He struck Oscar gold with 2009’s confronting The Cove and created one of the cultural moments of 2020 with Netflix’s Tiger King, but now prolific actor and filmmaker Fisher Stevens is returning to fiction with the affecting drama Palmer, now streaming on Apple TV+.
Palmer sees Justin Timberlake as the titular former football star (first name Eddie) fresh out of prison after a 12-year stint and looking to rebuild his life in his small Southern hometown. Unexpectedly, he finds himself the accidental guardian of seven-year-old Sam (newcomer Ryder Allen), who lives with his addict mother (Juno Temple) in a trailer in Palmer’s grandmother’s back yard. The effervescent Sam is decidedly feminine; he plays with dolls and is obsessed with princesses to the point of dressing up as one. Palmer, who knows how cruel the world can be to those perceived as different, finds himself thrust into the role of protector.
The tough guy/cute kid dynamic is a venerable one, but the script by Cheryl Guerriero and nuanced direction by Fisher Stevens ensures that, although the narrative model may be familiar, Palmer has an authenticity and emotional openness that’s rare. We caught up with Fisher to fire a few questions at him about his directorial process.