The Actress/Writer/Producer We're Totally Crushing On

Photographed by Brigitte Sire.
Since the first time we saw Breaking Upwards, we've had a love affair with Zoe Lister-Jones. Luckily for us, the girl keeps her nose to the grindstone, so we're never long without a fix. She's one of those ever-present players who's in big-ticket flicks like Salt and Lola Versus, as well as buzzy small-screen series like Whitney and Friends With Better Lives. And, in all her spare time (right), she's writing, producing, and starring in critically acclaimed indie films like Stuck Between Stations and next year's Consumed.
Lister-Jones is as adventurous in her wardrobe choices as her career moves. Sure, we might see her in a shift dress with a pair of flats when she's between takes on set, but this New York-born L.A. transplant feels most herself in a high-low mix of designers like Prada, Celine, and Proenza Schouler sourced from Neiman Marcus and bargains snagged from Zara and H&M — a kindred shopping sister if we ever had one.
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When we got the chance to hang with ZLJ for an afternoon in L.A., we asked her about everything from how fashion inspires her to all the amazing nooks she's discovered in her adopted nabe, the 213. Ahead, get this gorgeous go-getter's take on mixing brights — and careers. You just might be inspired to try something new.
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire.
We can't get over how gorgeous your house is. Although you grew up in New York and went to Tisch at NYU, do you consider L.A. home now?
"I never thought I would say this as a native New Yorker, but I'm saying it. I moved about three years ago and found the most Manhattan-esque apartment I could. Then, in my second year here, I moved into this house — I was so excited about having a backyard for the first time in my life, I think I roasted marshmallows every day for the first week. L.A. definitely feels like home now."

The outfit you're wearing — would you consider it more L.A. or New York?
"Well, the shorts are totally L.A. When I saw these on the rack I thought 'Must put these on my body.' I wear a lot of red lipstick, so I'm drawn to the bold, rich coral of these L.A.M.B. shorts. I'm also a pattern fiend, so this floral blouse by The Kooples is right up my alley. But, the leather jacket (I love a good leather jacket) is totally New York."

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Photographed by Brigitte Sire.
Do you feel like living on a different coast requires a different type of wardrobe?
"My style hasn't changed much — except, yeah, more shorts. In general, I like patterns, textures, and structure. I'm into pieces that feel chic, fresh, and understated while still making their own statement."

As an actress, you're constantly using fashion to become someone else, whether on set or on the red carpet. Do you revel in that, or is it draining?
"I LOVE dressing up. There are actresses who find it annoying to have their hair and makeup done and be styled: I live for it. My wardrobe is an expression of who I am. I wear things I feel connected to on a deeper level, depending on how I’m feeling at that moment or the way I want to present myself to the world." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire.
Speaking of how you present yourself, you've got quite a few titles: actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter. What do you identify with the most?
"I guess I’m juggling a lot. I was apprehensive about going to acting school because I didn’t want to limit myself. There were so many other endeavors I was interested in pursuing. I identify more as an actress than a writer, but they’re pretty close in the running. Working both in front of and behind the camera puts things in perspective and allows me to harness the power of creating worlds for myself. I can create opportunities for myself that I might not have otherwise." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire.
Your parents are both artists. How much did that impact your choice to go into a creative field?
"My parents have always been incredibly supportive of anything I wanted to do. But, their being artists actually made me more hesitant to pursue art myself. I saw the sacrifices, both creatively and emotionally, that that life entails. I knew it was a really rare thing to be able to make a living from art. My mom pushed me to go to acting school, and I was like, 'I should have a more stable career!'"

What made you take the plunge?
"Acting was always a deeply passionate pursuit of mine, but I was running away from it. When I started doing plays in high school, people responded to me in a different way, pushing me to pursue it. By the time I was applying to colleges, I knew I wanted one with a strong arts program, but I prioritized getting a well-rounded education. I always took challenging courses outside of my conservatory training because I wanted to be pushed academically." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire.
Seems like that well-rounded education paid off. You and your husband write and produce films together now. Did you get together on set?
"Our first film together was Breaking Upwards, and that was a retelling of our real-life experiment with an open relationship. We actually broke up, then got back together, then made a movie about it."

So, you got all the awkward work-together, play-together stuff out of the way early. Your next film, Consumed, is a bit different.
"This film is a total departure for us because we’ve lived in the 20-something relationship/comedy realm forever. This is a drama — a thriller, actually. It takes place in the world of genetically modified food. It's definitely a passion project, and we’re really excited. We'll do the festival circuit next year and see if it gets picked up." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire.
We love the color-coordinated book display here. Who's responsible for that?
"Definitely my husband. We did this in our New York apartment and decided to try it here. He put most of the effort into it."

Well, it totally works. And, we have to say, so does your jumpsuit. Though, we wouldn't necessarily call this traditional reading attire.
"No, I'd definitely wear this to a dinner or somewhere I needed to feel...fierce. There was a time in my life I wore exclusively jumpsuits. And, of course, I paired them with some sexy shoes. I don't love walking in heels, but I love wearing them when I can stand still or sit." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire.
You definitely look fierce. In terms of style, what makes you feel most confident?
"When the professionals get me ready. There’s a sense of comfort in having other people look out for you. And, being pampered — that’s always a bonus. Working with the right people is part of the transformation. You feel powerful and beautiful walking out the door."

