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Is Brie Larson drama Lessons in Chemistry based on a true story?

Brie Larson stars in the new Apple TV+ series - but is it based on a true story?

Brie Larson in Lessons in Chemistry
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
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Lessons in Chemistry has finally been released on Apple TV+, and follows the life of Elizabeth Zott, a chemist who accidentally becomes the host of an immensely popular cooking show that helps women in many more ways than just in the kitchen - but how much of the novel was based on a true story? Find out here… 

The show is actually an adaptation of Bonnie Garmus’ smash hit novel Lessons in Chemistry, and Bonnie previously revealed that the character of Elizabeth Zott was originally a minor character in a story that was ultimately scrapped, but that she had always kept her in mind. 

WATCH: Lessons in Chemistry is a bestselling novel - but will the show measure up?

Speaking to Waterstones, she explained: "Elizabeth Zott got her start a long time ago in a completely different novel. She was a minor character back then, first appearing in a scene where her grown daughter, Madeline, is standing in the kitchen of a dilapidated house when her six-year-old finds a cookbook stashed in a corner. The cookbook is Supper at Six and the child’s grandmother, a grim-looking Elizabeth Zott, stares back from the cover." 

She continued: "Although I abandoned that first book, that cover stuck with me for years. And when I sat down to write a new book, it was Elizabeth Zott who sat down beside me." 

Is Lessons in Chemistry based on a true story?
Is Lessons in Chemistry based on a true story?

The show is set in the early 1950s, and while Bonnie confirmed that there isn’t a specific real-life inspiration, she did explain that she was thinking about her mother’s "entire generation" while writing it. 

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She told The Guardian: "My mother didn’t inspire Elizabeth Zott; instead, I created Elizabeth Zott in honour of her and all the other women whose dreams were sidelined by a society insisting they were incapable of becoming anything more than an 'average housewife'. 

Lewis Pullman in Lessons in Chemistry
Lewis Pullman in Lessons in Chemistry

"My mother had been a nurse before having us four kids. She talked about it constantly and obviously missed it. When we were all grown, she renewed her nursing licence and returned to work, winning nurse of the year even though she’d been out of the workforce for decades. She was also an expert seamstress – would have made a great surgeon. My sisters all love the book and I think my dad would have, too – and my mom, although she would have been concerned about the swearing." 

She added: "Readers identify with Elizabeth Zott. There are so few of us who haven’t been put down, pushed aside, maligned, passed over, rejected, ripped off, lied to or treated badly simply because we’re women, people of colour, gender-diverse, neuro-diverse, too fat, too thin, too short, too tall – you name it." 

What is Lessons in Chemistry about? 

The official synopsis for the new Apple TV+ drama reads: "In the 1950s, Elizabeth Zott’s dream of being a scientist is challenged by a society that says women belong in the domestic sphere. She accepts a job on a TV cooking show and sets out to teach a nation of overlooked housewives way more than recipes." 

Elizabeth standing backstage in Lessons in Chemistry© Apple TV+
The first two episodes of Lessons in Chemistry are now out

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