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Sitting Down With Actress Zoe Lister-Jones on her GMO Action Thriller

Posted on November 17 2015

I was lucky enough to interview Zoe Lister-Jones, the formidable actress and co-writer of the movie Consumed. Zoe plays a distressed single mother, Sophie, who is in search of answers to the origin of her son’s allergies and sickness.  Sophie suspects and then concludes that her son’s diet may be the source of his condition.

Zoe’s character, Sophie, is in search of answers to solve the mystery of her son’s allergies and sickness.  Sophie suspects and then concludes that her son’s diet may be the source of his condition. In the tradition of films like Erin Brockovich and Silkwood, her investigation follows her down a path of danger and intrigue to see how the big agro companies will stop at nothing to impact the food system for their profit while veiling themselves in the “good guy” role of saving lives.  It’s a thriller with an important and relevant call to action message and gives us sound reason to buy organic and support local farmers.

Kate: You are most known for your comedy and relationship based roles.  Your current comedic role on CBS’s Life in Pieces is great, and I laughed through Lola Versus.   Why Consumed – a serious, heart- wrenching thriller about a mom’s search for truth?

Zoe: I think it’s always nice, as both an actor and a writer, to flex different muscles creatively. Daryl and I had made two narrative features that were 20-something relationship comedies, and I think part of the impetus to make Consumed was that we felt like we had explored that genre somewhat thoroughly and were ready to navigate different waters. More than anything though we became fascinated by the subject matter of GMOs, and as we delved further and further, we saw the potential for a feature that could harken back to political thrillers of the 1970s where the real life politics were at the forefront of the storytelling.

Kate: There were scenes in your movie that made me cry. Sophie has had a tough road as a single mother. I think your performance taps into so many personal issues that moms deal with today. What aspects of the film are you hoping most resonates with mothers?

Zoe: I think the biggest aspect is the helplessness that one can feel as a mother today, where there is so much contradictory information around what to feed our families. It is so easy to be overwhelmed in seeking answers that are often incredibly hard to find. In researching this movie, we found out the alarming statistic that food allergies in children have risen by over 50% since 1997. So our food supply has become an ever increasing fear factor, especially for parents. And GMOs factor into that equation quite strongly, although they are still shrouded in a lot of mystery. Which is what we were hoping to unravel.

Kate:Like your character, I feel today that so many mothers live in fear and are researching how to make the right food and skincare choices for their families. What is the hardest issue that you see Sophie having to tackle as a mother?

Zoe: I think the hardest issue for Sophie is who to trust. Which I think is an incredibly relatable dilemma. When each doctor has a different diagnosis, or lack thereof, Sophie, like most mothers would, embarks on her own research. But what she comes to learn is incredibly controversial, so she has to face a lot of tough questions around her own paranoia; should she trust her gut (so to speak) or succumb to the opinions of those around her, who view her as hysterical.

Kate: In Europe there are over 1300 skincare ingredients that are not approved because of safety, and the majority are allowed in the USA. Why do you think other countries are so much more advanced with ingredient safety?

Zoe: That’s a good question, and one that is incredibly difficult to answer. We are facing a similar issue with GMOs. 64 countries around the world label GMOs, and the United States does not. I think fighting for transparency as a means to achieve much stricter regulatory practices around ingredient safety in this country is paramount at this moment in history. And it starts with the consumer, and making your voice heard.

Kate: Silkwood and Erin Brochovich are two of my favorite movies. I see a lot of similarities with your movie. Was your character based on a real person and her challenges?

Zoe: No, Sophie is fictional, as are all of the characters in our film. We felt that a mother with a sick son was the perfect protagonist for the story we were looking to tell. Which is a story very much based in real world issues.

Kate: There are a few reasons why Consumed hit home for me. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer living in Paraguay, I lived with farmers who had had their soil completely destroyed by a strain of cotton that was introduced to them.  It was supposed to be the miracle seed that increased production but left the soil completely unusable and depleted their income.

Kate: During your filming in Illinois, did you get any first hand accounts from Farmers you worked with?

Zoe: We did, which was incredibly enlightening. We had been researching these issues for seven years and then we found ourselves in the American heartland, right there in the belly of the beast. I think one of the most interesting things we learned from a farmer we interviewed was about yields. This was a farmer who grew both conventional, organic, and GMO seeds, and he said his organic seeds produced the highest yield by far. Which is the opposite of what you hear, when reading about the benefits GMOs have for farmers. The problem was, he added, that organics have the highest premiums. Which is a problem. And a lot of it comes down to what our government chooses to subsidize: cash crops, i.e. corn and soy, which, outside of being used for fuel and animal feed, are used for processed foods.

Kate: This issue of allergies and autoimmune diseases is so relevant to me.  My company Babo receives so many emails from parents desperate to help relieve or not further aggravate their children’s skin allergies or auto-immune diseases. We have many customers who are allergic to soy, wheat, dairy or nuts.

I believe your movie is a great resource for parents and hope it will further educate people on the strong links between food and disease. An amazing takeaway from CONSUMED is that GMOs were not introduced into the US until 1996 and in such a short period of time we can do potentially irreversible harm to our land and our bodies.  Children by nature have weaker immune systems and are the ones most at risk.  Allergies and diseases have increased exponentially.

I assume you have become very intimidating to eat with!  Have you changed your eating habits and have you influenced your fellow actors and crew on set of your new show, Life in Pieces?

Zoe: You know I was raised in an incredibly health conscious household. I was allowed little to no sugar, no soda, limited dairy, and no processed foods. So my eating habits have actually been fairly consistent my whole life. I try not to be overly didactic when it comes to other people’s eating habits though. Food is an incredibly personal and emotional element in our lives, and in order to change your habits, you have to really want to. So if people ask me questions, I happily answer!

Kate: For someone who loves popcorn, your last scene left me thinking. Do you think the future will bring organic popcorn to stadiums or theaters?

Zoe: I hope so! I think the more healthy options provided at concessions the better! And healthy doesn’t have to mean boring or bland! I think that’s the biggest misconception we face as Americans. Healthy can be equally delicious and you’ll feel better too!

Kate: In creating every aspect of this movie with your husband, Daryl as your third feature together, it must be all consuming for you besides the other work you are both doing. BUT….You are very lucky. One of the best things about my work is that I involve my family.

I’m so curious what’s next. Will you be tackling social, environmental or relationship issues?

Zoe: We’re so focused on Consumed at the moment, we haven’t set our sights on what’s next just yet. I, of course, have my TV show, Life In Pieces, and Daryl just sold a TV pilot to Amazon, so stay tuned!

Kate:  I can promise you that I am very excited to follow your path!

Thank you so much for educating me and all the mothers out there.

Zoe: Thank you!!! And thank you for creating such a wonderful line of natural and organic products!

Check out Consumed action trailer

www.consumedthemovie.com/media-video

If you are interested in seeing Consumed, find a screening near you by visiting consumedthemovie.com/screenings.

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