Lisey's Story Star Jennifer Jason Leigh on the Magic of Stephen King's Worlds

It's a good time to be a Stephen King fan, with the author undergoing a renaissance of his stories being adapted into live-action projects with top-tier talent, which includes the all-new adaptation of his 2006 novel Lisey's Story. While many of the stars of the new Apple TV+ series are newcomers to the world of King, Jennifer Jason Leigh is no stranger, having also starred in the 1995 film Dolores Claiborne, based on the 1992 novel of the same name. Leigh plays Darla in the new series, a middle child surrounded by two sisters who believe to have otherworldly afflictions. Lisey's Story premieres on Apple TV+ on Friday, June 4th.

Lisey's Story is a deeply personal, pensive thriller that follows Lisey Landon (played by Julianne Moore) two years after the death of her husband, famous novelist Scott Landon (played by Clive Owen). A series of unsettling events causes Lisey to face memories of her marriage to Scott that she has deliberately blocked out of her mind. Joan Allen, Dane DeHaan, Ron Cephas Jones, and Sung Kang star alongside Moore and Owen. caught up with Leigh to talk returning to the world of Stephen King, crafting her on-screen dynamic, and a character she'd like to return to.

lisey's story jennifer jason leigh stephen king
(Photo: Apple TV+) This is not your first foray into the world of Stephen King. So many people think of him for his horror stories, his unsettling stories, and I wonder for you, what do you find so appealing about getting involved in bringing his stories to life?

Jennifer Jason Leigh: He writes really interesting, great characters and also really scary pieces that draw you in that you can't really escape from. They just keep playing in your brain after you've read it, after you've put the novel down for two weeks, three months, two or three years, they just stay with you. I don't know how he does it, but he does. So I've always been a fan and it was really exciting. I've done Dolores Claiborne, which is one of his, obviously, and then it had been a long time since I got to do another one of his. So, it will be exciting.

Since there have been so many more of his adaptations in recent years, were you at all envious about all the stories being brought to life and frustrated that you hadn't gotten to return to that world? Calling up Steve to tell him to put you in a new movie?

No, I don't think like that. I'm just happy to see good things.

King himself wrote the scripts for this adaptation, did that feel like an added pressure to be involved in the project or was it a blessing to have him as a resource in the process?

I think you feel, at first, that it's going to be intimidating, but he's so nice and open and he likes collaboration and he's just shockingly easygoing and kind. So all of those things were dispelled immediately. And, also, we had such a great director and such a great cast, and so it all just felt very natural and easy, even though it was all supernatural and strange, but it didn't feel that way when we were shooting.

Your character is the middle child and has to help carry the brunt of the emotional weight of this otherworldly drama, while also having to deal with descriptions of fantastical events, so does a role like this take a heavier toll on you as a performer when you're actually bringing the story to life?

Well, she doesn't believe in any of it, and you can't step out of it as an actor ... well, at least I don't really do that. I just try and think about, "Well, what is Darla feeling in this moment? Darla's feeling the weight of this sister who has suffered all these years and is in a crisis at this moment, and that this sister who's lost her husband and can't seem to find her way through the grief." And then there's all these hallucinatory things that they talk about that don't feel grounded or in the reality. And I think Darla is very, "This is what's happening. There is no fifth dimension." And I understand that. I understand. I'm a middle child, too, so I understand what it means to be the mediator and the one that doesn't have the troubles ever. There was a lot about Darla that I really responded to. It was just nice to play someone that grounded and no bullsh-t, but she's wrong, also, which is also really nice. I'm not sure if I'm not allowed to say that.

You have mentioned yourself that you feel like you're more of an introvert, but the characters you've played are sometimes very internal and other times very outlandish and extroverted. Do you find it more enjoyable playing characters that are quite different from your own personality or ones that are closer to your own demeanor?

I mean, I like it all. I can relate to lots of Darla, but Darla isn't really me in any way, but I just relate to some of the sisters' things. The great thing about being an actor is you can play all these different facets of yourself and a lot that people don't know about and that you never have to say like, "Oh, and that's me too," So, you can still be an introvert and yet have the experience of what would life be like if you weren't for the time between action and cut or whatever. Acting's just a really fun, fun job. I feel very lucky that I get to do this for a living.

Over the past year, people have been consuming media in different ways, and while some streaming services debut episodes all at once, Lisey's Story will be coming out on a weekly basis. Do you think it will be helpful for the viewer to have a week between each chapter or do you wish it would come out all at once?

I feel both things because when I'm watching something like Mythic Quest or The Morning Show and I can't keep going, it's frustrating. Because now we're getting so used to just being able to keep going, keep going. And it's two o'clock in the morning and you're like, "Oh, why am I [watching]? I'm not even enjoying it anymore, but I have to know what happens." So, there is something nice about that wait that reminds me also of my childhood and growing up and like, "Oh, it's Saturday night. It's happening. It's on." And I love that, too.

I also think you can always store them up too, so you have the option. You just have to tell your friends, "Don't tell me what happens," but you have the option of waiting. I did that a couple of times on The Morning Show because I was watching that while we were shooting this and I was enjoying it so much, but I had these long flights because I would fly back and forth all the time. So sometimes I would intentionally not watch so that I could save them and download them and watch them on the plane.

You returned to the world of Stephen King for this, is there a character you've played in the past that you particularly love that you'd like to return to for a project?

God, that's a really interesting, good question. I've never thought about that.

Personally, I'd like to see more of Daisy Domergue from The Hateful Eight.

I was going to say Daisy, too, but she's dead. But you know what? It could be a prequel. That would be super fun. I'd love that.


Lisey's Story premieres on Apple TV+ on June 4th.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.