Julianne Moore And Jennifer Jason Leigh On Filming Stephen King Series ‘Lisey’s Story’ During The Pandemic
Academy Award winning actress Julianne Moore stars in Lisey’s Story, Stephen King’s new supernatural thriller series for Apple TV+. King wrote all eight episodes, drawing from his deeply personal 2006 novel by the same name. The highly anticipated show, which comes out June 4th, boasts an all-star cast, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Joan Allen, Clive Owen and Dane DeHaan. King serves as executive producer alongside J.J. Abrams and Pablo Larraín (Jackie).
I spoke with Moore and Leigh about shutting down—then eventually resuming production during the pandemic. We also discussed the sisterly bond between their characters, and what it was like having Stephen King on set.
Risa Sarachan: What was it like returning to filming after the pandemic? Did it in any way inform your character because she is dealing with grief and isolation?
Julianne Moore: It was interesting because when we shut down, I was three weeks away from finishing. We were on the stage of Brooklyn Steiner [Studios] and we were about to move to our last set before we finished and, you know, everything was happening.
I remember Pablo (Larraín) came up to me one night and he was like, “we’re going to get shut down.” And I was like, “do you think so?” It was happening so quickly and sure enough it was that week and then, boom, it was kind of done. We were shut down. Everybody sort of fled back, to various places. I think we had an expectation, all of us did then, that we were going to be going back to work in a couple of weeks or a month. And then it got pushed and pushed and pushed.
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There was that fear for me, always when you step away from something, that you’re going to lose the thread of the character. That somehow it’s going to drip through your fingers and you’re not going to know how to get back to it. We were one of the first productions to go back, which I think was exciting because we knew that we were going to be able to finish it. But it was also scary [because] we didn’t know what to expect and what protocols would be. But because we were one of the first to go back in New York, we managed to keep our team intact. So we came back with all of the same crew and the cast there. I think also a lot of joy because we had so loved working together and it was such a great group creatively and personally.
I mean these people were so skilled and just lovely people. People were just thrilled to see each other. I think it was a special kind of joy that happened. Oddly, one of the scenes that we shot when we came back was the wedding on the beach. I think there was something, there’s something so lovely about that – people were kind of in this party atmosphere. It was a time when these characters were really happy.
And then there’s some darker stuff, obviously. [Laughs]. I think we had a tremendous amount of gratitude that we’ve been working with these kind of people at this level and that we had this opportunity to finish something that was important to us. Because I think that’s what was so hard for people when everything shut down. It was like, wait a second, I cared about this. Does this mean that this all disappears? And we were really fortunate because it didn’t disappear. We were able to go back to it and and finish it.
Jennifer Jason Leigh: The last time I shot was right before lock down. So, I’d just flown back, I came as often as I could so I was flying a lot and every time I flew I noticed more and more people in masks. We were hearing a little bit about COVID, but it was something that was somewhere else.
In March, I went to my son’s school play and we were all packed into this auditorium and that was our last day of school before Los Angeles went into lockdown and I never went back [to New York]. I have not been on a plane since. I mean it’s just so surreal. It’s so incredibly surreal.
Sarachan: So there are no airplanes in your near future?
Leigh: I mean hopefully there will be airplanes in my future now, I’m vaccinated. I would still wear a mask obviously. I still wear a mask at school pickup, I like wearing a mask. I like keeping other people safe. I like keeping myself safe. I like wearing a seatbelt too. It just makes sense. I don’t think I’ll ever fly on a plane again without a mask. I mean, when you think about it, the way we used to live seems…
Leigh: Kind of absurd, yeah.
Sarachan: I really enjoyed the relatable moments of levity between the three sisters in the story. How did you create that sisterly bond?
Moore: First of all, they’re geniuses. I mean, Joan Allen, and Jennifer Jason Leigh are two of the best actresses I’ve ever known in my entire life. They make everything so easy because they are so good. They’re always prepared. They’re always willing to go deep. They’re always real. They know when something is false. We were able to work on things together too – just to kind of establish a rhythm and we knew it felt authentic to us because all of us have been sisters. All of us have sisters. So, I think we have those relationships and we enjoy those relationships. We wanted to bring that to the screen, that sense of how you’re able to push each other’s buttons, but how present you are for one another.
I would say that to my husband all the time – I would go home and be like, “oh my god, I can’t believe I’m working with these two. This is so lucky.” But you know, the camaraderie was there right from the beginning. I think there was a lot of mutual admiration, which was nice. I think we all felt pretty secure with each other.
Leigh: I think a lot of it comes from who we are as people but also Pablo because Pablo is such a sensitive and kind director. He loves all of these characters and he also always makes you feel like you’re exactly who you are and you are exactly who you are supposed to be on this planet right now. It’s just something about him that makes you feel good about yourself and accepted. So, then all of those sibling dynamics that are so frustrating and fraught can come out with such ease, because no one is judging you. You feel like he’s on your side. Everybody feels like he’s on their side. There is so much love between these three women. These three sisters. And they all have their role in the family as siblings always do, you know? And that breeds resentments and that breeds jealousies but underneath it all is this incredible amount of depth and love. That really intrigued me about this piece.
Sarachan: That sounds like the ultimate dream for an artist to be trusted in that way by your director.
Jason Leigh: Yeah, because you’re not constantly second-guessing and yet you have a director who is so detail-oriented. He’s really specific. He has an incredible eye. So, there’s this openness that he has an appreciation for what you have to give, but he’ll also say, “why are you looking over your shoulder?” He’s very specific and there’s something really beautiful in that too.
Sarachan: I read that Stephen King was on set during shooting. What was that experience like for you?
Moore: There’s nobody who is more generous and more of a partner, incredibly collaborative and so appreciative of the work that people do. Initially, I remember he was there on the first day and I was like, “this is intimidating.” But he makes himself so available to you and he’s so lovely that [intimidation] dissipates after a while. You’re really able to just kind of relax around him. He was always willing to talk about his inspirations. He talked about his wife’s family a little bit, and her sisters. He’s familiar with that family dynamic – with a big family, and a very intertwined family. He’s interested in exploring that and he values that too. So, that was what was nice, to have somebody there who was saying that these people exist and that he loves them too.
Jason Leigh: He was open and approachable and really sweet. He was on set a few of the days that I was there. At first, you’re kind of intimidated and worried, but he was so nice about everything. Even little changes – he always had a really good sense of humor about it. You knew that this piece meant so much to him and you really didn’t want to disappoint him. I think he enjoyed it a lot, I mean that was my take from my little bit of time with him, was just an exuberance, an enthusiasm and a great joy that this was getting made. I think this project means a great deal to him.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Lisey’s Story premieres June 4 on Apple TV+
Published at Tue, 01 Jun 2021 13:47:14 +0000