Interview: Jennifer Jason Leigh Talks Hunters Season 2

We talk with Jennifer Jason Leigh about tackling the second and final season of Hunters and working with David Weil.

One of my earliest cinematic memories came from watching the films of Jennifer Jason Leigh. The actress has given countless performances that are utterly stunning. I was utterly taken in by films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Hitcher, The Big Picture, Rush, Single White Female, and many others. And as of late, she has grown to be one of the most versatile and talented performers working today, with movies like The Hateful Eight and Possessor. Now, she performs stunningly in the second and final season of Hunters.

Speaking to someone who has long held a high spot in your list of favorite actors, it was a joy to take a moment with Jennifer. She opened up about taking on the role of Chava Apfelbaum and working with series creator David Weil. It may have been brief, but I chatted with the great Jennifer Jason Leigh. And, of course, you can check out her exceptional work on Hunters, currently streaming on Prime.

Well, I’m going to start with this, you’ve taken on some incredible characters during your career. How do you take on a role like this in Hunters? There are so many levels; you’re dealing with a person who’s technically a killer, but there are reasons and a bit of a dilemma. How do you approach that as an actor?

I don’t think, yes, she definitely is a killer, and she definitely is on a mission. She’s threading a needle, you know, really is someone who just knows exactly what they need to do and has cut out a lot of anything that might get in the way of that, been able to compartmentalize her life to such a degree that she only knows what she needs to. It’s a means to an end, and normal sort of men things just don’t come into it because it’s so much bigger than her.

That makes sense. I know you’re a worker, and I assume you put in the work for a role like that. How much did you have to go into this? The history? I know it’s a re-envisioning of history, but how much research did you do into Hitler and everything that happened and keeping it real, keeping it grounded for you? Or is that something you do?

It is, actually. You know, David Weil was really helpful. He sent me recordings his grandmother had made and a letter she had written, and of course, I watched Shoah again. And they printed Shoah as a book so that you can read all of the interviews and everything, and it’s so upsetting. It’s just horrifying, you know, and there were other documentaries I could watch.

And then another level, the tone of the show is like the superheroes, right? In a way, it’s like a graphic novel or comic book. And so it’s the way that David weaves the truth into this complete fantasy, that is, as an actor, you’re just taking a leap of faith, you know. And there’s a lot of, obviously, wish fulfillment in that.

A little bit. Yeah. I feel like David has such a vision; this is such a unique show. How did you get involved? And what was your reaction when you read that first scene of yours?

Yeah, the first scene is crazy, right? I mean, it was like, oh my God, do I have the courage to even do this? But I talked to David on the phone, and there’s something about, like his kindness, and his passion, and where this comes from for him, where this whole creative process comes from. There’s just no way that you can let your fear of the unknown, or the fear of, I mean, this is a completely different kind of role for me, a big challenge for me. But there’s something about just his belief and his passion that made me feel safe, and then all the actors on the show are also giving and generous and kind and fun. So it was really a great experience.

Now, it’s nice to see you on a weekly series. Do you feel that gives you more to work with? As opposed to doing a feature? I’d gather you’d really get more time with the character.

I love it. I mean, I love watching long-form. And I love acting in it. And the fun thing that happens with long-form, because you only see maybe two or three episodes before you sign on, so like you don’t really know what’s going to happen. It makes you so excited to read every episode, and you’re just informed in a way that you don’t know what’s going to happen to you tomorrow or what’s going to happen to your family in that world. And so you have to sort of, it keeps everything very, very alive and not too sort of pre-worked out or, you know, it’s just as an actor it’s a very exciting medium.

What drives you to a role in general? What do you look for when you’re trying for your next project?

I think that it always changes, but a lot of times it’s really the director and the writer, the writing that’s now, as I get sort of older, you know, who do I want to work with, what kinds of things do I want to do? But a lot of that is determined by who’s helming it.

You’ve worked with Brandon Cronenberg and obviously worked with David Cronenberg. How do the directors of Hunters fit in with the kinds of talent that you have worked with? 

Well, I mean, on a show like Hunters, you are working with so many different directors. So it is different than working – I guess, some TV shows, there’s like one director who does the entire series, or the entire six or eight episodes or whatever it may be – but a lot of them do what’s called block shooting. So a director will do episodes one and two, and another director will come in and do three and four. And all the directors are different, so you’re getting something different from every director, and it’s interesting. Yeah, it’s fun. They had really good people on the show.

Thank you for speaking with me. It was an absolute pleasure talking to you.

Also, nice talking to you. Maybe we will do another interview in the future that’s longer.


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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.