Based on the novel by Stephen King, who has adapted the story himself, and directed by Pablo Larraín, the Apple TV+ limited series Lisey’s Story follows Lisey Landon (Julianne Moore) as she continues to find her footing after the death of her husband, beloved novelist Scott Landon (Clive Owen). Still unsure of how to put all the pieces of her life back together, Lisey must also contend with a rabid fan (Dane DeHaan) that’s dangerously obsessed with Scott’s work while trying to understand the world that her sister Amanda (Joan Allen) has retreated into.
During a virtual junket to promote the new series, Collider got the opportunity to chat 1-on-1 with Jennifer Jason Leigh (who play Darla, the middle sister to Lisey and Amanda) about what most interested her in Lisey’s Story, getting all of the scripts prior to filming, the first Stephen King story she read, and loving the sisterhood of it all. She also talked about why she wanted to join Season 2 of Hunters, and what she looks for in a project.
Collider: When this came your way, had you been familiar with the Stephen King book or was the script your first exposure to this story?
JENNIFER JASON LEIGH: The script was my first exposure to this Stephen King story, but then I subsequently discovered that it was the most personal for him, and that it was really about his wife and her sisters. I found that so intriguing. It’s also a meditation on grief, and yet there’s all of the supernatural Stephen King in there as well.
How much of your involvement with this was because of the specific story and how much was the desire to work with Stephen King on whatever the project was?
LEIGH: It was everything. I love the director (Pablo Larraín) and the actors involved. It was exciting to work on something of his, and then to have this incredible cast. It was just an incredible group of people.
Did you get to read all of the scripts prior to filming, or did you just get some of them? Did you also use the book?
LEIGH: I got all of them. There was a lot of security around it, obviously. They were really nice with the actors, to let us see everything. It was very helpful. Of course, we also had the book that we could always look at.
How much did you rely on the book itself and how much did you just work with the script, since it is an adaptation?
LEIGH: It’s sometimes helpful, when you are looking at the book because you’ll find a little piece of information that just might figure into your understanding of the character and the back and forth between the sisters, or something that happened in their childhoods, and things like that. It’s great for those little details, aside from just the pleasure of reading it.
What do you love about the work of Stephen King, in general? When were you first introduced to his work? Was it through his books or through his film adaptations?
LEIGH: I read Salem’s Lot. I feel like I was in maybe seventh or eighth grade. I had terrible nightmares from that, and I still remember my nightmares from that because they were so intense. And then, I saw and read The Shining, and I loved that. I saw Carrie when I was young, and that was great. I’ve always just enjoyed reading his books so much. He’s so prolific, it’s insane. Those novels are just such a joy to read.
There are so many different stories going on in this and so many different genres woven together. Were there times that it felt like you were just making a small family drama about three sisters?
LEIGH: You know, it really felt that way most of the time. It was really just a play on these three sisters and all of the dynamics between them and what each of their job was in the family. There was a lot of pain and humor and pathos, and all of that. I loved that about joining this project.
It’s clear that all of these characters are on quite the personal and emotional journeys throughout Lisey’s Story. How did you feel about the way the story ties everything together and wraps things up, at the end of these episodes? Did you feel a sense of closure when you were done?
LEIGH: Because we were shooting during COVID, but we didn’t know we were shooting during COVID, I didn’t get that sense of closure at all. There was a point where we went into lockdown and I didn’t go back.
Did you feel closure for your character and her story?
LEIGH: Yes, because we had pretty much shot everything. I had one little thing to do that I couldn’t go back for. Other than that, everything of consequence was done.
What are your favorite memories of working with Julianne Moore and Joan Allen?
LEIGH: I loved the sisterhood of it. I loved that, within a week, we really felt like a family. Pablo is so great at making people feel like they are enough and they are exactly who they should be, and there was something that was very liberating in that and very centering. He also likes every character. You never feel like you’re playing the mean one, or whatever. There are no results that he’s going for and no judgment on the characters. There’s just an understanding of where they’re coming from. And for me, for my character, Darla, she’s the realist. She’s grounded. I always love things about sisters because I am one of three sisters. There was a natural pull for me. And I’m also the middle sister in my family, so I’m the mediator. I’m not too dissimilar. I’m not Darla, but I understand a lot of what makes Darla tick.
You’ve also signed on to lead Season 2 of Hunters. What made you want to do that? Is there just something very appealing about playing a Nazi hunter?
LEIGH: Yes, there is something very appealing about playing a Nazi hunter, absolutely, and empowering. In times where we don’t feel like we necessarily have a lot of control or power, it’s nice to enter a world where you do. Obviously, it’s make believe, but I think it’s gonna feel really good.
You’ve played a wide array of characters in a variety of projects on TV and in film. What catches your attention when you’re trying to figure out what the next thing will be? Is it always the script first or is it just a feeling that you get, and have all of the COVID safety protocols changed things?
LEIGH: Yes, everything that you said, plus the new thing with COVID. It’s great if something shoots where I live because I don’t think very many people really want to travel, if you can help it. If we could shoot things in our home, that would be amazing. But it’s always the script, it’s the actors involved, and it’s the director. It really is a director’s vision, so that’s hugely important to me. A lot of times, it’s also the creator’s vision, which is a little different than with film. Overall, it’s an instinct.
Lisey’s Story is available to stream at Apple TV+, with new episodes on Fridays.
The new series is adapted by Stephen King, and is based on his 2006 novel.
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