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Jennifer Jason Leigh finally gets to play 'the grounded one' in 'Lisey's Story'

Jami Ganz, New York Daily News on

Published in Entertainment News

It was the human part of this horror that attracted Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” star was first drawn to the miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s 2006 novel, “Lisey’s Story” by its director, Pablo Larraín. But it was the family central to the show, which hit Apple TV+ last week, that reeled her in.

The show is centered on Lisey Landon (Julianne Moore), who’s still coping with the death of her husband, novelist Scott Landon (Clive Owen), when she finds herself pursued by a stalker.

“I think the hook for me was really the dynamic between the three sisters and a sister that is so … deeply enmeshed in her grief and really is having a hard time coming through that and another sister who’s dealing with self-harm and all that comes with that, and how long she’s been struggling,” Leigh, who plays Darla, Lisey’s middle sister, told the Daily News.

Working with King and Moore helped sweeten the deal.

“The whole thing just seemed like a treat and something very special to be a part of,” said Leigh, 59. “And then I discovered that it was something very personal to Stephen King and, you know, so then there was like, ‘Oh geez, I hope he’s pleased.’ And then he just ends up being such a nice man.”

King has called “Lisey’s Story” his favorite of his works and has said the story came to him after battling pneumonia in the hospital and his wife redid his studio, which he concluded is how the room will look after he dies. Being seriously injured when a car hit him in 1999 also helped open the floodgates for the story.

“Lisey’s Story” aside, Leigh counts Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of “The Shining” as her favorite King work, noting she “could probably watch it over and over again.”

The actress, who has starred in numerous Hollywood movies including “Single White Female,” “Miami Blues” and “Short Cuts,” appreciated getting to play “the grounded one.”

 

“I don’t often get a chance to play that in movies and I love that Pablo saw that in me, ‘cause I feel that in my own life,” Leigh said. “I have always had that sort of role in a way, ‘cause I am the middle sister and the mediator and, you know, all of those great things that come with being a middle child.”

In addition to Darla having to take a backseat to her sisters — as she’s accustomed to feeling as if “there is almost no room” for her and “not wanting drama because she has enough of it” — Leigh said her character has had to “close down” parts of herself.

“And during this journey with her sisters, I think things get opened for her that she was never prepared to engage with or even be open to before.”

Through its eight episodes, all of which were written by King, the thriller explores grief, memory and the little moments in life.

Leigh appreciated the nuances of Darla’s relationship with her sisters.

“I love the story of these three women and the love that they have but also all the little sibling rivalries and all of the petty resentments and feelings that never really got to get unpacked,” said Leigh. “And then they have this journey that they go through together and what it reveals and the surprises that are revealed to themselves, about themselves during the course of it.”

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