What if I had married my high-school sweetheart? Or that bearded guy from a college one-night stand? What if I had never left my hometown? Or dodged employment and traveled the country in a beat-up R.V.? What could have been is the question at the heart of Slip, a new, seven-part series starring Zoe Lister-Jones, who also wrote and directed the project.
In Slip, Lister-Jones, 40, uses time travel to explore that question. But for Mae Cannon (played by Lister-Jones), an assistant museum curator fatigued by life, it’s not a silver DeLorean or a glass phone booth that transports her through history. Instead, Mae “travels a multiverse through orgasm.” Yes, that’s right: every time she climaxes she is transported to an alternate universe.
“It was something that I really wanted to explore—the way that sexuality is portrayed on-screen,” she says. “I think especially because I was both the filmmaker and the subject, I really had a lot of agency in terms of that portrayal.”
Lister-Jones felt compelled to write the series, in no small part, because of her 2022 divorce from the filmmaker Daryl Wein, her partner of 17 years. “I always use writing to answer existential questions in my own life,” she says. “I learned a lot about myself in the writing process. Because this is ultimately a story of understanding how to access self-worth in a way that feels pragmatic.”
Grounded in reality (don’t expect hunky Vikings or futuristic robots), each episode throws Mae into a new romantic relationship, or re-unites her with an old flame. Through love, sex, and heartbreak, Mae finds her way back to her husband (played by Whitmer Thomas) and, ultimately, herself. “I wanted to make something really sexy and erotic and put sex at the center of the premise, but still be irreverent and sort of escapist,” says Lister-Jones.
It’s also an excavation of modern life, that “nagging feeling of being insatiable at any step you get,” she says. “It’s still what’s next, rather than living in the moment and celebrating it.”
“It was something that I really wanted to explore—the way that sexuality is portrayed on-screen.”
She has a lot to celebrate. Raised in Brooklyn by a video-artist mother and a conceptual-photographer father, Lister-Jones spent her childhood marching in the streets for women’s equality and swaying to the Pixies and Liz Phair. But it wasn’t until she enrolled in New York University and a sketch-comedy class at the Atlantic Theater Company, a group started by David Mamet, that she found her creative voice.
Since then, she’s acted in more than 40 films and TV shows, including in four seasons of CBS’s Life in Pieces, opposite Colin Hanks, and New Girl, opposite Zooey Deschanel. More recently, she’s settled into writing and directing her own work, something she’s navigated both successfully and with integrity.
For her 2017 directorial debut, Band Aid, an indie comedy about a struggling couple who turn their insults into song lyrics and form a band, Lister-Jones hired an all-female crew. She felt passionate about doing so after she realized that only three projects she’d worked on had female cinematographers.
It’s clear that Lister-Jones isn’t afraid to create the world and the work she wants for herself. In 2023, she’s already been in two major films: A Good Person, Zach Braff’s latest film, in which she acts alongside Florence Pugh, Morgan Freeman, and Molly Shannon, and Beau Is Afraid, a genre-bending comedy-horror film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey, and Nathan Lane.
Now she’s also hoping Slip—which is the first TV project for TeaTime Pictures, a production company co-founded by actress Dakota Johnson and former Netflix executive Ro Donnelly—will continue. “The potentiality of Season Two has been taking up most of my time, which has been such a gift and so much fun to envision,” says Lister-Jones. “I want to elevate the narrative” while “keeping sexuality as her propulsive drive, but finding a new way in … so to speak.”
Slip is available for streaming on Roku
Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor for AIR MAIL