Zoe Lister-Jones Talks Sex, Love, And The Paths Not Taken In Her Multidimensional Sex Romp, Slip On Roku
Intelligence is hard to fake. Often, actors play parts we identify as smart characters, and then we superimpose that intelligence on the actor. That would have been easy to do as Zoe Lister-Jones was part of the superb ensemble cast of the hilarious Life In Pieces. She played Jen Short, a bright and sarcastic lawyer married into the perfectly dysfunctional central family. If you knew nothing else about her, you would think she was quick-witted with an instantly recognizable voice. Those who have followed her film career know she is an accomplished writer, director, and storyteller. She can do it all, and I got to talk with her about her latest Roku project, Slip, which premiered last Friday.
Slip is a raunchy, funny, and enlightened cosmic fairy tale about learning to find love in all its forms. Self-love, romantic love, and the all-important love of a friend are explored as Lister-Jones’s Mae slips in and out of universes each time she orgasms. It sounds ridiculous, and it is, but in the best possible way. Slip invites the viewer into Mae’s chaotic and messy world with such unabashed honesty it is easy to relate to her. Lister-Jones, who wrote, directed, and starred in Slip, said the idea came from an “emotional place of unrest” She explained the “paths not taken” and “the what if’s” and how we contend with them all differently intrigued her. She additionally wanted “to explore female sexuality and have that be a sort of centerpiece for the narrative. The two things collided and birthed a multiversal sex romp.”
That one sentence encapsulates the fun of Slip. It’s sexy and accessible and allows Mae to be reborn in each episode. The Buddhist concept of the Hungry Ghost plays a pivotal role and appears time and again to ground the series in a lovely mystical place allowing the fantasy elements of the series to shine. The conceit for the series had been born, and the Buddhist elements were added later because they fit so well. Lister-Jones had been reading about the Hungry Ghost and felt it was “an incredible dramatic throughline” for the story. Mae’s and the ghost’s insatiable need for love and happiness is a pilgrimage we all willingly go on with her.
In each episode, Mae is reborn, almost reincarnated into a new version of herself, and she has to contend with her inner demons. Each time she wakes up to a new life, she is forced to examine something new about herself that she may have denied. Every persona is very different but profoundly funny and affecting. The drugged-up party girl with everything but fulfillment, the kept woman married to a finance bro, and a maternal Queer character married to Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire are all used to good effect. The serialized quality of the story made it perfect for a streaming series. Each day brings a new episode in her life and to the series. The space of a serialized story gave her the room to “explore character and story.”
The most accessible thing about Slip is Lister-Jones’ commitment to Mae’s journey and her flaws. So often, women’s sexuality is portrayed in one of two archetypes. The Madonna figure, virginal, repressed, and sweet, or the whore with unbridled desire and shameful lust. Women are far more complex than that, and our sexuality has had plenty of ink spilled about it but rarely has anything captured it in all its gloriousness. Lister-Jones explained, “portrayal of women’s sexuality is quite fraught. Women’s pleasure is especially threatening”. She wanted to change that and “give viewers a different way of looking at it.” She credits her upbringing for making her aware of how women are perceived, especially in cinema.
Roku’s Slip is a wry, respectful, and raunchy look inside a woman’s mind, and Mae’s honesty rings true. Lister-Jones said she wanted to “turn people on and still be about women’s embodiment and their agency over their own desire.” She chose each shot carefully to lend the series a “less voyeuristic gaze.” Slip is about this specific woman and her path to enlightenment, and the carefully crafted story and choreographed shots keep the focus on Mae while giving us access to her mind and heart. It is a raw and real look at women’s thoughts and feelings. That crystalline focus and authenticity make Mae an everywoman that we can all connect with.
Acting as showrunner, creator, writer, director, and star, she wore many hats and was very vulnerable. She applauds her entire crew, including the helpful intimacy coordinator. They provided a “safe place to be that vulnerable” in front of and behind the camera. With a show so much about sex, Slip doesn’t ever feel exploitative. Despite Mae’s orgasm being the catalyst for each slip in and out of realities, there are no overblown melodramatic sex scenes. It’s all natural, making it even sexier and more relatable. Each encounter is different as we and ultimately Mae brings “whatever baggage we are to sexual intimacy.” One size doesn’t fit all in sex or in the world of Slip and Lister-Jones’s Mae has to realize she has had the answers all along.
She further explained that women and storytelling often have a “hyper-focus on romantic relationships” that is misguided. She continues, “Other forms are equally if not more potent and powerful.” It was vital for her to “pay homage to the anchors that friendships especially for women serve us.” Mae’s wonderful best friend Gina, played brilliantly by Tymika Tafari, is a constant in Mae’s ever-changing landscape, providing support, humor, wisdom, and ultimately love. Part of Mae’s journey is to realize how important that is.
The immensely entertaining and highly binge-able series is an easy watch. Step inside Mae’s many worlds and laugh, cry, and get turned on with her. It is the kind of series that surprises you with its perfectly timed humor and unexpected life truth. Slip is available right now on the Roku Channel for free. It’s a run, don’t walk show that will have you looking at your life and your partners in life with fresh eyes. It would make a great date night or binge with friends. You can read our full review from SXSW here.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.