If there’s a trailer moment in Roku’s seven-part series Slip, it’s when series creator and star Zoe Lister-Jones utters the immortal words, “I think my penis is a wormhole.” Listen might sound like a gross double entender, but it’s actually a pretty apt description of the show.
Mae Cannon, played by Lister-Jones, is a New York art curator in a harmonious but bloodless marriage to a writer (Whitmer Thomas). A one-night stand with a pop star leads to a nightmarish morning after when he reacts to her as if they’re in a long-term relationship. It turns out they are. It turns out she’s slipped onto an alternate track in the multiverse, where she’s a turbulent, drug-addicted celebrity friend. At the end of the day, an encounter at a lesbian bar leads to another orgasm and a new existence as a mother in a same-sex relationship. New sexual encounter, new orgasm, new life.
“Ap – since a wormhole is something, I can’t necessarily tell you where it came from. It just came to my mind one day and I thought this is the show I need to do. I can’t do any other show than this,” Lister-Jones says of a series conceived and written during the pandemic, born out of unrest and contemplation of paths not taken. “It also grew out of my desire to put a woman’s sexual pleasure at the center of a narrative and find a way to do that.”
As if writing, producing and directing the entire series over 36 days in the tumultuous streets of New York City wasn’t enough, starring on the show meant appearing nude in numerous scenes and faking an orgasm in front of the camera.
“It wasn’t difficult, which maybe has something to do with my personal history,” she jokes. “I wanted to make sure we portrayed sex in a way that felt new. I wanted to create sex scenes that could subvert the male gaze. And putting myself in those scenes was a powerful tool to support that subversion because I was subject, object, and puppeteer.”
Lister-Jones grew up in Brooklyn, the daughter of great artists, and was a professional actress by her early 20s. She has appeared on and off Broadway, as well as in the TV series New Girl and in films such as the Will Ferrell comedy The Other Guys. She made her directorial debut with the comedy Band Aid, starring Fred Armisen, which was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. She co-wrote and directed The Craft: Legacy, a feminist sequel to the 1990s horror film The Craft, and most recently had a supporting role in director Ari Aster’s Beau Is Afraid, starring Joaquin Phoenix.
With this CV she was well prepared for the numerous titles she received for “Slip”. “I really love directing within scenes,” she says. “It’s so immediate, and as a director, you have so many more tools at your disposal to be inches from your co-star and not only direct from the guts of the beast, but shape the performance. I’ve never felt overwhelmed by it. It made me feel pretty adrenaline pumped, always inspired by what happened in that tornado.”
In 2009, she starred in the indie film Breaking Upwards, which she co-wrote with writer-director Daryl Wein. The couple went on to make two more films together, Lola Versus and Consumed, married in 2013 and divorced in 2022.
“I wrote ‘Slip’ when I was going through a breakup, so I think a lot of the questions that were leaked were more at the peak,” she says, reflecting on the process in an April interview. “It’s not just about my divorce, but a kind of broader sense of what home means, so having the courage to do something as scary as leaving a relationship that’s working in every way, and with others Finding homes for people.” It’s hard for me not to let a lot of my personal life flow into my work, even as an introduction to a story. I tend to start with a question that confuses me in my life and then find a way that creates some distance.”
Since the first season was already written to spec, it didn’t need to appeal to Roku executives. She just sent them the material. They said “yes” and then left her to assemble her team and deliver the episodes. A second season has not yet been given the green light, but a writers’ room has been set up and episodes are already being written. In the first season, Mae is a passive protagonist, but in the new season, “she has a lot more agency,” says Lister-Jones, without giving away any spoilers. “It’s a similar odyssey, orgasm-driven, but traveling in a different way, perhaps through time and space.”
She pauses and thinks of what else to say without giving too much away, only adding, “It’s pretty crazy.”