Best known for her role as Jen in the unique four story format sitcom Life in Pieces, and as Schmidt’s one time love interest Fawn on New Girl, Zoe Lister Jones’s sharp comedic skills are the first of her many talents. A bright star in the indie film world, Lister-Jones uses hustle, and creative ingenuity to branch beyond her television success. Her idea of the industry includes friendship and community. If a part doesn’t exist she’ll write one. She not only carves out work for herself, but is a strong voice for the representation of women in film, behind the camera.
On the advice of a friend, Lister-Jones stayed in her native New York City, and resisted a move to LA, until she had a solid job prospect. In the city she devoted herself to theater, performing with the music collective Maxi Geil! & Playcolt, and having guest spots on Law and Order, where she accomplished the legendary feat of being cast on all 4 of the Law and Order series franchises. Lister-Jones explained to People Magazine, that being cast on the long running legal drama is a, “rite of passage.”
Lister-Jones blazed on to the independent movie scene, writing, producing, and acting with her partner, now husband. Their first effort Breaking Upwards was a semi-autobiographical take on breakups and open relationships. Their DIY promotion included a comedic rap video that went viral on Funny or Die. The pair then helmed the well-received Greta Gerwig indie Lola Versus, and the GMO food thriller Consumed, a passion project that involved seven years of research. Lister-Jones told Glamour magazine, “I love playing characters who are emotionally complex but not afraid to speak their minds.”
She finds fulfillment on her network sitcom, and is happy that she has a nuanced character to work with. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter she said, “The thing that’s really nice about the show and how the writers portray Jen specifically is that she’s not defined solely as a mother. Jen is such a fully-fledged character and a career woman and a lawyer, and just dealing with so many issues in life that includes motherhood, but isn’t bound to it.” A recent episode tackled the emotional and sensitive subject of Jen’s miscarriage.
The recognition from her television work comes with more opportunities that Lister-Jones makes the most of. Her next project is her directorial debut, Band Aid. She flexes her musical talents, writing the lyrics and co-writing the musical compositions, and stars as a woman who starts a band with her husband in an attempt to salvage their crumbling marriage. Lister-Jones made a bold decision in the production of the inventive comedic dramedy, as a response to gender inequality, she hired an all women crew.
In an essay for Lenny she explained that her decision was based on the under-representation of women as crew members on film sets. She writes, “The decks are stacked too weightily against us. In order to effect change, I felt I had to subvert the paradigm completely.”
She described her set as effective, productive, and moving. “A beautiful trait that so many women seem to share is an inherent anticipation of others’ needs. On a film set, this is worth its weight in gold. There was a kindness, a sense of grace and humility that was effortlessly contagious.” She continues, “This was a community of intrepid women, each inspired by the other, and each the mistress of her own vision. On what could have easily been a hectic and harried set, our work was instead fueled by a love for our craft. Even more so, each day was a tiny revolution, and the spark of harnessing our power together, as none of us had ever done before, was electric.”
She told the Hollywood Reporter the set was a uniquely empowering environment. She was proud to provide work for women who are often overlooked in the industry, and denied the chance to gain experience. “It also created opportunities for women in departments that generally don’t get opportunities, especially in camera and grip and electric.”
Lister-Jones also stresses the importance of friendship and community in the entertainment industry. She explained to a reporter the casting of some of her friends in her movie, “It just kind of worked out that they were all perfect for those roles. I have such supportive and incredible friends who are all people that I’ve worked with, which is a testament to the community in this town that doesn’t get talked about enough. You do make lasting friendships on these projects. It’s really special, to have all of these incredible actors who are a part of the fabric of my history in this industry come out and show up for such a monumental moment for me.”
From prominence on the small screen to an emerging cinematic force, the comedic and dramatic actress, producer, writer, and director is forging a way not just for herself, but also fostering the importance of community, and using her position to try and make the film industry a more inclusive place. Zoe Lister-Jones does not wait for change.
“I have a hard time waiting for things to happen.” – Zoe Lister-Jones
Author Bio: Tara Collum
Tara Collum lives in Toronto and grew up in Muskoka. She is the volunteer social media coordinator for the Death Row Support Project @COB_DRSP and co-writes a web serial at splitsvilleblog.wordpress.com. She is all about tea, books, mumblecore, music, long walks, and self-improvement. Follow Tara on twitter @99percentsun
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