What's been your biggest Hollywood glamour moment so far, when you had a totally legit excuse to do the hair, makeup, wardrobe — the works?
"Probably my interview with Craig Ferguson last year. It's always been a dream to be on one of those shows. And, getting to play on stage with someone as cool and funny as Craig Ferguson was awesome. He doesn’t use the interview questions that have been prepped for him. He just sort of goes with the flow, so it was a really amazing, organic experience."

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Photographed by Brigitte Sire.
Do you ever work with a stylist?
"I really enjoy putting my own outfits together, but I have worked with a genius stylist named Carla Welsh before. What's great about stylists is that they have access to the brands that I love. When you’re not Cate Blanchett — whom I aspire to be every morning — you need somebody with an in."

Since you mentioned it, what brands might those be?
"Marni, Burberry Prorsum, Opening Ceremony, and Band of Outsiders is great for a more casual look. I do a lot of high-low, so I love a good H&M haul to mix things up." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire at Ace Gallery.
You jump between film, TV, and theater more often than most. Why do you move around so much?
"They work different muscles, so it keeps me on my toes. TV is much more instantly gratifying and also more consistent. Theater is an amazing, terrifying, thrilling experience. It’s the hardest work there is for an actor, doing eight shows a week. It alters your lifestyle in a different way than film and TV. I hope to continue participating in them all throughout my career." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire at Ace Gallery. Mary Corse artwork appears courtesy of Ace Gallery, Los Angeles.
Your versatility definitely shows in your style. This look has a totally different flavor than the last one.
"I love this outfit because it's super comfortable, but it also feels chic. That's like the perfect combo. I would wear this out to lunch with friends or to an art gallery, like today."

Is the Ace Gallery one of your regular haunts?
"Yeah, it's a really cool spot. I first learned about it at this art fair at the Santa Monica hangar. It's an event that lets you get on top of the art scene in a really cool, consolidated way. The Ace is in this beautiful, art-deco building, and they consistently choose really interesting artists." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire at Ace Gallery. Mary Corse artwork appears courtesy of Ace Gallery, Los Angeles.
Did your love for art stem from living and growing up in NY?
"I always went to a lot of gallery openings because my parents were in the New York art world in the '80s, but it just feels like something that’s a part of me, intrinsically. It's inspiring to see work in a different medium [than my own]."

The L.A. art scene must be different from NY's — any favorites on the West Coast?
"Regen Projects and Hannah Hoffman Gallery are both in the Hollywood area. The Chelsea of L.A. is in Culver City, which is across town [from me]. I love Night Gallery [in downtown]. And, Gavin Brown opened a gallery behind this amazing store called Ooga Booga [near downtown] that always shows awesome artists." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire at Ace Gallery.
On the topic of hot spots, what are your go-to local boutiques?
"Ooga Booga has the most expertly curated combination of art objects, accessories, and books. It’s a really amazing place. Then, I love Creatures of Comfort, Mohawk General Store, and TenOverSix."

Any hidden gems the average passerby might not know about?
"Everything that comes to mind is food! My favorite breakfast and lunch spot is Sqirl. I'm really conscious of where my food comes from, and L.A. has a thriving local, organic food scene. Sqirl's food is delicious and sourced from local farmers. Red Medicine is an amazing, more gastronomically adventurous restaurant. The chef uses really unexpected flavor combinations and textures. And, there's this really easy restaurant called Forage on the east side. It's local, organic, and cafeteria-style." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire at Palihouse.
We're hanging out at the Palihouse in these photos. Do you come here often?
"I was actually just here for dinner with a comedy writer who lives here. It's a great place to take meetings, write, or just hang out. I've never stayed here, but people seem to love it."

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Photographed by Brigitte Sire at Palihouse.
We love the color combo here.
"I was really drawn to the color of this dress and was excited about combining it with the royal blue shoes. Even the makeup — doing a bold lip with a dress like this is really cool."

So, this is an outfit you'd wear out, but what about when you're on set?
"Comfy but not schlubby — I love that phrase. I wear a lot of shift dresses. They're not muumuus because they're short, but they're usually a patterned, somewhat shapeless frock, which I pair with a platform or a clog. That's my go-to." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire at Palihouse.
Let's dig deeper for a minute. You've been acting almost your whole life, so you've had the chance to work with some seasoned pros. What pieces of advice have stuck with you over the years?
"My first job out of school was an off-Broadway play with Johnny Galecki [of The Big Bang Theory] and Julie White [of Nurse Jackie]. Julie won a Tony for it. She taught me not to take anything too seriously. That doesn't mean not to do your homework or focus on your craft, but to approach things with levity. That's really impacted my process, and I'm so grateful to have had that advice."

"The other thing that comes to mind is an interaction with a teacher in college. I was doing a scene, and I was really overwrought. There was a lot of heavy, emotional stuff to work out. He just stopped me in the middle of a scene, pointed to the door, and said, 'Zoe, what is this?' And, I'm like 'It's an exit! It's an escape!' I was trying to imbue it with all this meaning, and he goes, 'It's just a door.' It reminded me that if you ground yourself in reality, true emotion can be expressed. If you're trying to make everything mean more than it does, you're stifling the process." Advertisement
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Photographed by Brigitte Sire at Palihouse.
Now, looking ahead, what do you hope to accomplish?
"I hope to find happiness, actual enjoyment, and fulfillment from whatever I’m doing. Whatever it is, I hope I can really enjoy it. I think it’s really easy to constantly be hustling for the next opportunity or feeling like it’s not good enough, and right now I’m working on getting to a place where every opportunity can be truly enjoyed in that moment." Advertisement
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