Exclusive: Why Zoe Lister-Jones wants to explore female sexuality and the choices we make in her original new Roku series, Slip

Zoe LIster-Jones as Mae wearing a black jack with an orange collar and sleeves is having a conversation with Witmer Thomas as Elijah in a black t-shirt and a denim jacket, in the Roku series. Slip. Pic credit Victoria Gaffney/Roku
Zoe LIster-Jones and Witmer Thomas in the Roku series, Slip. Pic credit: Victoria Gaffney/Roku

Actor-writer-director Zoe Lister-Jones has never shied away from complicated topics such as female sexuality and finding a way to explore existential life questions about the road not traveled.

As a result, she created the original series Slip for Roku, about Mae, who is restless in her life and marriage, despite the positive aspects. They love one another but lack romance.

When Mae “slips” and has a one-night stand with a handsome man named Eric, who she meets at a bar, she wakes up the next morning to realize she has entered a parallel universe in which she and Eric are married.

This is the start of her surreal journey as she slips into other realities and relationships, trying to find a way back to her husband and, ultimately, herself. 

Slip stars Zoe Lister-Jones, Tymika Tafari, Whitmer Thomas, Amar Chadha-Patel, and Emily Hampshire.

The provocative new series pushes us to not only explore our own sexuality but to do a deeper dive into how our lives have worked out. If it is what we had planned, or if we had “slipped” or changed courses, what revelations would we make.

Read on for more on how Zoe-Lister-Jones created, directed, and starred in this thought-provoking seven-episode comedy series, Slip.

The Brooklyn-born Lister-Jones is an actor, filmmaker, screenwriter, and director, best known for her roles on four of the Law & Order franchises, Life in Pieces, Whitney, and New Girl.

She made her directing debut with the 2017 comedy-drama film Band-Aid. In 2020, she wrote and directed the horror film, The Craft: Legacy. She also co-wrote and co-directed the film with Daryl Wein, How It Ends in 2021.

Lister-Jones is also a stage and film actor. Her screen credits include the political thriller State of Play, Salt, The Other Guys, The Guys, The Marconi Bros., and Day Zero, as well as quirky independent films, including Armless, Arranged, and Palladino.

MonstersandCritics: How did you create something that is so unique, thought-provoking, different, and wonderful?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Oh, thank you so much. I was really interested in exploring desire as a theme, and I was looking for an interesting and fresh way in, and I wanted to have women’s pleasure and female sexuality at the center of the narrative. So, that started percolating a few years ago for me. I was also struggling myself, in my own life, with a feeling of restlessness, and I’ve struggled with depression, and I think I used my work for better or for worse to try and answer existential questions that I’m contending with in my own life.

I think this was no exception. I really wanted to answer the question of what we do with that eternal sense of restlessness and what we do with our desire for more, and how fantasy plays into that. And so, Slip was born, and it sort of incubated for a couple of years, and when quarantine began, I knew it was the thing that I had to write because a lot of those questions sort of came into hyperfocus when we were isolated. And so, then I wrote the season in lockdown.

Emily Hampshire as Sandy is standing in the background as Zoe Lister-Jones as Mae, walks away from her on a street at night, in the Roku series. Slip.
Emily Hampshire and Zoe-Lister Jones in the new Roku series, Slip. Pic credit: Victoria Gaffney/Roku.

M&C: Did you think personally a lot about your own road not taken? Because we know if we did this instead of that or didn’t do this, everything would be different.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Absolutely. I’m a person who is sort of obsessed with the roads not taken, and I think this was me playing out fantasies through a narrative that could allow for me to maybe quiet some of those. Yes, like questions about the grass always being greener. And it’s so easy to meet someone, especially when you’re feeling stuck, that you have a spark with and go flash-forward to an entire life with that person. And I thought it would be such a fun and thrilling experience to play that out in a series, especially because then you can episodically world-build in such a singular way.

M&C: You were acting and directing in this show. What were the more challenging scenes for you to direct?

Zoe Lister-Jones: The sex scenes presented challenges for sure. I would say those were probably the most challenging. In some ways, because an orgasm is the centerpiece of every episode, I wanted to distinguish them visually as a director. A number of them are single shots, so they required meticulous choreography and communication between departments. 

So, just for me and my fellow actors, it was getting the choreography to work in tandem so perfectly with our camera operators. So, those were challenging and thrilling. It was a challenge that I was excited to take on.

M&C: Is life a bunch of infinite possibilities? Do we restrict ourselves or not?

