good showing of diversity among the kids."

While explaining how casting involved designing the kids in The Jim Henson Company's character workshop, Henson praised Andrews and Hamilton for how involved they were in the process.

"They all look incredible together, and I think it's because you had that vision," Henson said to Andrews, who picked all the garments. Hamilton added, "We would get these packages in the mail of 16 different foam samples, which were skin tones that we would be choosing from, and fabric swatches and hair samples."

During a time when funding for the arts and art education is being threatened, the mother-and-daughter pair — with arts advocate Hamilton serving as the real-life inspiration for Ms. Julie — stressed the show's timely message.

"The arts are a bridge between countries and cultures," said Andrews. "You can find your identity."

Her daughter added, "It teaches us about ourselves. It teaches tolerance and empathy."

The trio said they turned to Sesame Street for many of the behind-the-scenes talent, and the cast boasts three of the original four puppeteers from the Broadway hit Avenue Q. Andrews referred to all of them as the "unsung heroes" of the operation.

"You only focus on the puppets [when watching]. It's kind of amazing," said Andrews of the students called the Greenies. "That was true with Kermit in the old days."

When Spike, one of the puppets from Ms. Julie's class, appeared, the student offered sage words of advice: "You will binge-watch the show."

"From his lips," added Andrews.

Julie's Greenroom joins a roster of kids' series on Netflix that features several DreamWorks Animation shows, including All Hail King Julien and Turbo FAST, as well as other children's series such as Inspector GadgetPopples and the upcoming Beat Bugs, Lalaloopsy, Stretch Armstrong and The Greenhouse.

Watch the trailer for the series, which debuts March 17 on Netflix, below.