Warning: This story contains spoilers for “From Scratch.”
Viewers unfamiliar with Tembi Locke’s 2019 memoir From Scratch might be surprised where the plot of the Netflix miniseries, which is based on a true story, is going.
Based on the whimsical sepia-toned trailer for the miniseries, you might think you’re in for a love story, with Amy Wheeler (Zoe Saldana), an American artist, in love with Lino Ortolano (Eugenio Mastrandrea), a Sicilian chef , during a trip to Florence.
Speaking to TODAY alongside her sister, novelist Attica Locke, Tembi said the public you for a love story, but not the one he initially anticipates. Tembi certainly did not foresee this turn of events when she married her first husband, Saro Gullo, in 1995.
“They are ready for a love story that, like life, is surprising and ever-changing. A love story that deepens in ways you probably didn’t know could happen. They are also ready for a love story that goes beyond romantic love. – bigger and more expansive than romantic love,” she said.
Below, the Locke sisters — who co-wrote the script — tell us the true story that inspired the show, as well as the major differences.
Tembi met Saro while studying abroad in Italy in college
While writing the memoir, Tembi said that reliving the early stages of her relationship with Saro was one of her favorite parts of the process.
The same was true of creating the TV show, although Tembi said he chose not to clock Amy and Lino fall in love in Italy for a reason.
“I didn’t look at the pictures because I want to preserve and protect my own memories. All of a sudden you start remembering the thing that was done and you forget the original pictures,” she said.
In a cute moment, Saro helped Tembi try to recover her stolen bike. “I think we could be something great,” Tembi is quoted by Saro as saying in the book in the early stages of their relationship. She said she had “a vision of a us and greatness so effortless that it suddenly seemed as right as butter on bread. I was surprised by his boldness, by his certainty.”
They stayed connected even after Tembi moved back to the US and Saro stayed in Florence to work as a chef. They reunited in New York – not LA, as in the show – and then moved to Hollywood together for Tembi’s career.
Tembi describes their relationship in the book with luminous prose: “He quieted the places I didn’t know needed quiet, seemed perfectly willing to embrace the parts of me that were loose, unresolved, unfinished and contradictory. Together we engaged in life like two forks eating from a plate. Ready to listen, to love, to look into the dark and see a thin filament of the moon.”
Tembi and Attica say they are different from their “From Scratch” characters.
Speaking to TODAY, Attica Locke said she doesn’t have much in common with her TV counterpart, Zora, played by Danielle Deadwyler. First of all, she is the younger sister in real life.
“I feel very much like a little sister. But people often think I’m the oldest,” Attica said.
In the show, the order of the siblings was changed for plot purposes. The writers had to find a way to get Amy to LA from Italy. “Is Zora already there? Oh, but that would make her older. Then we went with it,” she said.
Attica said her personality is different from Zora’s – mostly. “I also have a caustic sense of humor. i am the mouth I think Zora is a good sister and I hope I am a good sister. And I’m not a teacher,” Attica said.
More changes abound. With credits on “Castle,” “NCIS” and “Never Have I Ever,” among others, Tembi is an actor, not an artist like Amy on the show.
The characters are changed, but they have a message
Tembi explained that the writers changed the characters’ names to provide “psychic distance” between the real figures and their fictional portrayals.
“We needed space to allow the character to grow, bend and fictionalize things,” said Tembi.
However, the character names pay homage to real people, especially in Amy’s case.
Amy’s full name is Amahle, a South African name; Tembi’s full name is Tembekile. Growing up in Texas, Tembi said people often changed their names to “Tammy” or some other anglicized version. Tembi is her “short name”.
“Amy’s name was a nod and a nod to having an Afrocentric name and the ways it’s changing,” she said. “But her parents always call her Amahle.”
Attica explained that the name Zora—a nod to the writers Zora Neale Hurston—was chosen for its literary nature. First, Attica said it proved the sisters’ parents had “intention” in selecting their daughters’ names. It also relates to Zora’s profession as an English teacher and Attica’s as a novelist.
Saro was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer
Much of the series deals with Amy and Lino as they adjust to his cancer diagnosis.
Indeed, Saro was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that starts in the soft muscle tissue, in 2002. Tembi cared for Saro for the next 10 years.
Tembi and Saro adopted their daughter Zoela
The couple adopted their daughter, Zoela, during the years Saro had cancer. In the show, Amy and Lino’s adopted daughter’s name is Idalia.
“Zoela came to us around that time,” Tembi told TODAY of her adopted daughter in 2019. “And I think one of the things we’ve learned is that life is still happening around us and for us, we – we always wanted to be parents.”
Speaking to TODAY in 2022, Tembi said Zoela was involved in the show.
“My daughter chose the name Idalia, the character based on her. We had fun creating these alternate versions of ourselves,” she said.
Tembi added that the show has a message only for Zoela to notice – one by one the rest of us will pass. “There’s an audible easter egg in the series for her, so when she watches it, she’ll hear a message from her dad to her,” she said.
Attica said her own daughter, who was five when Saro died, finally knows her uncle.
“I think she’s really starting to understand who this person is that she saw her mother spend a moment in the kitchen, stabbed with pain,” she said. “The way she looked at me when it was over – I feel like she could understand her own life, which was so informed by the loss of her uncle.”
Tembi said Sicily was a place of healing for her: ‘Love lasts’
The final episode, which takes place after Lino’s death, takes place in Sicily, where Amy travels with Idalia to bury Lino.
In the memoir, Tembi traces three summers spent in Sicily after Saro’s death (including one summer with her entire family, as in the show). Tembi said Sicily was an essential part of her healing journey, offering her hope and sunshine.
“All the reminders that we’re still alive, that there’s still life and abundance. We see it in the natural world, but we also see it in interpersonal relationships and community,” she said.
As she said in the book, “Sicily was the water and the sun that strengthened me to stay stronger in my life after loss.”
Tembi is still close to Lino’s family, who were once so estranged from her, as the show shows. For Tembi, this is one of the lessons.
“Love endures and transmutes. Do not leave us. Lino’s love does not leave Amy or Idalia. That’s what Sicily gives me and what I hope will be communicated in that final,” she said.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com