Zoe Lister-Jones: I would hope so. I like to look at life that way. I think quarantine’s impact on me was to be open to how infinite the possibilities of this world are. I think it had that impact, however large or small, on so many people. When you think, well, this could all end tomorrow, what do I want my life to look like? And how fearless do I want to be in the pursuit of aliveness? I try to be as fearless as I can.

Zoe LIster-Jones as Mae in a black jacket and red top is looking away, smiling from Witmer Thomas as Elijah, smiling as he looks at her, on a dark street, in the Roku series. Slip.
Zoe LIster-Jones and Witmer Thomas in the Roku series. Slip. Pic credit: Victoria Gaffney/Roku

M&C: Was there a game plan? You’ve done a lot of wonderful and diverse work, such as New Girl, Life in Pieces, and more. Was there a plan where, “This is what I want to accomplish,” or good work came, and you took it?

Zoe Lister-Jones: With those shows, good work came, and I took it. I don’t know that I set out to work in television as much as I did, but I’m so grateful that it afforded me a lot of room as an artist and creator to make smaller projects that then led me here. And it’s always been my dream to create my own series, having worked in front of the camera on television for so long. So yes, this is definitely a bucket list experience for me.

M&C: Your co-stars have mentioned just what a pleasure it was to work on this project, what a nice mood it was, and how welcoming everything was. What does that mean to you?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Oh, that means so much to me. I think as a director and showrunner, so much of the tone is set by your energy and by the environment that you have to really intentionally create in order to foster artistic exploration and for people to feel that they can do their best work. I do work hard at trying to create that environment for my actors and my crew, and my department heads, so I do like to hear that the reviews are good.

M&C: It hasn’t aired yet, but have you gotten any feedback on the trailer and the premise? And what’s the buzz that’s going on about it?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Yeah, it’s been exciting to share the trailer and to just speak to the press who have seen it because it’s such a wild experience to birth something, especially something this personal, and that I have my hand in every single facet of. And the response has been really amazing, and that’s why you do it, right? It is for people to feel seen and to feel like they’ve had some sort of transformation alongside the characters on screen. I’ve been grateful to get that kind of feedback. It’s always really gratifying as an artist, especially one who’s been living with it alone for so long.

Zoe Lister-Jones in a black and pink and Tymika Tafari in the Roku series. Slip.
Zoe Lister-Jones and Tymika Tafari in the Roku series, Slip.Pic credit: Victoria Gaffney/Roku

M&C: Why is it personally and professionally important to you to create something so female empowering?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Well, I think, especially when it comes to women’s depiction on screen in regards to sex and sexuality, it’s been a pretty problematic history in media. So, I think I wanted to create an opportunity for myself to try to subvert some of those tropes and create something that could feel erotic. And that a woman also had her own agency in her desires, sexual and otherwise. I guess I was raised by a feminist who taught me to look at the world through a lens of inequity and to look at media in particular, and so I do feel it’s my job as an artist to try and do my part to course correct some of those things.

M&C: If a college student or young woman who wants to follow in your footsteps and is being inspired by you sees this and some of your other work, what advice on what to do or not do to make it in this tough business?

Zoe Lister-Jones: I would say I think for women in particular when it comes to filmmaking, but I think it’s across industries, there’s this idea that you have to know everything in order to begin. That you have to have every answer and have every element of training in order to be perfect. I guess the advice that I always like to give to emerging women filmmakers, especially, is that you’re never going to know everything and that it’s really okay to be imperfect, and it’s okay to not have the answer.

The beauty of filmmaking for me is how communal an act it is as an artist. And that if you hire people who are excited to be in dialog with you in a way that is equitable rather than you being the boss and having to know everything, that’s all you can wish for. I would say just go make things.

So, just have the confidence to tell your stories. I would say don’t be intimidated by the task at hand. I think you’re going to have to make mistakes and fail in order to find your footing anyway.

M&C: What are some of the reasons, and I’m sure we’ve talked about a couple of them, that you want my readers and other people in general to see Slip?

Zoe Lister-Jones: I think for me as a viewer, I always love watching things that are funny but also escapist and also profound, and that can take me on a journey that I’m completely immersed in. And I wrote this show to be binged, so if you’re looking for a binge-able show that can take you on a really wild adventure and turn you on, and maybe make you feel less alone in some of the difficulties of modern life, then this show is for you.

The original new series Slip is currently streaming on Roku.

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