May 8, 2017

Laura Dern and producing partner Jayme Lemons have launched a new company, Jaywalker Pictures. The two hang out their shingle with a robust television and feature-film slate in the works, including multiple projects at HBO.

Among the TV projects Dern and Lemons have in development are an untitled half-hour drama at HBO about a death-row psychiatrist, with Dern set to star; a drama, also for HBO, from writer Annie Mumolo about the development of the home-party marketing system of products, such as Tupperware; and a half-hour comedy for HBO from writers Arabella Anderson and Wendy West, based on Anderson’s life growing up homeless.

On the feature side, Dern and Lemons are developing “Candy & Mel,” from Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, starring Dern as a woman charged with murdering her husband; “The Dog of the South,” written by Graham Gordy and Jay Jennings and based on the novel by Charles Portis; and “The Good Time Girls,” directed by Courtney Hoffman.

“I was an actor, much like our friend Reese Witherspoon, seeing very few interesting roles for women, and thinking ‘Wow, we may have to develop stuff on our own,’” Dern says. “Having the gift of Jayme in my life, she and I started developing stuff together, both things that might be interesting for me as an actor and also potentially first-time directing — to find that piece of material that spoke to me. But then this broader question came up: We want films and television that we feel have value, that have plot and complicated characters, perhaps politically subversive pieces. Things that hold comedic irreverence. From that place, it started to grow.”

Dern and Lemons first worked together on the 2000 Robert Altman film “Dr. T and the Women,” and continued to collaborate again and again over the next two decades. Lemons was a producer on the HBO series “Enlightened,” which Dern starred in and executive produced. Her other producing credit comes from indie film “Antiquities” by director Daniel Campbell.

“I’ve always wanted to produce, and it’s such a tremendous gift to be able to partner with someone whose work I believe in,” Lemons said. “Everything that she just described in terms of the kind of work that we want to do — I think their is no finer actor who can do that.”

Dern and Lemons’ producing ambitions have now grown beyond finding vehicles for Dern, recently seen in HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and starring in Showtime’s upcoming revival of “Twin Peaks.” But working on “Enlightened” was what sparked Dern to expanding her scope as a producer.

“‘Once I became really interested in this story, with this character that ultimately became the lead character in ‘Enlightened,’ that was the turning point for me of really being excited about the development process, and watching one seed of an idea turn into a journey,” Dern said. “Working with Jayme on that, that made me fall in love with the larger question of producing.”

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